Juggling work and kids and all the responsibilities that come with them can be overwhelming. So, how do we decide how to manage it all? Or should we? Photosanity‘s Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick shares her thoughts and tips.
We talked a couple of weeks ago about navigating the work environment when you have kids. But what if you’re having a really hard time and feel like you just want to quit? How do you get past that feeling?
Stop beating yourself up and instead validate your feelings. Your feelings are completely natural and not necessarily something to “get over.” Trying to fight our feelings can sometimes make things worse, especially if we just end up beating ourselves up more for failing to get over it. Going back to work after having kids is hard – it’s ok to feel like you want to quit. That doesn’t mean you should quit.
Although it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either.
Whatever you’re feeling is valid. But your feelings shouldn’t necessarily dictate action. After all, we can’t and shouldn’t always act on every feeling that we have, but rather have the means to take our feelings into account amongst other things when making decisions.
Rather than trying to let go of your negative feelings, can you allow yourself to ALSO notice, focus on and amplify the good things in your life. I’m sure your child brings you a lot of joy, which is partly why it is so hard to leave them to go to work.
Some helpful things I did when I went back to work included, putting lots of photos of my kids up at my desk, accessing the video monitor in our child’s room so I could see him napping via my phone, asking caregivers to send me photos during the day, and doing a photo-a-day project so I had visual proof for myself that I WAS spending time with my kids, even if it didn’t feel like as much as I wanted. Photos can really help stretch out those moments of joy so you can go back and revisit them
Commit to letting go of guilt. As women, we tend to take on a lot of guilt as those are the messages that we internalize from a very young age. As a result, we often tend to be harder on ourselves than anyone else. Instead, extend to yourself the same compassion you show to a close friend and commit to NOT taking on guilt for leaving your kids to go to work, or for leaving work to be with your kids
Wait. There is no right answer, only the right answer for you. If you’re in the very early days of returning from maternity leave, or even in the first year or two, especially if you have kids under two, and you fear that it will always be this hard, give it time, because it does get easier. And also, you have time. While it may seem that our babies need us the most, studies have shown that it actually can be when our kids are older that there is more value to being around more.
On the other hand, if you’re back at work because you think that’s what you “should” do, and you’re afraid that you’ll “never catch up” if you take some time out, that isn’t necessarily the case.
I believe there are pros and cons to any situation – going back to work or staying home—or a combination of the two. And I don’t believe in any one answer. I don’t believe going back to work is always better (or worse), or staying at home is always better (or worse), although of course financial circumstances often favor one way or the other. But generally, it really depends on individual circumstances, personalities, goals, priorities, etc. Ideally, you have more of a choice and don’t feel “forced” one way or other because it is what is “better” or what you “should” do.
Think about your values and what’s important to you. One good way of becoming more at peace with a decision is to think about your values and what’s important to you. And to look at what you can change, and what you can’t.
If you can reconcile yourself to your choices (or lack of a choice) you can let go of guilt, and if you can’t, you can make a different choice.
Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick is a family photographer turned photography coach for parents. She founded Photosanity to help parents find joy & connection through photographing their kids. Born and brought up in the UK, Alethea lives in Brooklyn with her husband and her two sons, Liam, age 8, and Jack, age 5.
Alethea has taught workshops at the Apple Store, Brooklyn Baby Expo, Brooklyn Babybites (now Mommybites) and online through Photosanity.com and other platforms. She has been interviewed on 1010WINS and featured in The Daily Mail, Cool Mom Picks, Apartment Therapy, Ask Moxie and Mom365.