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Is Mum Guilt an Inevitable Part of Running your Own Business?

Is Mum Guilt an Inevitable Part of Running your Own Business? By Sara Keli.

As the kids tug at my office chair, one begging me for a snack and the other probably only demanding my attention because her sister is, I wonder if it is all worth it. I started my own business precisely so I could be at home with my kids when they need me, and yet here I sit, unable to work in the way I need to and unable to be the mum I want to be.

That’s the challenge of motherhood I suppose. The perpetual guilt that we try to avoid, that we say we are bigger than, but it is always there, taunting us for what we aren’t doing, rather than celebrating all the amazing things we actually do every single day.

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In Annabel Crabb’s book, The Wife Drought, she presents working and motherhood as a dichotomy, “The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.”

A big driver for me starting my own business was so that I would be in a position to better balance my two worlds – work and family. So that I didn’t have to be in that position that Crabb describes. And I know that I’m probably not alone in that. But I am often left wondering if I made the right decision. Am I actually doing right by anyone? Myself? My family? My business? Or I am just screwing it all up? My kids? My career? Any semblance of me as a woman that still exists?

I know this is all just garbage self talk in my head, my inner mean girl and my compulsory dose of mum guilt pointing out my inadequacies. But it’s real and how I feel everyday. But what is the reality?

The Guilt: This Mum’s Story

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The reality is that if I get a phone call from my kid’s day care centre that one of them is sick, 95% of the time I can be there in 10 minutes to pick them up. If one of them wakes up sick, I may have to do some shuffling, but there is no one I need to call and no one I feel like I am letting down. The reality is that I can work on terms that suit my family and do something I am so passionate about, even with a baby on my hip.

Everyday, my girls see me role modelling success and creating the life I want for myself and for my family. I am showing them what it is to be a strong woman, to deal with setback, to hold your head high and keep pressing on, even on those days when you just want to throw in the towel. I am showing them what it is to be human, to be a mum, to make mistakes, to learn.

And the guilt? It will probably always be there. It all comes down to how you manage it and what you have in place to mitigate the guilt from blowing up in your face. Here are a few tips:

  • Set boundaries – what hours are you prepared to work? Will you have set family/no-work days?
  • Remember why you are in business for yourself. Just keep your eyes on that prize and remind yourself of that on those bad days when the guilt starts creeping in.
  • Take time when you need it. If the kids are really struggling and just need a bit of mummy time, you are probably better to take an hour with them now rather than have constant interruptions as they vie for your attention.
  • Find a rhythm that works for you. For me that is waking up early (between 4:30-5:30am) to work and then squeezing anything else in during nap times or while they play. It doesn’t always work but when it does, everything runs like a machine – happy mama, happy kids!

So, on I go. I wouldn’t give up this craziness for the world. What an amazing time we live in, where mums have never been more empowered and supported to start their own businesses. I have built a business that is as much about my babies as it is about me. They are my drive, my purpose and my heart. Without them, my business is a mere shell, and so am I.

About Sara

Sara Keli - Photograph by Hipster Mum
Sara Keli – Photograph by Hipster Mum

Sara Keli is the Editor of Kid Magazine and mum of two young girls. She left her corporate career in HR to build Kid Magazine as a supportive and empowering place for mums. When she is isn’t busy writing, creating or designing, she loves nothing more than soaking up the sunshine in the backyard with her little family.

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I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land I work and live on, the Awabakal peoples, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.
I thank them wholeheartedly and express my love and gratitude for the privilege to live and work in such a beautiful part of the world and for the opportunity for my family to be part of this vibrant and supportive community.