It really needn't be as traumatic as it sounds.
By Nichole Montoya (Co-founder & CEO, Cheddar Up)
In an earlier post, I mentioned the “10-gallon side of mommy guilt” I was getting from my kids for heading out to San Francisco… not for the first time, but for the second.
I’d like to expand on that briefly. Mommy guilt is a funny thing. It generally originates from these tiny voices in your head and from some made-up, unrealistic expectation of what it means to be a good mother. And it’s supplemented from external sources. I don’t think dads really struggle with it as much based on their internal wiring. Lucky them.
Bottom line: Leaving your kids for four months is hard. One day? Great it’s a “me day!” Four months? Crying while over-sharing on Facebook. Here’s what I’ve learned to make it suck less:
Don’t Sugarcoat the Situation with Your Kids
Telling your kids you’ll be gone for six days when you’re actually going to be gone for 10 – not a good idea. They are smart. They can count. This will backfire on you. Duh… what was I thinking?
Do Make Your Kids Part of the Experience
When I first told my daughters that I was going to be gone for 500 Startups, I said that I told the program I would ONLY do it if my girls could visit the office in San Francisco. They ate that up!
Don’t Tell Them at Bedtime
If you are going to do this, no matter what, choose a better time than bedtime to break the news.
BAD, BAD, BAD travel planning. BAD, BAD, BAD timing. When I sprang this on my 9-year old I had full-on instantaneous water works, followed by my own water works. This is not good for anyone’s psyche.
Also, don’t be gone on Valentine’s Day when you normally make a REALLY big deal about Valentine’s Day.
Do Buy Your Kids Tchotchkes from the Airport
Kids are amazingly resilient. I knew this, but I’m relearning it. At my kids ages (8 and 9) a “thing” will still heal just about anything. Whether it’s an Alcatraz snow globe or a Golden Gate pencil bag, it never seems to get old.
Don’t Hang with Friends Who Don’t Get It
Don’t hang with friends who are going to make you feel worse about being gone. When you’re already feeling vulnerable about heading out of town for an extended period for the good of your startup, the last thing you need to hear is, “as long as you don’t abandon your kids.” Ear muffs.
You just can’t say that to a mom entrepreneur who is making some healthy sacrifices and taking risks at just about every turn.
Do Hang With Friends Who High Five You Non-Stop
I have a whole posse of friends who are my – and Cheddar Up’s – biggest cheerleaders. You know who you are!
While I don’t have much time to cultivate these relationships lately, all of their positive comments are truly little nuggets of goodness that I store away for rainy days to be pulled out when needed. And I know I don’t have to stress about my absence because they just get it.
Do Set Expectations
Don’t let comments from your kids get you down. They will say those things regardless, but it helps to set expectations.
It’s fairly common for my kids to make little comments such as, “You’re always on your phone,” or “Why did you work so late again?” Salt in wound.
While it pains me to even type those, I handle them better than I used to. Lately, I’ve been trying to set their expectations… a new normal for the time being. I find things are better for everyone in the family when I communicate upfront, “Hey guys…the next few weeks are going to be particularly busy because we’re working on X.” They actually get it and like to be involved. Who knew?!
About the guest blogger: Nichole Montoya is co-founder and CEO of Cheddar Up, a website that makes collecting money easy (and fun). She has 15 years of experience helping to grow and build businesses. Prior to founding Cheddar Up, Nichole served as a marketing strategist for the past eight years, helping firms grow their brands and reinvent themselves. Cheddar Up was a Women 2.0 PITCH finalist at How To San Francisco.