The maternity leave guilt – have I achieved enough?
Ok, so I’ll be the first to admit this… I’m not quite where I wanted to be in my career. Yes, I’ve worked in PR for years for some of the big corporates. Yes, I have set up my own consultancy, which has done pretty well for itself. Heck, I even had a stint by on TV in my formative years as a broadcast journalist.
But instead of looking at these achievements with fondness, my glass half-full self can’t help but cling onto the slight disappointment – that I don’t have the automated, self-sufficient business I had hoped for as I head for maternity leave.
You see, that’s the downside of projections and plans. Yes it’s good to aim for something. But unless it’s based on evidence, it’s nothing but finger-in-the-air guesswork. This then can inevitably lead to dissatisfaction.
I kind of thought I had it all planned out. My predictions would come true, the market would bite for my new offering and I’d be one of those super successful mums. But in reality, I’ve got a little more work to do to get there. And with a new arrival impending, I’ve come to realise I might not have all my ducks in a row before then. And therein lies the disappointment.
Little comfort from superwomen mumpreneurs
A quick scroll on business sites where mumpreneurs explain their success offers little solace. Late night emails, conference calls whilst feeding and no sleep seem to be how they’ve made it work. My gut tells me this isn’t the route for me.
However, my friends often remind that I’ve got a much bigger project on the go. That I need to go easy on myself. And while I know they’re right, I still feel guilty. I call it the maternity leave guilt, or pre mother’s guilt, if you will (I know that mothers guilt is a whole different ballgame game).
But as a new mantra, I’m trying to be more glass half full. So instead of focusing on what I haven’t done, I’m reminding myself of what I have achieved. My consultancy is still thriving and I’ve got great support while I’m on maternity leave. My other baby, my blog – HalimaBobs – is growing now I am spending more time on it.
I’m not at the mercy of 9-5 commutes and back to work negotiations. In fact the self-employed flexibility means I can dip in and out of work a little more.
So with not long to go, I’m trying to enjoy the small wins. Pre-mothers guilt will always be lurking beneath the surface. I’ll probably always wish I’d done more. But I figured that writing it down for posterity will remind me that while I may not be where I had hoped, it’s ok. I have bigger plans right now.
Getting over the maternity leave guilt
For anyone who may be having the same maternity leave guilt, here are some things that have helped me:
Keep a journal of your achievements
It’s so easy to take for granted what you have achieved, and instead focus on what you haven’t. Writing down the small wins – it could be as simple as sending an email on time, despite mummy brain creating a thick fog in your mind.
Don’t be a martyr
This is something I struggle with. I take things on, only to regret them later. I pride myself on being busy and productive, and therein lies the problem. It’s such an ‘in thing’ to constantly be busy. But now is not the time for overwhelm. So enjoy the quiet times guilt-free as there won’t be many of them in the future.
Rethink your measures of success
This is something my business coach taught me. It’s natural to think of success in monetary or status terms. However, who’s to say that the workaholic head of a corporate is any more successful than the freelance consultant who manages to catch every school run and hold down several client gigs? There are so many more measures of success out there, and your career is just one of them.
Focus on the small wins
This is key, especially when you’re about to go off on maternity leave. Here’s the thing – you might not achieve everything you set out to do. So whether you’re working your last weeks or months, jot down some small wins, as these will contribute towards the bigger picture if and when you’re ready to resume work. Which brings me onto my next point…
Look at the bigger picture
Again, I’m a stickler for focussing on the wrong things. For example, I was so hung up on this self-automated business, until I realised that my regular business is doing pretty well for itself. So it’s important to think about the end goal. For me, it’s to do the work upfront to have a great work-life balance in the future. But there is more than one way to achieve this. So it’s important to focus on the end destination, rather than getting caught up in the journey.
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About the Author
I’m not a makeup artist, chef, lifestyle guru or stylist. I’m just me. And like you, I’m trying to make the best of most things, only I’m sharing my warts-and-all thoughts along the way.