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How to Cope When You Feel Like You’re Failing at Work and Home

2 minute read

Q: I feel as though I’m failing at work and home, never perfect at either place. How do I deal?

Oh, mommy guilt. I see this all the time. Wanting to ace everything on the job and at home means you care, which is a good thing. But your use of the word “perfect” tells me you’re holding yourself to unrealistic standards, and that’s not healthy. Nobody is perfect, and there’s no such thing as expert parenting, whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or running a Fortune 500 company. (Just ask Sheryl Sandberg, who has admitted that her son scolds, “Mommy, put down the BlackBerry—talk to me!”)

Try this exercise: Think back to a few times you had angst about a so-called fail (you didn’t volunteer to go on a class field trip, your coworker gave you the side-eye when you left 15 minutes early to make a soccer game). Then ask yourself, “Did those things matter in the long run? Did they even matter an hour later?” I’m guessing no.

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Now, it would be different if you were telling me that you keep dropping the ball at work or you haven’t made your kids’ recitals in years. If that’s the case, you need to do some deeper thinking and ask yourself harder questions: Does your current job allow enough flexibility? Is your partner pulling his weight at home? Could you opt out of some business travel?

Once you’ve problem-solved the big picture, move on and let the overthinking go. You can’t cut yourself down the middle and be everywhere and do everything all the time.

Gail Saltz, MD, is a psychiatrist and television commentator in New York City who specializes in health, sex, and relationships.

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