5 Ways To Shed The ‘Working Woman’s Guilt’ And Let Go With No Regrets

How do you lead a guilt-free life? Life will not change on its own some day until you take small steps to make this change happen. 

How do you lead a guilt-free life when you are a working woman? Life will not change on its own some day until you take small steps to make this change happen. 

We all have been given the gift of GUILT by our family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and even passers-by. How many times have we tried to not give in to our child’s insistence in a public place because we don’t think the child needs the stuff that he/she is asking for and the child starts throwing a tantrum! Passers-by give you those looks which seem to say “What a mom is she? Putting her child to such pain” and you feel the guilt of being a monster mom!

Many times, it’s this guilt that does not allow us to Let Go! I am sure you can relate to one of the below (or more than one!)

  • Only I can brush my child’s teeth the best! (while meaning that your husband cannot do a good job of it)
  • Of course, I need to tie my child’s shoelaces (because Grandpa is not capable; the same Grandpa who did it for years for his own shoes)
  • The menu of the day has to be decided by me (Mother-in-law does not plan a perfectly balanced meal; the MIL who raised the entire family for years and all of them are hale and healthy today)
  • I have to list down all the steps that my new team member needs to do to ensure she writes the perfect piece of code (Not wanting to allow her to read up the process documents and demonstrate her coding acumen).

And the list goes on!

The Working Woman’s Guilt

I too have suffered from the Working Woman’s Guilt till I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion at the International Women’s Day event in 2009. My daughter was 7 years old and I was part of the senior management team at the company where I worked.

I decided to ask this question which was hurting me like crazy, to a senior woman leader at the panel discussions; “If your child has not scored the marks that you wished him/her to score in the exam, do you feel guilty that it could have been because you were not able to spend enough time with the child to help with the preparation for the exam?”

This was her answer.

“What’s the guarantee that the child would have scored better if I had been around him/her? Maybe, the marks would have been worse if I had been around!!”

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And it made me think! Why do we assume that things will not go right if we are not around? Why do we want to be perfect with everything in life? Why cannot we delegate (both at home and office) and watch from a distance to see the outcome? And let the outcome improve daily instead of stepping in and saying “I knew this would be the issue if I let you do it your way!!”

This post is one of the top selected entries from the blogathon #NoRegrets around Kaveree Bamzai’s inspiring book No Regrets: The Guilt Free Woman’s Guide to a Good Life.

Ways to reach the point of #NoRegrets

One of the biggest blockers in a woman’s career journey is her inability to Let GO! Start taking these baby steps to de-clutter your life from the mental stress of all the expectations that you and the society have pinned up on you.

#1 Decide what your priority is

It’s going to be extremely difficult to have your headspace dedicated to the running of the household as well as executing your official projects. It’s perfectly fine to let go (or delegate) some of the household chores to your family (it could be to your in-laws, your parents, your husband and sometimes even your child) to free up your mind to focus on what needs to be accomplished in the office. But hey, remember that once you Let Go, you do not crib and complain.

Things will get done but might not get done the way you do it. You will need to have oversight from a distance, and very subtly suggest changes if you wish. Otherwise, the stress is going to be more and the person to whom you have delegated the responsibility will also not be happy doing it. It might just bounce back to you soon! 

#2 Ask for help

If you want to go for the networking dinner organized by your office, but the same evening your child has to go to a birthday party, and none of your family can accompany the child, do ask your child’s friends’ parents to help you out. Of course, you must also be willing to return the favour when the time comes. And go ahead with your networking dinner!

In my case, I have in-laws and husband who pitched in but on certain occasions when I still needed that additional help, I reached out to my bestie Aradhana who was always willing to go out of the way to help. Today, she knows that she can reach out to me during her times of need and our relationship has just got stronger.

#3 Outsource some of the work at home which could bog you down!

Hire a cook if you feel you are extremely tired after the day at work! Get a tutor if you are unable to spend the required hours with your child but you feel that the child needs additional help with school work! Sometimes just taking an OLA or a UBER gives you the respite that you need instead of you driving your own car! Again, you need to specify what outcomes you need (i.e nutrition levels in the meal/what subjects to focus on) but you should give adequate independence to the person you have hired.

For those of you who feel that it’s a big hole in the pocket to outsource, do remember that this is the investment you are making to get you to a salary level in the coming months when you can easily afford it. It’s just like the investment we make when we enrol for a Master’s course at a University. We believe that it will get us to a better paying job!

After my MIL’s health could not allow her to manage the kitchen, I hired a cook. Even when I took a break from my career in Sep 2017, I kept the cook engaged  so that I could have the freedom and the mental peace to go and meet anyone, attend any events, and think of any kinds of assignments for my future without having to worry about the cooking of the dinner or having to rush back home in time to make that dinner. Today, in the consulting world that I work in, where there are no regular hours for work and assignments can crop up without any advance notice, she is a boon that makes my work delivery so efficient and effective.

#4 Stop being a control freak! 

Sometimes you just need to let go without delegating, without asking for help, without outsourcing! One morning, you find the centre table in the study to be extremely dusty. Your maid might be on leave and all your family members have also gone out of town for a couple of days. Let the dust on the table not bother you! You have an important meeting to prepare for, go ahead! The dust on the table does not hinder any of your personal or official work. What usually happens is we think about all the possibilities – An unexpected guest might turn up, or we just want to feel proud that our house is always spic and span!

That’s the additional pressure you are putting on yourselves! Leave the table as is till the dust settles down i.e you have prepared for the meeting and impressed your point of view with the rest of the participants at the meeting. My mother is a stickler for cleanliness and she does it all by herself even at this age. When she sees something not “up to the mark” in my house when it comes to cleanliness, she will pass a remark. I have learnt to ignore it and have my own priorities and schedules which of course have both home and work incorporated in it. But it will happen at the right time when I feel it is the right time.

#5 No micromanagement at work! 

At the office, you mustn’t do micromanage your team. For you to be able to take on additional assignments, you will have to make time by delegating some of your tasks to your team! Unless your team members grow, you will not be able to grow. You will be surprised how the majority of the times you delegated the task to a junior or a peer, the outcomes are much better when you give the person complete independence to do it his/her way! But you will need to give the bigger picture to the person! You cannot just ask him/her to input data into an excel sheet, you will have to explain how the calculations in this excel sheet are going to help the Business unit head to take some strategic decisions!

Showing the bigger picture rather than just explaining the task does wonders! In my last role where I was heading a not for profit foundation, we kept a very lean team. I used to have volunteers come in for a period of 3 months and do some of the routine tasks. One of the volunteers, Asha, was extremely good. Asha, after completing her 3 months of volunteering, was offered a paid internship and since I was planning to take a month off to move into my new house and settle down, I decided to start giving her tasks that would otherwise require a senior person’s interventions.

These were meeting with stakeholders, decisions about what partnerships we needed to pursue and also internal communications about the operations of the foundation. She did a brilliant job of all of this, and when I returned from leave, it didn’t feel as if anything was amiss during the period that I was away. It had given me a peaceful break from work, she had felt motivated to take on the additional responsibilities and overall the foundation had grown from where I had left it when I went away on leave.

Bottom line: Prioritise! And whatever comes as a blocker (whether blocking your mind or your time) Let go of it! Shun it and don’t feel guilty about it later!

The tricky balance

It could also work the other way around. Very recently, I won the HerRising award in the Women Professionals category and the award ceremony was held on 7 Sep 2019. It also happened to be my wedding anniversary. Since I had picked up an assignment which needed me to be away that morning, I decided to skip the award ceremony to spend the evening with the family to celebrate the wedding anniversary. No guilt and no regrets as then, my priority was being with the family.

I take inspiration from Indra Nooyi Ex Ceo – PepsiCo, and also resonate with her when she said, “Regret is too serious a word. Heartaches many times. It is not regret. I love what I’m doing. I may have regretted not doing it had I stayed at home and spent all the time there. Regret is a very complex word.” Hence #NoRegrets!

I want to read Kaveree Bamzai’s book No Regrets: The Guilt Free Woman’s Guide to a Good Life to validate my hypothesis that it is possible to lead a guilt-free life. I also want to understand how other inspiring women like Naina Lal Kidwai and Smriti Irani struck this balance and imbibe some of their ideas into my own life. 

Image via istockphotos


About the Author

Neeraja Ganesh

My professional experience of 25 years has been in the Information Technology industry managing large teams, delivery of IT projects, Operational excellence and customer delight for large banking capt ives. Since I am very passionate read more...

4 Posts | 20,447 Views

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