When I told my daughter earlier this week that I had to go to NYC for work, she opened her eyes wide, looked disappointed, and replied, “But you said you weren’t traveling until June!”
My reaction: guilt.
I’ve been feeling a lot of guilt lately as I try to figure out work/life balance. And the more I talk about it, the more I realize that many of my women friends (moms and non-moms alike) are dealing with guilt too.
My friends who are moms that work long hours in the office are feeling guilty—they feel they are missing out on their children’s lives and not being there fully for their families. Even the ones who don’t have kids or partners often feel like work has taken over their personal lives. My friends who are stay-at-home moms and choose not to work professionally are feeling guilty for leaving the work force after years of education and successful careers. They fear they won’t be able to join the workforce again in this fast-paced world and are often insecure about being financially dependent on their spouses.
Ten years ago when I got pregnant, I made a conscious decision not to get a full time job, wanting to be at home with my two daughters. However, my various projects grew because of my passion for them—Intent (fortunately) is growing and thriving; more speaking opportunities and demand for meditation classes; and The Chopra Well, a new YouTube Channel, launches next week (make sure you subscribe!)
I like to define myself as a stay-at-home mom, but the last year has demanded more meetings, more travel, and being away from home for several nights every month. I am fortunate that I have an incredible network of support—my mom moves in when I leave, my husband has a flexible job, my brother and sister-in-law live ten minutes away, and amazing mom friends help with the daily logistics. I justify my travel by noting that my kids cannot have a better network of support. And, I do firmly believe that parents are the most important role models for their children. Won’t my daughters ultimately appreciate and respect me for working so hard?
Yet, when my younger daughter calls me at night, her voice quivering as she bravely tells me that she can’t fall asleep without me, my heart still sinks. Am I disappointing her by not being around? Am I doing the right thing?
Here are some of the techniques I am trying to incorporate in my life to overcome my guilt:
1. Change My Internal Dialogue
Transitioning from “making sacrifices” to “making choices.” I remind myself almost daily that I am fortunate and empowered to choose my actions and determine my destiny.
2. Be Present
When I am with my kids, I try to be truly present with them. In a world of electronic devices and email at any anytime, it is often hard to avoid work at all hours. But making the intent to be present has helped me realize that not everything has to be responded to immediately.
3. Define Success For Myself
As an entrepreneur, I often feel insecure that I haven’t built Intent as fast as I could have, recruited enough sponsors, or marketed it enough. The reality is that starting a company is all-consuming, but, as a mom, I can only give it a certain amount of time. Other companies may grow faster and see greater success—I have come to terms with defining success differently for myself. I’ve chosen investors and partners who are committed to the long-term vision, rather than looking for a quick business exit.
4. Say No
Probably one of the harder things for me to do, but I am committed to being more disciplined about using my time wisely.
How do you deal with mommy guilt? What are you coping techniques? How do you balance work and parenting and other personal commitments and desires?
Save The Date! On Monday, July 16 at 10:30am PST/1:30pm EST please join me, my dad Deepak Chopra, my brother Gotham, as well as President Vicente Fox, Lisa Ling, Fran Drescher, and Positively Positive founder Eric Handler for a discussion and live meditation to officially launch The Chopra Well. All you have to do to participate is visit the channel next Monday. We can’t wait!
Mallika is Tara and Leela’s mom. She’s written two books inspired by them—100 Promises to My Baby and 100 Questions from Her Child. She started Intent to realize her personal intention to connect with others by sharing and listening to each others stories.