Heather and I had an amazing time at the Mom 2.0 Summit this year. It was, hands down, the most productive week we’ve had all year. Here are just a few of the highlights:
- We attended multiple seminars on how to improve our website and our social media presence, and started putting what we learned into practice immediately. We’re already seeing results.
- The networking was incredible. We reconnected with old friends, had in-person conversations with women we’d previously only known online, and had the chance to meet women who inspire us, big time. (We’re looking at you, founders of Project Eve! Thanks for being nice to us while we acted like giddy fangirls!)
- The conference led us to some big decisions about how we’re going to handle SitterNote and our blog going forward (we’ll have news on this front later this month!).
- It’s great for Heather and I to be in the same city. We’re very adept and efficient working online via Google Hangout, Google Docs, and gChat, but there’s something powerful about sitting side-by-side and knocking items off our to-do list. It energizes us, and re-inspires us to keep plugging away at our business.
So, given the takeaways above, why did I come home feeling so guilty?
Let me be clear: Mom 2.0 was a business trip. An excellent one, in a beautiful location, with a lot of smart and interesting people, but undisputedly a business trip. We worked our asses off the entire time we were there. Even sitting at the hotel bar at 10pm having a glass (or two!) of wine with ten other bloggers counts as work in my book. Yes it’s fun, but it’s not exactly relaxing. I’ll freely admit that networking does not come naturally to me, and I had my game face on every single minute.
I came home bearing armloads of gifts for my kids (OK, most of it was swag from the conference, but still), with apologies and thank-yous almost involuntarily falling out of my mouth toward my husband, who’d been on duty at home for three days.
Of course…I’d left food for everyone, enlisted extra help from our nanny, and even gotten my mother-in-law to take the baby overnight so my husband would have a minimum of extra work. I’d left carefully crafted schedules, helped my son with his second-grade paper mache project in advance, and planted love notes all over the house for the kids.
In short, I did everything humanly possible to make the trip easy on my family, hustled as hard as I could while I was away, and came running home the minute it ended.
And I still felt guilty.
This is so stupid, my friends. When my husband travels for business, he does not go to these lengths to ease the burden on me. He doesn’t apologize. He doesn’t feel guilty the whole time he’s gone. Nor should he! This is part of the deal to which we both agreed, and guilt was never supposed to be part of the equation.
Yet I don’t think I’m the only working mom who’s had this experience. I know a lot of women who apologize for business trips. Women who feel guilty about the nice dinner out with clients. Women who don’t want their spouse and children to know that the company actually put them up in a decent hotel for once, where they enjoyed the quiet and the room service and the uninterrupted sleep.
Why do we so easily default to guilt? Why don’t most men?
I am really, truly having trouble unpacking this. My feminist brain and ambitious heart both know it’s wrong, and I still can’t make myself stop. It especially bothers me because I very much want to send the message to my kids that my career matters, that I work because it makes me happy and fulfilled. I don’t want to apologize for attending a fantastic business trip that left me energized and productive and focused.
As the brilliant Samantha Ettus says in her article 25 Ways to Win as a Working Mom, “Be unapologetic about your lifestyle.” I need to work on this. If anyone else out there is struggling, I’d love to hear about it. How do you dial down your guilt? Or at the very least, how do you control the optics, so your guilt isn’t completely visible to your spouse and kids? Any tips you can throw my way would be much appreciated. Thanks, friends. Keep fighting the good fight.