7 ways to help mums cope with being apart from children due to work
Forced absence from your kids because of job commitments can give rise to many emotions. Jenny Stallard asks experts for their advice
From wondering if the school run will make you late for a meeting to leaving on time for parents' evening, the life of a working mum is often a juggle. Add in the regular worries, such as a call from the school nurse while you're on deadline, and the guilt factor can swiftly ramp up to high on a daily basis.
But that's just at the office. What about when you have to stay away for a night or more? For many mums, working away from the kids can bring a lot of emotion. Even if it's just for a night, there can be worry and self-criticism. Are you 'abandoning' them? And is it okay for you to enjoy it?
We spoke to experts about how to deal with the issues of going away from family because of work - from managing your time away wisely, to making sure you commit to staying connected with them.
It's okay to feel guilty
Founder of SEVEN Career Coaching, Evelyn Cotter, says: "I think some guilt is normal. But it's also something to listen to - if there's a huge amount of guilt, then maybe it's a sign that you're compromising too much, and your emotional needs aren't being fully met.
"So, take care and take heed if that's the case for you. Speak to someone about that, understand why and do something constructive about it. Having it all is, unfortunately, rarely achievable, even with a lot of help from family, au pairs, nannies - but even then, there's always a compromise."
Make sure you're present when you do connect with the kids
Face Time or Skype at a certain time of day is easy to arrange, but then work can get in the way. The key to keeping your emotions - and your child's - in check is to stick to the plan.
"If you're spending time with your children, be present, be there fully, be all-in to give and get the full nourishment from that and know that you've been your best," says Cotter.
"Even a little 'how are you?' on messenger feels like you've had a conversation with them," adds confidence coach Lisa Phillips at Amazing Coaching.
Remember your own goals
Phillips says: "I coach a lot of corporate career women, and I do think there is a lot of the 'old society guilt' that a mother should be at home. These days, and especially when you have a really good career, if you choose not to go away for work, you can end up feeling a bit resentful as well.
"You can have a good career and bring up well-behaved kids. You don't need to be there every single minute of the day."
Make work count, too
Being present when you're at work is important as well, adds Cotter. "I think it's so easy for mums to spread themselves incredibly thin and not be able to fully give of themselves in whatever it is they're doing, and thinking they are doing what they're supposed to by juggling a million things at once.
"Boundaries are really important from an emotional perspective. Have clear boundaries around your work and your family. The wavering or self-doubt in women is destructive to our confidence, comparing ourselves is also destructive. Own who you are as a mother, as a professional, and how you choose to design your life to fit you as an individual."
Show the children you're independent
Practically, it's about letting your children understand from your behaviour that it's healthy and important for Mum to have other parts to her life outside of the home, adds Cotter. "It's about leading by example and honouring your whole self as a woman, and as a person. That means making sure your needs are met first - remember the emergency advice for parents on an aeroplane."
Make it self-care for you
Being away is a chance to reconnect with yourself, says Phillips. Grab that fluffy robe and call room service. "How rarely do working mums get this opportunity? Have a night for you. The kids might enjoy the fact they can talk to you on Skype.
"Instead of beating yourself up for going, make it a great thing. Lots of women lose their identity when they become a mum. Going away sometimes can bring you back to you. Yes, it might be busy, but you might get that well-deserved night in a hotel, a bit of peace and quiet for yourself."
Remember the souvenirs!
"You're doing this for you, for the family. You'll have stories to come back and share. If you're going away for a while, bring stuff back you can talk about with the kids," says Phillips. "It can be a really exciting thing for the family."