Guilt was not a huge part of my vocabulary until I became a mom. I never felt much guilt about how I spent my time. Didn’t feel guilty about sleeping in, or working out, or having a girls’ night out. And so on and so forth.
And then I became a mom. You know, that moment when you get shoved into the most beautiful world; a place more beautiful than you could ever imagine, and then the door to your prior world gets slammed shut and padlocked behind you.
To be exact, I became a trauma surgeon mom. A mom that can work in a week and a half what most Americans might work in a month. I work crazy hours, am tired almost every single day, and typically I get only one weekend off a month. Nope, no pity party here. I chose it, and I love it. But, as I mentioned in the recent Forbes article, try as I might, I just can’t seem to find more than 24 hours in a day.
So what all this means is that it often requires pretty creative scheduling to keep my sanity. Occasionally I try to arrange my schedule for a random day off, to take my kid to the zoo. Or I might delay responding to some emails so I can go work out.
However, when I started this creative scheduling is when the guilt started creeping in, becoming a part of my mental vocabulary. If I were running, I was thinking about all the work tasks I still needed to accomplish. If I was at the zoo, I was worried about what my partners would think about my random Monday off. If I was at work even when I really didn’t need to be, I felt like my family was, yet again, getting the short end of the stick.
The workouts stopped being enjoyable; my zoo time was colored by frequent email checking; and I just couldn’t totally relax and be in the moment, in any moment. And that, my friends, is when it finally sank in; how my guilt was directly leading to my burnout. In order to actually relax, restore, and repair myself, I need to be truly present and mindful. Guilt will not let me be truly present or mindful, and I had to get rid of the guilt.
The moment you start feeling guilty about taking time to regenerate, is the moment that time stops regenerating you.
In fact, I was doubly screwing myself. On paper, I was taking the time to exercise, or take my son to the zoo, or read a book. However, I was not practicing mindfulness, or allowing myself to truly be present in those moments, allowing my mind and soul to relax, let go, and restore themselves. Those thoughts of — well I could be doing this, or maybe I should be doing that — instead of fully focusing on whatever activity I was actually doing was completely counterproductive.
Let me ask you a question: Have you ever felt guilty about brushing your teeth?
OK, so why not? Probably because you feel it is a necessity, something you have to do: to stay healthy and keep people from hating to be around you. Well, why not try giving your restorative time the same respect? And although I have heard more than one person tell me that “mom guilt” is a fact of life, an absolute, something to just accept, I am calling bull. Although feelings in of themselves are not necessarily a choice, we choose how we react to and acknowledge those feelings. Once you fully understand and acknowledge that restorative time is important, you won’t be able to feel guilty about it. Unless you feel guilty about the time, it takes you to brush your teeth. If that is the case, I really can’t help you, other than I know some great dentists.
So, my challenge for you today, heading into the weekend.
- Give your soul the same respect you do your teeth.
- Accept that you need time to participate in activities that make you whole.
- Give that time its deserved respect and value.
Go conquer your guilt and stay safe.
Jamie Jones is a trauma surgeon who blogs at Hot Heels, Cool Kicks, & a Scalpel.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com