At event, working moms share thoughts on guilt, balance, support networks

“Mom guilt” is real. Work-life balance is not. And support from a like-minded moms can provide a big boost in business — and in motherhood.

Those were a few of the insights shared by presenters at Missouri Business Alert’s Working Moms Conference, held Thursday at the REDI Hub in downtown Columbia.

The event featured four talks, a question-and-answer session and plenty of wine, all in the name of sharing information, advice and inspiration among women who are holding down jobs while raising children.

Punching ‘mom guilt’ in the face

Mom guilt, or the feeling of not doing enough for her kids, can weigh heavily on Kristen Brown’s mind.

For Brown, a mom and the owner of Columbia advertising and branding firm Hoot Design Co., the feelings of guilt often stem from her commitment to her company. Working women today must juggle elevated expectations in the workplace and the home, Brown said.

To deal with that, Brown said, she uses a variety of techniques, including self-care.

But perhaps the most interesting of Brown’s methods for dealing with guilt is “punching it in the face”.

“When these thoughts come up,” Brown said, “you literally visualize punching them.”

Brown said an aggressive and unapologetic approach to addressing guilt has served her well, and other presenters expressed similar sentiments.

‘Balance is bulls**t’

Striking a perfect balance between work life and home life is something many strive for. But, according to Arminta Phelps, a mom, chiropractor and the owner of Columbia’s Achieve Balance Chiropractic, the notion of such perfect balance “is bulls**t”.

“It’s a facade. It’s an illusion,” Phelps said. “It’s something everybody strives for, but nobody has it all together.”

Issues will bubble up at work and home that demand the bulk of her attention, Phelps said. She doesn’t let that bother her. Instead, she takes steps to manage the dueling demands on her time.

For Phelps, this means “keeping work at work” and trying not to let it seep into her home life. Phelps said she also practices preparedness, planning things like meals and outfits ahead of time in an effort to reduce the number of decisions she must make daily.

Dana Malstaff, the founder and CEO of Boss Mom, a San Diego-based organization that offers advice and resources for working moms, also dismissed the idea of work-life balance. In a video presentation played at the conference, Malstaff said either business or family will take precedence at a given time, depending on which needs more attention.

That’s fine, Malstaff said, because “love is limitless,” meaning that a working mom can love both business and family without sacrificing either.

The power of the tribe

Tammy Byington, a mom, grandmother and the director of parent education programming at First Chance for Children, a Columbia-based nonprofit, discussed the value of forming a support network of like-minded working moms.

“Use your tribe,” Byington said. “Use the people around you. You don’t need to do this alone.

Brown also suggested developing a network of women who are going through similar experiences, saying that’s more effective than confiding in someone like a spouse or a friend who’s a stay-at-home mom.

“They can really relate to how I’m feeling,” Brown said.

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