The Emmy Award-winning actress dedicated her prize to her children, whom she missed out on tucking into bed at times during her career
It’s tough to have it all.
At the Emmy Awards on Sunday, actress Nicole Kidman dedicated her Outstanding Lead Actress award for Big Little Lies to her children. In her acceptance. speech, she confessed that her career has, at times, eaten into her time with her family.
“I have two little girls, Sunny and Faith, and my darling [husband] Keith, who I asked to help me pursue this artistic path, and they have to sacrifice so much for it. So this is yours,” Kidman said. “I want my little girls to have this on their shelf and to look at it and go: ‘Every time my mama didn’t put me to bed, it’s because of this. I got something!”
Most parents can relate to Nicole Kidman’s guilt about balancing work and family life. “On no day can you do one hundred percent of one thing,” says Irene Dallas, a London-based lawyer and mother of three. “You can’t do one hundred percent of being a good mother everyday,” she says, but adds that you can find a way to balance giving more energy to your job on some days, and extra attention to parenting on others.
Feelings of guilt are normal, says Dr. Matthew Lorber, a psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. Indeed, research shows that many parents grapple with it. According to a 2015 survey from the Pew Research Center, 56% of working moms report difficulties balancing their home and work lives, and 50% of dads feel the same. What’s more, 34% of moms say they don’t spend enough time with their kids, and 48% of dads confess to the same.
So how can moms and dads learn to cope with the guilt for missing out on big moments in their kids’ lives at the expense of work and vice versa?
1) Remind yourself that you’re setting a good example: “By working, a mom is serving as a role model for her children in having her career and showing them, if it’s a daughter,” that they can go far in their careers, Lorber says. “You’re setting a great role model for your daughter,” or your son, he adds, by building a career and achieving your goals. Indeed, a previous study from researchers at Harvard University found that daughters raised by working moms go further in their careers (and make more money) than those who are raised by stay-at-home moms, and sons raised by working moms are more empathetic.
2) Remember why you’re working — and let the kids know it too: It’s important for parents to remember that a lot of the work they’re doing is to give their child a better life, Lorber says. “I think that it’s appropriate to let a child know it,” he adds, suggesting you can remind the kids that you work so they can have certain advantages.
3) Avoid people who exacerbate your guilt: Lorber says that, oftentimes, parents can put each other down in order to satisfy their own jealousies — like when, say, a stay-at-home parent makes a dig about a working parent missing PTA meetings or school recital. “Once you remove the goal of perfection and recognize that no one is going to be president of the PTA, soccer mom coach, [and have a career],” you can liberate yourself from much of that guilt.
If you find yourself facing an attack from an envious fellow parent, saying something conciliatory to disarm the aggressor can be the best way to go. “You know, I wish I had more time to spend with my children,” is one possible recourse, Lorber suggests, instead of saying something passive aggressive, which can only make your enemies dislike you more.
4) Be there for the important things, don’t punish yourself for missing the rest: As a young mother, Dallas made a priority to be there for as many important events in her kids’ lives as she could. “I didn’t miss Christmas plays, I didn’t miss important matches, I didn’t miss birthdays… You plan, and you make it work,” she says. As for what qualifies as important, Dallas says that the moments in your children’s lives that really count tend to be self-explanatory.
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