Even after being a working mother for more than thirteen years, I still find long separations away from my children to be a challenge. Being away, whether for only a few hours or for days, can create tremendous guilt if not managed correctly.
I remember one Monday morning when Emily was about five years old. We had just finished a wonderful weekend, and, just like any family, we all had the Monday blues. I had a business trip planned and was finishing packing while trying to get everyone ready for the day. Emily was tired, she wasn't in the mood for school, and the idea of me heading out on another work trip just added to the negative vibe we had going.
I was in a hurry and made a series of bad decisions.
First, I could see she was a little down, and I, too, was a bit low-spirited, knowing that I was on my way out of town and away from my family for a few days. So, I made the classic mistake so many guilt-ridden working mothers do: I cut a deal with my five-year-old. I told her that if she would get dressed faster, I would take her through the McDonald's drive-thru and get her whatever she liked. Bad mommy.
Really, there were three mistakes made: I broke away from our usual routine, I overdramatized my departure, and I offered bribes. Emily sensed all of this--my haste, the break from our routine, and my guilt. So what happened?
As you could probably predict, it didn't end well. We pulled into McDonald's and Emily, sensing the change, became upset. As we paid at the drive-thru window, she yelled out that she did not want to go to school, and that she wanted me to be a "stay-at-home mommy." Although I am at peace with my decision to be a working mother, hearing this from my children still stings.
Once we arrived at school, my poor choices continued to flow. I spent way too much time getting her settled in, setting up her breakfast, and reminding her that I would "be gone for only a few days." I even read her a story. As you might imagine, my extra efforts only made the situation worse.
Emily started pulling on my skirt, begging me not to leave her. And then, in full theatrical display, she threw her breakfast on the floor, grapes rolling everywhere, for all to see.
I stayed a while longer, trying to make her feel better and calm down, but eventually I had to leave, with Emily still in hysterics.
I should have driven to work but instead sat in my car feeling sorry for myself. After a few minutes of heavy working mother guilt, I decided I would make a drastic change. I would resign from my job.
It was a job that gave me great pleasure and purpose, and a job I had worked very hard to earn. But working mother guilt had gotten the best of me.
I wiped my smeared makeup, adjusted my tear-stained jacket and re-entered the school. I walked back into the classroom and to my incredible surprise, Emily was happily drawing with some of her friends. She looked up and immediately ran over to hug me and show me her creation. I admired her picture and said hello to her friends. And this time, when we said goodbye, Emily hugged me and headed back to her friends almost with indifference. She was happy and engaged. She wanted to be there.
Did Emily realize how sad she was making me feel that day? She absolutely did. This is when I realized the problem resided with me.
We all know that children have an uncanny ability to manipulate their parents better than anyone. Despite knowing this to be true, I've still spent a lot of time trying to eliminate this as a primary source of my guilt. Remember--it's not just the child who experiences separation anxiety. That anxiety is coming from you, too!
And you are not alone in this. In a Working Mother survey, 67% of the working moms surveyed experienced separation anxiety when they returned to work. So, although your baby will be fine (I promise this is the case), it might take a while for you to adjust.
Dealing with a child's separation anxiety is another story. Children cry when their parents leave them with a sitter or daycare provider for a variety of reasons. Some children have more trouble with separations than others. Some are at different stages of development. And some know that crying gets Mom and Dad to delay leaving--or even provide guilt-gifts and attention (remember my McDonald's story).
Although the reasons are different, the good news is that rarely is the crying an indicator of something more serious. As long as your child is in good care, your decision to work should not have any direct negative impact on your child--hence there is no reason to feel guilty.
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Samantha Knowles is the author of Working Mom Reviews designed to give great tips and strategies to women across the nation To understand how to really use clickbank, check out CB Passive Income Review To get Facebook working for you, check FB Influence Review
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