lori’s fear is my guilt

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Lori May (follow her on twitter, @lmayinteriors) wrote to me this week in response to my post on the seduction of Busyness. I think her feelings are shared by many of you, so I asked if I could reproduce her words & my response.

Lori is having difficulty starting her business. She’s trying to move forward but Busyness gets in the way. But Busyness isn’t the underlying problem, it’s the two sets of fears that create her need for constant doing & participation:

1) I am actually afraid of this new business and its possible success. What would I do then? How would I handle the work load? Who would volunteer at my girls’ school? What would people think if it seemed like I enjoyed working more than mothering?! (I am secretly afraid that I might!)

2) I have been a stay at home mom for 3 1/2 years. It really wasn’t by choice, but I don’t regret it. In this time, though, it seems that my identity has developed into the busier I am, the better mom I am. When in actuality I have less time for my husband and my children because of my busyness. Now that I am beginning to understand this, I am terrified of changing. I am the room mom, the volunteer, the holiday market chairperson. How do I stop doing all of these things to start my dream business?

Lori’s fears are my guilt.

I struggle everyday with the guilt of no longer being a full-time mom. I struggle with that fact that I love working and do it a lot. I feel guilt about being successful when so many talented people have not found their own success.

I was a full-time mom. Lola was my life. I had the opportunity few others have. Who was I to “give up” on that? Who was I to spend less time with her? Who was I to make the choice not to be a full time mom anymore?

But, intellectually, I know that I’ve provided something very different, and equally valid, for all three of us. For myself, I’ve provided the opportunity to do exactly what I have always wanted to do. For my husband, I’ve provided a much needed rest and an opportunity to make his own “something.”

And for my daughter, I’m providing a quite unusual example of entrepreneurship & the power of a determined woman. I’m showing her that art can pay. That doing what you love is possible & profitable.

I put on a good show here. I love to talk about the power of shedding your fears & moving past your personal barriers. And I’m not going to stop. But at the same time, I struggle with my own demons, fears, and sense of guilt.

In the end, I can either keep working on my life’s work or I can succumb to those feelings. At this point, my decision is fairly easy. But it may not be for you. And your life’s work may not be starting a business. Your life’s work may be raising a family or teaching art or being a scientist. We all have fears that surround pursuing our own life’s work of art. We all have guilt.

We’re all struggling with something. You’re not alone. I’m not alone. And together we can move forward.

20 thoughts on “lori’s fear is my guilt

  1. I was in the IT business for years and finally packed it in as the long hours were making me ill and taking time away from my boys. However, not working at all made me restless and dissatisfied. Crafting and opening my shop was a happy medium. I’ m happy and my boys love to see that I’m working on something I enjoy. I think it’s important for my children to realise and respect the fact that i need to work on something of my own. They share in my excitement and are always encouraging me and because it’s part time, i get to spend lots of time with them and encouraging them in their pursuits.

  2. Tara thank you for this. Really. I am 33 years old and am just now getting started with my passions and starting my dream biz. I am also getting married and know that children will be in the future. I secretly wish that my partner could do all the baby/kid stuff….pregnancy, delivery, breast feeding, swaddling..etc. All because I want to be an entrepreneur and explode onto the scene of my passion. I waited 33 years and now I am ready for it. Bad timing? I guess well see.

  3. SO. How about this post? Let me just say that one of my guiding principles for my own emotional well-being is this: guilt is a useless emotion. Whether self-imposed or otherwise it is something that will do nothing for you, time and time again. So don’t waste your time feeling guilty, get to the root of the matter, understand it, learn from it, change it or ignore it.

    I don’t know many men that feel guilty about being successful, but I know too many women that wrestle with the demon of success—on what success will or will not do to them should they achieve it. I think this demon is in bed with fear. Which is why both should be put to rest.

    Fear offers you two choice: to succumb or to succeed. I say, aim for success. While you certainly need to understand the implications choosing to succeed (following your dreams) will have on your life and the lives of those you around you, you also need to understand the implications should you choose to just succumb.

    I have a wonderful print that hangs in my office made by Rodney White which reads “It will cost you nothing to dream and everything not to.”

    Follow your dreams, see where they take you. If it means doing a little less here or there it will be okay. No one will mind, really. You know why? You will be so, so much happier and at peace with yourself and the world around you. You will learn. You will share. You will adjust. You will grow.

    Isn’t that what this whole journey is about?

    1. Our society has conditioned women to stay in the background and be the grunts doing all the work. I think that’s (finally) beginning to change and we’re still getting used to the idea that it’s okay to be successful.

      The children of these women are growing up with role models of strong, successful women and, eventually, it will become the norm.

      I grew up with a single working mom during the ’70s. It was a struggle and I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her. But I am more successful today because of what she taught me about being a strong, independent woman.

      Please don’t feel guilty or feel like you’re not a good mom because you work and love it. Love your children and be sure they know it and all will be well.

  4. This post spoke to me…while becoming a SAHM because of a military move allowed me to pursue creative ventures that I didn’t have time for when I was working {more than} full time, I feel that pull of guilt to not work THAT hard on my passions because that meant I was neglecting my “real” job of being with my son. In reality, it meant that I was not really being present for either my son or my business. This year, I will embrace that I find fulfillment in my work and use that to teach my son great lessons in chasing your passions.

  5. I felt the same way as Lori when I had young children. But I now have that “what if” syndrome. I am now 47 and my children are in high school getting ready to go off to college. I have always worked from home but always was afraid of being too successful and giving up time with my kids. I now have had more time for myself as my kids are teenagers and driving so I have immersed myself in jewelry making. I only wish I would have pushed myself earlier… my kids and husband are so proud of my accomplishments and I feel like I am being a better role model for my son (18) and my daughter (17) when I am working and succeeding. Follow your passion and work hard.. you will be successful.. is always my motto.

  6. Tara – What a beautiful post. I, too, struggle with dissonance between my intellect and my feelings. My husband is picking up nearly all our housework, on top of his full-time job, so that I have the space to pursue my dream on top of my full-time job. Things are so very unbalanced right now, it wounds me. But he’s so completely and utterly supportive. I don’t know how I’d keep moving if he wasn’t.

    Thank you for being so open today — and for carrying the flag for the rest of us.

  7. I love this article. I can’t necessarily relate on the mothering part, but my best friend is a stay-at-home mom and I can relate from her standpoint.

    I’ve given some thought as to what would I do if my Etsy shop took off and I got orders like crazy like all these Etsy success stories I read about? What would that mean for my full-time day job, and my night-time grad school program? For some reason, it’s like I don’t even think that would be an option for me, like there’s no way that my shop would take off like that and I would that person that’s business took off so well that they could quit their day job. I guess that’s not really very optimistic of my artsy/creative self, but the thought crossed my mind a time or two.

    Most times, what I’d really like to do is just quit my day job and stay at home and create. After all, THAT is where I get my sense of pride with creating and makes sales. I don’t get that from work. The education makes me respect myself more, so I do appreciate learning more. Hmmm….

  8. I am so glad to have found this post right now, after I just ran into a neighbor in the elevator who kind of reprimanded me for working too much. I love my work. I wouldn’t want my life to be any other way than it is. I don’t feel guilty about it until someone feels the need to suggest I should. To each his (or her!) own, is what I have to say! I’m also reminded of your post about not having to do it all (can’t remember the title or I’d link to it) – I’m not doing it all and that is O-K! Thank you, Tara!

  9. thanks for your honesty as always Tara. This is a really nice post that I’m sure resonates with so many of us. I am a full time working mom of 2 young kids (6 and 4) as well as a part time teacher, designer, and mixed media artist. I struggle with the balancing all my jobs let alone the addition to the needs and well being of my husband, my kids and my self. It is a constant balancing act but, I love my life. I love doing and creating and helping others grow. I love my family and children and make sure to shut off my work in the evenings while the kids are awake and I have planned one full day (usually Sat) when I do not turn on my computer. When I want to work on my craft I try to involve my kids, bring out their easel and paints, let them string beads or make collages and so we spend QT together while I’m “working”. To each his or her own as Christine said. I choose to be a working role model with the success of my business positively affecting the quality of life of my family.

  10. After reading the post and everyone’s comments I feel a little better. I still have my hang-ups but at least now I know I’m not the only one struggling. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for just a little while now, a couple of years. Not really by choice but given the opportunity I took it. My son is now 14 months old and I’m pregnant with our second child. These are not what I worry about. My husband went out on disability recently and we no longer make the income a registered nurse brings home, which was one reason I was able to stay home. Now I think we pay out more than we bring in…which can only last so long. I’m feeling pressure to find a “real job” to make ends meet but I am dragging my feet doing that. I want my business to get started and get going, but I’ve also got fear around that. Am I and my products good enough for the world? Will I be successful or bomb? What will happen if I am successful? I am working on all of this but while I do, the bills pile high. I’m not sure where to go or what to do. I continue on a regular basis to verbalize positive affirmations to the universe asking for help. I wholeheartedly believe that this will work out but living in the present moment looking at the bills stacked up next to me as I work on my business is getting a little more difficult everyday. What is my breaking point? I’m sorry I rambled but I thank you for posting and making me feel just a little better…to all the wonderful ladies who have posted!

  11. This post really struck a chord with me (as it seems to have with many). When my son was born 2 years ago I knew it was going to change everything. I have been an artist for what seems like forever and had been lucky enough to be showing in galleries and working in arts related fields but when Gavril was born I just didn’t feel like making my art anymore. I was too busy being a human milk bar, attempting to get someone else to sleep (forget about my sleep), and trying to figure out what every cry meant.
    So I let my studio collect dust, lots of it. I felt guilty about it but whenever I would sit down to pick up a paint brush or a pencil it just felt like one more chore in my day. So I gave myself a break and permission to be a busy mother who was in the midst of the hardest job I’d ever had as a 24-7 caregiver. Then around his first birthday I started to feel a little bit of my creativity creeping back in (which may have been partly due to his finally sleeping through the night). I dusted off my table and sat down, but found I didn’t want to draw or paint. I wanted to sew, make something for my little guy and I allowed myself to do that. I made him a mobile of his favorite thing – birds. Well, that was when I found out how to merge being an artist with my new role of mother.
    I started my etsy shop, Baby Jives, a few months later and let the laundry pile up, dust bunnies take over, and cooking in became eating out. But I am much happier now because I feel like I finally reclaimed that part of myself I had let go when I started staying home. My identity as an artist is back and I still get to stay home mostly full time with my little guy while I make an income from art again. The best part is I wake up every day feeling like even though I don’t have all day to devote to my son, I do have the joy and energy back that was missing before.

  12. Great article!! I think showing your daughter that someone can be happy and successful in doing something they love is PRICELESS! Our parents’ generation worked for the same company their whole life….and many of them were unhappy.

    Kudos to you for making the choice!

  13. To all you parents who feel guilt over pursuing your goals and dreams and putting time and effort into your business — time and effort you feel takes away from what your kids are getting:

    My father passed away in October.

    For most of my life, I didn’t have a great relationship with him. He missed out on a lot of important events and day-to-day just being there with me. My mom was a stay at home mom and my primary caregiver and today she’s my best friend. I am SO glad she stayed at home full-time.


    Just as important to me was what my dad gave me.

    My dad, you see, for my entire life up until last year, when he had his leg amputated and got too weak to keep going, was self-employed.

    He had his own business.

    So though we weren’t as close as we could’ve been — by pursuing his dream — he taught me something valuable. Something priceless. He taught me that I could pursue my own.

    He taught me that though other people may not get it, though you may not be raking in the dough — with hard work, anything is possible.

    Though there were times in my life we didn’t get along or see eye to eye — one thing I know for sure is that he supported my dreams — no matter how outlandish they may’ve seemed to others. (Because a lot of people just do not get that YES you can make a living creating art!) And I also know, for sure, that no matter what else we shared or didn’t…he was proud of me.

    And now that he’s gone, that means the world to me.

    So though you may not be the one picking your child up from dance class and though Daddy may be the one reading them their bedtime stories…you are teaching them that absolutely anything is possible.

  14. I used to be a partner in a very successful landscape architecture firm. If I was at work, I was worrying about the kids or the house or the bills, and if I was at home, I was worrying about the business. I think when you have kids your mind splits permanently! Three years ago I became a full-time mom for many reasons including my health, my family’s well being, and disagreements in the office. I have been working since I was a teenager, and struggled for several years after selling the business to answer the question ‘what do you do’ at parties. I was totally at a loss to define myself without a job! I’m trying to build a new career, a deliberately small part-time one that lets me run the household but redefine myself as well. Just a really long way of saying “I hear you, girlfriend.”

  15. This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. You know so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great’s is a smart blog. I mean it. You have so much knowledge about this issue, and so much passion. You also know how to make people rally behind it, obviously from the responses. Great job, indeed.

  16. I started homeschooling my kids 2.5 years ago. The beginning of the 2nd school year, I told them I “couldn’t do everything” and would be putting my business on the backburner for a while. Their response shocked me. They said they would rather go back to a school they hated, then see me not follow my dreams. Wow. Those monsters are smart.

    My family comes first in my life because that is how I choose to prioritize. However, my happiness is important to keeping the rest of the family happy. We all know this and they help me out with anything they can. If you give your kids the chance, they will WANT to help with your dreams and they are capable of so much more than what we adults usually give them credit for. Try giving them some control of a business related task. They will do it and sometimes do it better.

  17. Wow fear and guilt, two sides of one coin. I am 52 and have no children. Still I spent years battling those demons and spinning my wheels. Not to say I have no guilt or fear now, I just choose not to let them dominate me. As Tara puts it “I put on a good show”. Like Robin I can relate to the notion of “what if” but again, like fear and guilt, it is a waste. I hear many people my age resigned to this is it lifestyles that they hate, and I am so glad I am not one of them. I guess my point is no matter what our age or whether or not we have children or spouses we will have doubts. It is not letting them guide us that makes the difference. Do I wish I had embraced this sooner? Of course. Do I dwell on it? Absolutely not. AND like Brigitte I have an amazingly supportive husband that seems to thrive on watching me grow, while working full time and doing most of the house chores. Amen to that!

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