Momentum Podcast: 86

Overcoming Working Mom's Guilt

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

For most of my career, I have worked with a disproportionate number of women in executive in leadership positions. This probably has a lot to do with the way I was raised and the fact that I relate very well to women. 

The relationships I've had with incredible female entrepreneurs throughout my career has shown me that men and women feel the guilt of working with kids very differently. For men it is challenging but for women, it is consuming. 

The guilt of being torn between doing the work you want to do and raising the children you love can become unbearable. Many professional women come to feel like they are being torn apart and have to ignore part of their lives in order to create the space to focus on the other. When you are at work, you can't help but think about your kids. When you are with your kids, you're distracted by work. This is a cycle that can be damaging and destructive unless you admit it's there, and start working towards dealing with it in a proactive and productive way.

Full Audio Transcript

I'm Alex Sharfin and this is the momentum podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trail blazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy and we're obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them and then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat, because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how.

While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we're the minority. The few who are willing to hallucinate there can be a better future and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we enter the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs or the only source of consistent, positive, human evolution and we always will be.

Welcome to overcoming working mom's guilt.

For most of my career, I've worked with a lot of professional women. I've been asked about this before because in the average business course, there's usually, you know, you have a room of 30 people, there might be three or four or five women. And in my courses, it might be half of the room or more. And I think it's because of the way I was raised. My mom, Jamie, was a La Leche League leader in the 1970's in for those of you who aren't familiar with what that organization is, it's a lactation and child raising support group. So breast feeding and child raising support group. And I was born in 1972, my family moved to the United States, about 1977 and my mom was one of the first leaders in Southern California that got La Leche League out there. As a result, as a child, from five years old on, I was in meanings every week, three or four times a week where women supported each other.

Where I watched these incredibly strong women, climb uphill against societal norms. You know, being insulted for breast feeding in public or being insulted for having their kids with them or being looked at funny because they wanted to be stay at home moms or being looked at funny because they were breast feeding their kids and wanting to have a career. And it was and incredible experience for me, because as I got older and I was exposed to things like locker room talk or the division of the sexes where women are talked down about. You know, women are the fairer sex, the weaker sex. They're not as strong as men, they're not as capable as men. I heard all of those things.

I always heard them through this lens of having been around incredibly strong women who were a counter culture. La Leche League was not mainstream, it was breast feeding and natural eating and attachment parenting and being around your children and really being there for your kids and if you wanted to have a career, being there for your career and your kids. They really supported each other. I used to think, if only people knew how strong women really are. If only people knew how much women were capable of.

You know, I think about the average working mom, who is raising her kids and has the responsibility of the household, which in and of itself is a full time job. Then the responsibility for being a parent, which could arguably be a full time job. And then working or starting a business and I look at the entrepreneurs that I work with. I have some of the most amazing clients in the world that are female entrepreneurs with kids. They are so strong and so capable and I look at the ability to do everything that they do with reverence. I'm constantly and always inspired by it.

But here's what I can tell you about working with moms for most of my career, is that the guilt that women feel is much more dramatic and much stronger than what men feel. I mean I've worked with both. I have multi-million dollar male entrepreneurial clients, I have multi-million dollar female entrepreneurial clients and I've had that for over 20 year and I can tell you that women have more of the chemical guilt feeling. They have more of a functional guilt feeling and it haunts them more than it does men.

I think that evolutionarily, since women were the source of food, women were the source of protection for children, there's just a higher level of connection there and I'm not saying it's good or bad, but I'm saying, I think when we admit this and we say this is how it is. We can start working towards getting you out of this feeling of guilt. Because if you're a working mom, here's what I know happens to you. You get to the place where you're excited about working, but you're bifurcated, your minds in two different places because you're thinking, "Did I do enough for the kids today? Did I connect with them enough? Did I spend enough time with them?" Or you get to the point where with your kids and you're finally going to have that time with the kids and you're thinking, "Did I answer the emails? Did I do everything I should? Oh I need to go write one thing down."

As a result, you end up in this Nevernever land in between fully productive and getting stuck because when you're always feeling guilty about the kids, it's hard to commit 100% to the business you're growing, the position you're in, what you're doing in the world. When you're always feeling like you're doing too much work, it's hard to commit to doing more. And when you're, when you want to have amazing children, when you want to be able to raise your kids, it's hard to go full force into the office and then when you are spending time with your kids, it's hard to be there because you weren't fully committed when you were working.

Here's how I've successfully been able to help so many moms get out of this. Because if you're feeling this way, if you know this is going on for you I want you to understand something. It won't get better until you create a process to make it better. So I've got a few suggestions for you.

So number one, is to block time for your work and block time for your kids and schedule the time. Here's one of the biggest challenges that I see with working moms. We schedule everything, we get everything on a calendar and you know, you look at in and say, "okay I'm ready." But when you look at the weekly calendar, there is no scheduled time with your kids. Here's what I can tell you. If you schedule time with your children and you make it exclusively theirs, that chemical feeling of guilt, that chemical tug of guilt that makes you wanna stop what you're doing, that distracts you from the work you want to do, that distracts you from the outcomes you want to create. That chemical feeling of guilt will go down. The trade off is, time spent with your children.

So, blocking this time is crucial. Putting it on the calendar is crucial. Letting the kids know they have that time will make it even more important for both of you and will help you get that chemical feeling of connection with your child. That chemical feeling of alignment with your child. That chemical feeling of being with your child. That helps overcome the working mom's guilt. And by the way, guys, this works for you too. But it's so much more prevalent with women, that that's why I bring it up this way.

A second strategy, so first is blocking times, the second strategy and this is for men and women, but again, women feel the guilt so much more chemically, so much stronger. Connect with your kids each morning and each night. This is a strategy, so when they get up in the morning, spend a few minutes with them. Talk to them. Take them out for a walk. Even if you have to get up earlier, even if you have to modify your schedule. That connection with your children in the morning and the connection at night will bookend the day for you. Will let you know you're connected. Will let you know you're talking to your kids. Will let you know that you are creating momentum with them and you know what's going on with them. And that will change everything for you.

So often, I ask working parents, "So when is your scheduled time with your children?" They literally will say back, "I've never really thought of doing that." Or, "We take the kids to church on Sunday mornings." And then I'll say, "Well, what about the rest of the week?" And there's nothing there. It's challenging because if we don't have that connected time and especially for moms. If you don't have that connected time, you and I both know, you will feel the chemical guilt as you try to accomplish, as you try achieve, as you try to get done what you want to get done.

So the first strategy is, block time, schedule time with your kids. The second strategy is connect with the kids each morning, each night. And then the third strategy is, build process around this so you can go all in. And here's what I mean build process around this. Figure out how you can stop doing the things that you think matter and start doing the things that really matter.

And here's what I mean by that. I want you to really think about this. So often, when I'm talking to a working mom, part of the struggle she's having is she can't do everything. And she'll say, You know, my clients often tell me, "Well, you know Alex, I just can't get to all the laundry and the house and the cooking and the meal planning and the meal prep and doing the homework with the kids and picking them up and dropping them off and doing everything and running the business I have or being in the position I'm in." Then I'll ask, "So what's the outcome that you really want for your kids?" And they'll say something like, "Well, I want to connect with them, I want them to know I'm there for them, I want them to know that I'm here, that they can access me, I want to know what's going on with them. I just don't wanna feel so disconnected and so distant from them."

And so then my question is, "Why do you need to do all that stuff in order to feel connected to them?" See, so many moms confuse and maybe not confuse, but misplace the feeling of doing the work with getting the intended end result of connecting with your kids. Like moms will say, "I know I wanna do the laundry and the cooking and the cleaning so that my kids know that I care about them." I got news for you. Your kids don't care who does the laundry or the cooking or the cleaning. Children recognize connection, children recognize love. In fact human beings recognize love by the time and attention you give them. So you can do all the cooking, all the cleaning, all of the tactics in the world, but if there's not time and attention for the kids, then you are going to feel that chemical disconnection and your children will be disconnected.

So where can you start buying back your time? Where can you start combining time with kids with getting stuff done? Can your kids go to the grocery store with you and help you shop? Or can you stop going to the grocery store, I'll show with you some of what Cadey's done. You know, Cadey's in this same boat. She operates our company. She's been running our companies for over 10 years. She runs our team, she runs our projects our calendars. I mean, I look like I do a lot. Cadey really makes this business actually move forward and there is a list of stuff she uses.

She uses Amazon so she doesn't have to go shopping for any of the staples that we need in the house. They just automatically show up every month. When she needs to go shopping, a lot of the time she'll just do an Instacart order. Because what do we really want? We want the groceries in the house. You don't have to go through the act of shopping. When meal time's getting tough or when we don't have a lot of time in a week, she'll go by a place here in town called Snap Kitchen and a lot of town have places like this now. Where you can pick up prepared meals that you can heat that are healthy, that are still good for you. We've had dozens of private chefs over the past 10 years. We have one right now that comes in, cooks three really large meals and we can split them up to get about three lunches in three dinners out of them.

But it gives Cadey time back. In fact, right now she's recruiting a runner or a helper to just do all of the running around chores that have to be done in Austin. And here's why. We know what's really important to us. It's time with each other, Cadey and I. Time with our kids that's uninterrupted and focused. Like last Friday we took the kids to the Austin Zoo, it was a ball, we laughed our heads off. We saw insanely dangerous animals up close. We got to spend time with the kids, listen to them, connect with them. And not once during that time did we take a work phone call, not once during that time did we answer an email or a text message, because we built that into our week. We knew we were going to do it, it was scheduled time with our kids.

If you're a working mom that feels guilty. I want you to follow that feeling of guilt because it will reveal to you a place where you need help. I think that's one of the most difficult connections for moms to make. It's one of the most difficult connections for all of us to make, but for moms especially. Because the guilt of not being connected to your kids clouds everything. I've been on the phone with women that just can't see five feet in front of them because they feel so guilty, so shut down. So frustrated that they're not spending the right amount of time with their kids.

Here's what it really is. It's that their feeling that actual disconnection from their children. They're feeling that actual loss of connection, that actual lost of intimacy. So how do we get that back?

By blocking time for your kids. By connecting with your kids each morning and night. And by building processes in your life so you can go all in. Put the product on order on Amazon, have Instacart deliver your groceries for the week. Go to a place like Snap Kitchen, buy meals and then buy back your time with a private chef or a runner or whoever you can that will help you. Then you'll end up spending more time with your kids, you will reduce that chemical guilt feeling because it's real. You will feel more connected and then when you go to work, you're going to be more engaged, more present, more aware, more all in and getting so much more done.

When I work with women who are incredible entrepreneurs and we can get past this. Not past, by the way, that was the wrong thing to say. When we can adjust around this, because I want you to understand something. Stop judging yourself for feeling that disconnection. Stop judging yourself for feeling the guilt. Stop judging yourself for feeling like you should be doing more, like you could be doing more and carrying that around as judgment.

Because I want you to know something. It makes you an incredible mom. That feeling of judgment that you have for yourself is that chemical connection you have to your children. And it's just been misappropriated as judgment towards you. What we need to do is get the judgements away from you, put it on the situation and fix the situation. There's a problem with the process, not you.

So, as a mom, examine your week and look for places where you could block time for your kids, where could go all in. Play with them throw the phone in a closet, heck throw the phone in another room. Unplug it, turn it off, make it go away and go all in with your kids. A half our or an hour, all in, no phone, no distractions changes everything for days. And connect with your kids in the morning, make sure you're there when they get up. Talk to them. It shouldn't be getting them up and forcing them out the door and running through things as fast as you can. Get up a little earlier, spend 10 times connecting with them, see how they're feeling.

You know, I did this every morning with my kids and so does Cadey and it's insane how often that my daughters will tell me about a crazy dream they had or some idea they had or some new thing that they're thinking about. And I love that time with them. Every night Cadey and I tuck the kids in and we both tuck each of them in individually and we hear what was the best things that happened with them that day. We share the same thing with them. We make sure we're connected, that our kids are going to bed happy and smiling and feel like they're taken care of.

Then the last thing is, build the process. Start getting help. If there's anything you take away from this podcast, if you're a working mom, it's this. Doing the work, like doing the shopping, doing the cleaning, doing the cooking. If you're in a financial situation where you have to. Then build processes around it where you involve your children and it becomes time together. But if you're in a financial situation where you can outsource any of that, stop doing the work if you don't need to.

Today, more than other time in human history, there is help available for every single person out there at prices that just about anyone can afford. When you look at how inexpensive an Instacart order is or you go to a service like Amazon Prime and you can actually save money and time by having all the cleaning products, the toilet paper, the paper towels, everything you need every month delivered so you never leave your house for that stuff. Just scratch that off of the list. Have a service do it for free.

Because once you accept the license to get help, once you accept permission to get help and once you start looking at this in a way where you can actually improve it by getting help for yourself, scheduling time with the kids, connecting with them each morning and night and building processes around what you do so that you can go all in with them. I want you to know something. That chemical guilt you feel from missing time with your kids or from feeling disconnected form your kids will plummet.

This one's important to me because I think some of the most incredible entrepreneurs in the world are women and the feeling of guilt around leaving your kids, the feeling of guilt around being disconnected, is so real and so prominent that it's something that I talk about with every woman I've ever coached. And so for you, if you're in this situation, take the license, the permission to get help.

Build process and block time around these things so that you can connect with your kids. And guys, if your wife works, talk to her about this. Figure out where you can fill in and help. See if you can step over the line and go and like, actually figure out where she needs your input. Where does she need your support? Where can you be apart of the solution here?

here's what I know about you and your capability to achieve. Once it stops being ripped between two priorities, once it stops being torn between two objectives, of being the professional you want to be and the mom that you are and having incredible kids and being incredible parent. Once we stop the tug of war there, by building process and time for both. You're going to go out and make the change in the universe that you were put here to achieve.

You inspire me and I love you all. Thanks for being here with me and I look forward to talking to you again tomorrow.

If you are a working mom and you have felt that guilt, you have felt that disconnection, you have felt that feeling of not being fully connected with your children. Check out our momentum master class. We build process and systems around everything I talked about today and so much more. So that you can buy your time back, buy your life back and create the priorities you want and know what' truly important to you. Because when we do that, everything in our lives changes for the better and we create massive momentum.

And if you want to connect with your kids. One of the easiest ways to do that is to get your entire family into momentum, achieving, moving forward and creating new outcomes in the world. There's very little that will get you as connected as that. Go to to check it out. and thanks again for being here.

Thank You For Listening!

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