If your own mom worked full time but always got home at 5:30pm and was able to cook dinner for your family each evening, you may have internalized the idea that you should be able to draw firm lines between work and parenting, or that good working moms always eat dinner with their kids. Your mom’s example—as well as other experiences you’ve had and observations you’ve made about working parenthood—can be wonderful guideposts, but they can also affect your own choices and emotions in not-so-relevant or positive ways. Do you feel a bit guilty each time you email in front of the kids or order takeout? Perhaps you worry about going for that big new role while also asking for more flexibility.
To get yourself out of that self-doubt and shame cycle, take a blank sheet of paper and jot down any working-parent impressions you’ve absorbed from your family, friends, mentors, managers, co-workers, movies, television, and social media. Then, notes in hand, look at how that overall picture maps to your real, lived working-parent experience today. Maybe given your career, hours, family, and budget, you’ll see that it makes complete sense to get meals delivered, or that you really should take that big new job even though you’re just returning from parental leave. When you understand your “shoulds,” you can intentionally shift away from them and start walking in a direction that works best for you.