Believe me when I say, I know this time of year is hard, mama. There are so many opportunities for “comparisonitis,” especially in the days of social media. And as a mom, it’s natural to want to give your kids everything, but you know that isn’t practical. Not only does it not make sense financially, but the kids forget about most of the gifts pretty quickly, and then it becomes where in the world do you put all the stuff. I’m here to tell you, you can let go of mom guilt and create a holiday within your means.
This post is part of the 30 Days to a Debt-Free Christmas Challenge
Working mom guilt is a very real thing. It’s no wonder — the prevalent sentiment of our time is that the stay-at-home mom is the better mom. A Pew Research Survey found that a whopping 40 percent of Americans believe that children suffer when the mother works outside of the home, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. My most favorite fact to bunk this guilt-trip is the Harvard Business School research that found that in the United States, daughters of working mothers earn 23 percent more than those of stay-at-home moms, while worldwide, adult women who were raised by working moms not only were more likely to have a job, but hold supervisory positions.
Those may be the facts, but you may still — likely! — feel guilty for having a career, especially if your work takes you outside the home. I have been there, and many of my friends and followers share relatable tales. You worry our kids are being raised by other people. Or maybe you fear that your sons and daughters will not harbor special memories of you from their childhoods. Guilt, guilt, guilt that we are inferior mothers because we earn money to support those very children, just like 65 percent of U.S. mothers who work, and 40 percent of families who count the mother as the breadwinner.
All this guilt (a.k.a. “the least productive emotion”) can skyrocket at holiday times. Holidays, admit it or not, can be the most stressful time of year. The jam-packed schedules of parties, performances, and services can bring a mom’s sense of overwhelm to a fever pitch. And the financial pressures to create “Christmas morning face” on the kids can be especially onerous for working moms. After all, if we work so hard all year to create a great quality of life for our families, shouldn’t that quality be evident in dozens of Facebook posts about how glorious our holiday season is?
Does this sound like you?
If so, I’m thrilled to share some tips from fellow blogger Emma Johnson of Wealthy Single Mommy with you today.
Maybe you’ve been doing all kinds of crazy stuff because of working-mom guilt and not even realize it! Look at how you spend your money and ask yourself:
Examine expenses like gifts, clothes, and activities for your kids.
The types of food you feed them — do you buy unhealthy food to lessen mealtime stress because you feel guilty about not spending more time with your kids? (If this is you, you need to check out my meal plans with dump recipes – they are money-saving, delicious, AND easy. I have a few on my site, but this comfort food one is a favorite during this time of year!)
When you go on business trips, to come home with expensive gifts to overcompensate for missed events and bedtimes?
Now that you own how guilt impacts your family finances, determine what is within your value system.
Revamp your monthly budget to reflect these values. Keep in mind, there is no right or wrong here. Your values belong to you, and so reserve judgment when reflecting here.
Whether you are a single or partnered mom, get everyone in your family on board with your plan and communicate clearly and continuously your values, and how that is reflected in your spending decisions. For example:
Goodwill and morality do not start with Thanksgiving and end on January 1. If saving for the future trumps toys, communicate that with your kids now. And to help you stick to this value, I check out my post about the three-gift rule. Get them involved in a family savings plan, and create an allowance program that encourages them to save. You may want to read more about my money principles to teach kids.
Then, set expectations for the holiday. Should each family member expect to receive all the items on their wish list? Or just some? If you’re opting for a family experience in lieu of physical gifts, make sure that each child has an approximate understanding of what to expect.
Then stick to it! Let go of mom guilt once and for all, even if under-the-Christmas tree looks a little sparse. Better that than a sparse bank account in the new year.
Read more from Emma Johnson at WealthySingleMommy.
Emma Johnson is the creator of WealthySingleMommy, the leading website for professional single moms, and the podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson, on iTunes. She is a veteran personal finance journalist, with credits in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Money, Worth, USAToday, Glamour, Men’s Health, and dozens of others. Her course, How Not To Be a Broke Single Mom, is changing families’ lives.