Banishing mommy guilt at work

Last weekend I attended my first grandchild’s first birthday party where I was awestruck by two things: 1) the grace and poise of new moms today and 2) how in 30 years our culture has not evolved to lessen what I call ‘Mommy Guilt.’

I was dumbfounded by how well put together all the new mothers were. They were vibrant, gorgeous, abundantly warm and loving without over compensating or being overly protective. I remember being tired, worried, and protective. I did not hear one complaint. I heard vulnerability around if they were making the right choices and a lot of support for each other.

A discussion began around breast feeding – how long to do it, how to do it and go back to work, will there be time to do it, how will I get enough sleep and breast feed, will there be a place at work to pump….. Friends weighed in on the merits of the right amount of time to do it, the right breast pump, how to make it work, what materials were the best.

I sat there and watched the faces of the new moms drop two stories just thinking about going back to work and breast feeding. I heard one say, “I don’t know if I can do this again with my second child.” I could hold back no longer and found myself blurting out. “Girls you are amazing! No guilt. Do what works for you.” They laughed with a sigh of relief.

 Whose guilt is this anyway?

This conversation reminded me of the Mommy Guilt issue du jour when my children were born – whether or not to have natural childbirth. I remember the first question people asked after the birth was not how the baby was. It was, “Did you go natural the whole time?”

 As if having your hormones skyrocket out of control, getting by on only three hours of sleep at a time, having a full-time job, not wanting to leave your baby and having your tummy look like a giant vat of Jello isn’t enough, now new moms have to measure themselves against what our culture says you SHOULD do to be a good mom.

 You are enough.

 New moms hear this >>> YOU ARE ALREADY A GOOD MOM! You are already enough just the way you are. Motherhood is hard enough. No guilt. Husbands continue to be very supportive of your wives. Remember what the flight attendants say, “Put the mask over your nose and mouth first.” Ladies, you can’t be at your best for yourself, your baby or your marriage if you are exhausted. Period.

 As a new mom you are at a crossroads regarding Mommy Guilt so take your stand now because it just keeps building. Soon you will hear of a mother putting her pre-school child in an early reading program and you’ll ask yourself, “Should I do that?” I succumb to this ridiculous expense even after the first-grade teacher told me it was a waste of money and time. “Let her play,” she said. “All kids catch up when they get to school.”

 How do the distractions align with your values?

 Then there will be dance lessons, and karate, and sports and everything else. How do these activities align with your family values? Do you even know what your family values are? If not, sit down with your spouse and define them so you have a gauge to measure extrinsic distractions against. If your family values are Independence, Free Thinking, Family Traditions, Personal Development, Compassion, and Servant Leadership why would you give up attending a traditional Sunday night family dinner to take your child to a random performance? Or send him to an expensive sports camp when he’d rather play the violin then baseball? Just because the masses are doing it is not a good reason.

 Then there will be the home room mothers who will become like territorial Piranhas when it comes to the class parties. I remember showing up to take a video of a Valentine’s Day party where the feeding frenzy moms told me, “We are in charge of the party.” I agreed and told them I just wanted to take movies since I couldn’t be there for the parade. They insisted that I leave. I ignored them and made sure not to get any of them on film. I think that annoyed them the most.

 Make a choice before guilt chooses you.

 My message to new mothers is this: The world will continue to send you messages on how you are supposed to be. It has been doing that since the beginning of time. If you don’t define the kind of mother (leader, friend, spouse, colleague, daughter) you CHOOSE to be you will fall to outside distractions that you fashion as standards. Make good choices and leave the rest behind.

 And if that means you want start weaning your baby before you go back to work or limit breast feeding to before and after work or any other schedule that works for you it is OK! Really. Plenty of healthy people walking the earth were not breat fed for six months. And if you want to continue that’s OK too. You make good judgments. Don’t doubt that. You wouldn’t be where you are if you couldn’t make good choices. Just continue. You are awesome!

Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and corporate CEO who helps busy leaders get off the treadmill to nowhere to be more effective, earn more, be more calm and enjoy connected relationships with the people who matter while it still matters. Watch her FREE Master Class training on Three Things to Transform Your Life and Career Right Now at