I’ve written about guilt with regard to being a parent, but I haven’t shared my thoughts on how guilty I feel about my work performance yet. I think I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that becoming a parent has changed how I am as an employee and the fact that I’m not going to go back to how I was pre-kid. It’s taken time but the standards I hold myself to at work have finally been adjusted (for the most part).
Pre-child, I thought of myself as an amazing employee. I was completely dedicated to my job during the day, willing to work overtime in order to perfect a presentation the night before a Board meeting. I strove for more opportunities to learn and grow professionally. I was the dependable one in the office who was willing to lend a hand to any task. I could squeeze 8 hours of work into 4 and volunteer for more!
I would still *love* to be that kind of employee, but I am not. Sometimes I have to say no because I am carrying a virus that no one in my office wants. Sometimes I am buried in work that should have been a cinch to complete because I missed half a day of work to care for my kid. I forget things more often (mommy brain!) and there are days when I’m just too exhausted from waking in the middle of the night to comfort Jack after a nightmare to be effectively productive. Worst of all, I know how the employee I used to be would judge the employee I am now.
I remember returning to work after maternity leave and struggling to focus on my job. After being at home pregnant and then with a newborn for 10 weeks, completely off the work grid, I felt completely disconnected from my place of employment even though I was happy to return to work. Becoming a mother changed my ability to focus on any task at hand. Sleep deprivation put me on auto-pilot and Jack was (and still is) in my mind at all times. I thought I could push thoughts of him out of the way during the day but…no. It doesn’t work that way. There is some invisible thread that is constantly seeking out the status of Jack’s well being. Compared to that, things like filing and answering phone calls seemed trivial. How could I could about busywork when I had an obligation to foster attachment with my child and encourage his brain development? I felt like an awful mother and a terrible employee all at the same time.
Thankfully, I now work for a company where most of the employees are parents. I have bosses who take off work to tour preschools and call into meetings from home so that their spouses can catch up on sleep after being up with a baby all night. The company is thriving and growing revenue even in this crazy recession, which I think is a great endorsement for family-friendly companies.
There are many skills I’ve learned from being a parent that have made me a better employee, too. I am better at maintaining civility in the face of stress at work. I am more compassionate toward stressed out co-workers. My ability to plan ahead for possible crises and manage the expectations of my peers and managers is improving every day. I am learning how to manage my own stress level and work at a saner pace, too.
I still have lots of guilt over all the things I think I should be doing for my son, but I think I’m getting back to being reasonably proud of myself as an employee. I mean, if I sucked they’d fire me instead of promoting me, right?