House Rules

in-this-home-rules.jpgToday, Priya shares five rules to improve partner communication while reducing guilt, self-doubt, and distraction as a working parent:

Even though I get tremendous satisfaction from having a career, I am hardly immune from the feelings of self-doubt with which many working moms struggle. Do people think I am a bad mom for returning to my career (a 60+ hour a week one at that)? Do my kids love their (stay at home) dad more than me? Am I a bad mom?
It has only been a couple of months since I returned to work after having my son, but this being my proverbial second time around the block, the transition has been much smoother -- and the feelings of self-doubt less rampant -- thanks to the following five rules my husband and I have worked out.

1. Save the firsts. My husband and I have agreed that unless he really is so excited about something that he cannot contain it, he won't tell me about any "firsts" that I miss. This way, I can experience them for myself for what they should be -- a joyful memory to cherish -- instead of another thing for me to feel guilty about missing.

2. Hear each other out. All parents know that being home all day with the kids is not easy. However, a tough day at the office -- even if it meant I got to shower, put on clean clothes, leave the house, eat lunch with two hands, and engage in adult conversation -- can sometimes make it seem like the parent at home had the easier day. My husband and I give each other the space to vent about our day, recognizing that we each may have faced challenges. It took us a while, but we came to realize that even well-meaning statements that start with "At least you got to..." can make the other feel defensive and unappreciated.

3. Resist correction. My husband does a terrific job with our kids. After spending so much time with them, he knows their preferences, which at this age change pretty much constantly. It can be hard but he makes an honest effort not to "correct" me if I do not give Sahil the right teething toy du jour, or if I have poured a bowl of Cheerios for Kimya on a day when she has sworn off them. He may be right, but he knows that these types of "helpful pointers" make me feel insecure about my mothering skills and out of touch with our kids.

4. Don't leave angry. Everyone has heard the adage "Don't go to bed mad" and this is my corollary for the working parent. My daughter is almost 20-months-old, so it should be no surprise that some mornings she does not want to cooperate. I may be anxious to get out the door but I try very hard to not lose my temper. That does not mean I shirk from my responsibility to parent but I try to be firm without letting the stress of being late for work get in the way. After all, nothing makes a work day drag by slower than the guilt of leaving on a sour note.

5. Allow yourself transition time so you can be present. I find that it's just as important to not leave for work upset as it is to not bring the stress of the day home. I often feel a growing amount of anxiety as the end of the day approaches because I want to get home in time for dinner but still have so much to do. Then, when I do get home, I am exhausted from the day and need time to unwind. I have found, however, that if I make a conscious effort to clear my head before coming home, whether it is by spending a few minutes checking my email or stopping to chat with a co-worker on my way out, I can transition easier and start enjoying my time with the kids much sooner. It may seem counterintuitive to spend an extra couple of minutes away after rushing to wrap up, but it is better for me to come home mentally ready to be reunited with my family than to be physically present but mentally checked out.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. If you have others to share, please feel free to do so in the comments below!

Image credit: In This Home Rules by kathy via Etsy