Get Rid of Guilt and Get Away

A question that I often field is why is our blog titled “Permission Slips”? The inspiration for the name came from one word: GUILT. Through our writing, we encourage women to give themselves permission to let go of guilt and become happier and healthier.

During any given week from September through June, most moms of school-age children will sign a piece of paper that grants permission to enjoy a field trip or an overnight event.  She will sign the slip quickly, accompanied by an exclamatory, “Oh, how fun! This will be so enriching, and a good break from the routine!”

Yet, we struggle to give ourselves time off to do interesting adventures, as though our own mental stimulation did not matter. We will drop everything to aid an ailing relative or to participate in a three-day “walk for the cure.”  As long as our time off tangentially benefits someone else, we are good to go.

Moms are masters at self-guilt. Long before the term streaming was used to describe a news or entertainment feed, moms “streamed” a silent mental monologue that constantly questioned how time and effort was allocated. Just in my first hour of waking today I wondered: Did I use the right combination of patience, humor, firmness and coaching with my tricky teenager? Can I fit in exercise for me and the dog before I leave? Will I be able to complete my work “to do” list before the deadline? Was it right of me to pass on preparing a dish for the teacher’s appreciation lunch? And on and on it went.

Last week Linda and I did a focus group with moms. We asked the women why they can’t seem to give themselves permission to take time out from motherhood for restorative breaks without their families. They offered a heaping helping of reasons:

  1. Childcare – If they did not have a relative nearby, they found it difficult to arrange supervision that allowed them to feel comfortable leaving the kids behind. They also did not want to burden a dad who they recognized as also being taxed. Yet, they did not worry about their own burnout.
  2. Spending Money – They felt guilty about spending money on themselves that could be spent on a different household priority. Isn’t there always an alternative priority?
  3. Fairness – They felt it would not be fair to have a fun experience that their partner had not had, such as a trip to Europe or a great new restaurant. Wouldn’t it be rewarding for your partner to see you happy and invigorated by a new experience?
  4. Worry – They were concerned about events that might occur in their absence. Yes, we are by nature worriers, but leave the crystal ball behind.

In spite of the self-imposed roadblocks, one mom did come up with a solution to shed the guilt: Take a time-out in baby steps by going one night at a time. “Train” to build up your capacity so that you can get the refresh needed to be more effective in all your relationships.  All the moms agreed that they never regretted time with girlfriends, even if the times were few.  So, take the first step and resolve to go. Nudge your friends who need a little extra push and support.

Perhaps we need to re-name our website “Get Rid of Guilt!”

–Carol Lewis Gullstad, Jan. 24, 2011

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