So I want to preface this entry with a disclaimer that I do not judge anyone who chooses to either work or chooses to stay home with their kids. That is a personal choice that each mother and family has to make. Both have pros and cons and neither one of them is an easy decision to make as they both come with a loss of something weather it is a loss of finances or a loss of time with their children while they are little. But at the end of the day you have to do what is right for you and for your children and although there are a lot of people who would like to pass judgement at the end of the day they are not paying your bills or raising your children so they don't get to have a say in either.
Lets start with mom guilt, is it a real thing or are we imagining it to torture ourselves even more than we need to? Well I can attest to the fact that mom guilt is for a sure a true emotion and a very heavy, hard one to deal with at times. We want to be able to be everywhere, doing everything for everyone at all times while still contributing to the family income..... Huh? how the heck would that even be possible? we have the same 24 hours in the day as every one else but yet we somehow want to take on the roll of full time stay at home mom, full time working mom, full time cook, cleaner, caretaker etc, etc. Get real mama. First off, put down that hefty to do list and grab a bottle of wine because we have a dirty secret to share. Are you ready?? here it comes..... ITS NOT POSSIBLE!! We need balance, we need help and we need to give ourselves a break.
Now for those who have a year long mat leave you can take the time to make your decision over the course of the next 12 months or even 18 months if you applied for the longer leave. Although the decision will still be waiting for you at the end of your leave you have some time to make it, however the decision and how to come to that decision is all the same whether your baby is 1 month or 1 year old. For the purpose of this entry however I will delve deeper into the dilemma that the self employed mama's face as that is what I am familiar with and what my experience is based around. As for the self employed, time is of the essence when it comes to deciding when to go back to work, how much time you can allot to your business and what that will look like all while balancing a baby on your hip and a breast pump attached to your chest. So tell me, what is the right time?
Well for me personally, I have no fricken idea!! With my first daughter it was easier for me to know when I could balance both my work life and my home life and I was able to seamlessly transition back into work without much issue. That is not to say I didn't struggle with the dreaded mom guilt for the first few days I spent away and that is also not to say that I didn't ache to see her face or to hear her little baby giggle because I did. That first full day back at work I remember talking about her to all my clients and in between sets I would scroll through my pictures as my mommy heart missed her so much. However it got easier, she became more independent, I got more independence and we both gained so much by me separating myself from being at home 24/7. She developed such a strong bond with her father as he had to take over and be her primary caregiver during the days I worked. It was amazing to see him step into this roll and he was a natural. Then came Covid running into our world and throwing everything up in the air. It was during this time that I for the first time felt the strong urge to stay home and watch her grow up. Although I only worked two days a week and spent 5 out of 7 with her, after being home all the time for four months it was very difficult for me to bring myself to go back to work when the restrictions were lifted. I felt like I was at that pivotal fork in the road again where I needed to decide if I were to work or stay home, and oddly enough this time the decision was even more difficult than it was when she was an infant! Perhaps it was my new pregnancy hormones that contributed to it but all my heart wanted to do was stay home and continue to live our schedule free life that we had enjoyed for the past four months and although that would fix any mom guilt I had about work it didn't fix the entrepreneur guilt that was hanging around. The first day back to work after the first set of restrictions were lifted was HARD, it was so, so hard!! I actually cried a little and my heart hurt. I wanted to go home, a 10 hour day of 5 full sets back to back felt like I had just worked 20 hours... but you know what, in the midst of my hormonal breakdown missing my daughter and feeling nauseous with the one I was carrying I finished that first day back feeling so fulfilled and satisfied and that I had fed that entrepreneurial spirit a little bit of that motivation and drive that we all need. I had reconnected with my clients who I had not seen in months, I was contributing to my families income and I was rebuilding and rebranding my business to become better than it was before. So why is the choice for us so hard to make, is it really a choice between giving into the mama guilt or the entrepreneur guilt? Can we find a way to make it all work?
As a new mom our main job is to take care of our newborn and ourselves (physically, emotionally, mentally) as we navigate through the dreaded postpartum period. I don't know about anyone else but for me personally the post partum period was more difficult, uncomfortable, painful and overall physically draining than labor and delivery. I couldn't sit, I couldn't stand, I hurt everywhere and just wanted to have my body back to being mine. As a new mom and someone who is self employed you have all of the above things to worry about but then you also have the wellbeing of your business to think about. It is so easy for people to say that you need to just focus on your baby and take all the time that you need and your business will be there waiting for you when you are ready, and that is true to an extent. You really should take the time to soak up the baby stages and not rush back until you are ready because the infant stage is so fleeting and it goes so fast and you don't want to miss it because they are only little once and for such a short, short time. However, it is not true that your business will be there waiting for you when you are ready.... That is just simply not true. With a job that has the security of a maternity leave you are granted the year to enjoy your baby without worrying about if your job will be there at the end of your leave, it is guaranteed which is so nice because you can truly soak up every moment. For someone who is self employed there is NO job security, there is NO guarantee that your clients and your business will still be there, and there is NO income. The reality is that most self employed mama's who put there businesses on hold for an entire year will have to rebuild. In the lash industry specifically as that is where my experience is, a whole year is a long time for clients to go elsewhere and then to just come back to you when you open back up. Sure you may get a handful of your super loyal clients who have been counting down the fills and months until your return but the reality is that most will have moved on to another lash tech and built a relationship with them and built loyalty towards them and will not return. That is not to say that you can't take a year off or two or five, you most certainly can if that is what works for you, I am just saying as a lash artist it would be very unrealistic to think that you could take an entire year off and then open up with a full booking right off the bat. So this is where the work guilt comes in, you built this business from scratch, in a way it is also your baby. You fostered it, your fed it, you loved it and spent a lot of time nurturing it so that it could become this amazing contribution so how do you just ignore it? The answer is simple, you can't. A entrepreneurs mind never quiets, it is always thinking of new ways it can expand, new ways it can balance work life and home life, new way it can work around the schedules of feedings and nap times. It is forever changing, adapting and is open to all possibilities.
For myself I have adjusted my business model again to be able to balance two kids all while expanding my brand to fit my current lifestyle. One of the bonuses about being self employed is that we are not forced to go back to a 9-5 Monday to Friday job once our leave is up, we can work around our children and our families to make the decisions that will be beneficial for both. Although at times I wish I had a paid leave where I could not think about working for an entire year, I also feel like this is where I was meant to be and what I was meant to be doing. So the next time you feel that dreaded G word (mom GUILT) remember that this feeling is because you love your kids so much and want to provide the best life for them which sometimes means making some tough decisions when it comes to staying home or working but whichever choice you make just remember that you got this mamas!