Whether you’re a stay-at-home-mom, a working mom, or a mom that works out of the home, most of us have experienced mommy guilt in one form or another as we often feel pulled in two different directions. I found myself smiling and nodding my head in agreement (she gets me!) from the first chapter in Michelle Cove’s latest book I Love Mondays and Other Confessions from Devoted Working Moms.
What I love about I Love Mondays and what comes across in Michelle’s interview below, is her friendly, sisterly tone as she shares parenting wisdom, insights, strategies, and useful tips for moms trying to balance parenting and working.
Even though my children are now in their 20s, I still struggle at times with maintaining that happy equilibrium of work and family time when they come home to visit. This book was a wonderful reminder that a less-stressed mom is a better, happier mom, which, of course, is the most beneficial for our children.
I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle, an author and documentary filmmaker, earlier this year and she is as delightful as you would imagine. Please read Michelle’s interview below as she shares some fabulous insights into parenting and, as a bonus, some of her writing tips.
*Your first chapter talks about “The Sorry Loop,” women apologizing too much because we want to make everyone happy. I find myself apologizing all the time! Is this still a struggle for you?
Like a lot of working moms, I apologized quite a bit for things that weren’t really my fault; it was just the easy thing to do. Have to go 30 minutes early from work to pick up your sick kid from school? Apologize. Your kid is crying because you have to leave for your work trip? Apologize. You had no time to cook dinner this week? Apologize. It becomes a default. But there is a cost to saying you’re sorry when you did nothing wrong. If we do it enough, it can start to damage our feelings of self-worth and make our apologies meaningless. I’ve made a concerted effort in last couple of years to stop saying “I’m sorry” if the situation doesn’t warrant it. Instead I might say something like, or “I’m going to leave early to get my sick child, and I’ll take my work home with me to finish tonight” or “I see you’re upset I’m leaving. I’ll miss you too.” My apologies mean more now because I use them only when I feel I’ve done something wrong.
*You discuss the “blurred boundaries” when working at home. I struggle with this as my “office” is in our cozy TV/library room, and currently the only room downstairs with internet. As much as I like to be near everyone, I can’t seem to get work done with the noise and activity when my kids come home for the summer or holiday breaks. How do you handle this?
I talk in my book about how my 8-year-old daughter would waltz into my home office while I was working to show me her new sock puppet or share a knock-knock joke she learned at school. I felt guilty kicking her out of my office, but I also had to meet my deadlines. It was hard for me to re-focus after she’d skip back out of the office. I’d sit there thinking, “What am I doing again?”
So I began instilling boundaries. For one thing, it’s important to have space of your own with a door that closes. Tell your child when exactly during the day you’ll be working, and that he/she should only knock on the door during work time if there is an “emergency” (like there is bleeding or a fire or there was a disturbing incident at school–not missing gloves or hard-to-open jars). Also be clear when each day you’re totally available to your kid—what hours you’ll tune in by shutting off your computer, silencing the phones, etc. That is the time when you’re there for homework, sharing stories, watching magic tricks, and whatever else. I know that with my daughter, once she saw that I meant it—that her time was truly all hers—she didn’t feel the need to interrupt work time. Plus I was better able to focus on work and parenting.
*The holidays are here, and if I remember correctly, there are numerous kid parties, school sing-a-longs, etc…not to mention mom’s work related events. How do you juggle them all without losing your mind and succumbing to mommy guilt?
Oh, man, this time of year is crazy! My daughter had a field trip last week, and I realized mid-morning that I hadn’t packed her a lunch (she usually buys lunch and I just spaced it out) so she had nothing to eat. I was beside myself with guilt, and picturing her trying not to cry while everyone else ate lunch. Then I got a grip, and reminded myself that her friends would all give her some of their food and she surely wouldn’t starve. Still, when she got home, I did apologize big-time. She looked all confused and explained that the field trip wasn’t until next week. I’d typed the wrong day in my calendar! So even with all the expert advice I’ve researched and shared, I’m still prone to losing my mind.
So what can we at times like the holiday season when the calendar is overloaded? If you can’t take so much time off of work for parties and school concerts, sit down with your child and a calendar. Say, “I wish I could go to all of these events but I need to work. So let’s pick the ones that are most meaningful to you and that I can attend.” Simplify wherever possible: do take-out dinners for a whole week, ask your spouse if you have one to buy store-bought cookies for the holiday party; offer to do your friend’s taxes in February if she’ll address your holiday cards. And once you’ve committed to work or your child’s event, be in that place. If you’re at your kid’s holiday concert, tune in to your child crooning “Silver Bells” without obsessing about a work deadline (nothing you can do about it when you’re here anyway, right?). If you’re at a networking event, don’t punish yourself for not being at the class breakfast. You can’t make yourself be in two places at once, so focus on wherever you are in the moment.
*What is your advice to the new mom trying to balance baby and work?
One thing that working moms told me is really hard is hearing about their baby’s milestone after work from a day care provider or babysitter or partner. So maybe after a long day of work, you go to pick up your daughter and hear that she rolled over on her back for the first time. You know you’re supposed to cheer and clap but inside you are crying because you hate that you weren’t the one to see it first. I tell moms that it’s okay to tell the provider that you’d rather not hear about milestone events from them. You can say, “It’s too hard for me to hear, so I’d rather discover them for myself and celebrate.” Moms don’t have to feel guilty about taking care of themselves this way.
*How long did it take you to write this book?
This book took about eight or nine months to write. I tend to write pretty quickly once I’m in the groove and not distracting myself looking at cute puppies on Buzzfeed or reading through Facebook, which happens way too much.
*Do you have any writing quirks or rituals? (I need my hair up in a scrunchy, don’t judge)
Not judging, believe me! Typically I’m in my pajamas when I write, especially if it’s winter. I like to listen to Pandora in the background, often the Marvin Gaye station. I need bright lights, and my desk to be cleared off. I also need email shut down for hours at a time because I’m an admitted addict.
*Your advice to a writer wanting to be published?
Publishing has changed so much since I started writing books and there were marketing teams who would help you get publicity. Now there’s so much more pressure for the author to prove to the publisher that we have a huge platform (tons of Twitter followers and Facebook friends, etc.) as a way to show there is a built-in audience. It can make a writer crazy. Eventually you’ll have to think about branding and marketing plans and all that stuff. But I think it’s important to hole yourself away and really immerse yourself in writing your book first and enjoying the creative process without that added marketing pressure.
*Do you prefer “real” books or kindle?
Real books. The only time I really use my e-reader is when I’m traveling and don’t want to schlep books with me.
*Last book you read?
I devoured A Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which was brilliant and I went through a BOX of tissues. I also just finished Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed which is filled with so much real-world wisdom.
You can find I Love Mondays on amazon.
*I received I Love Mondays as a gift. All opinions are my own.