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The term “working mother’s guilt” is due to the fact that you are a working mom and have responsibilities outside of caring for your child. Most mothers feel like they’re not being good parents because their children need someone else around them during these hours. However, there are several different ways this can be looked at; today I’m going to share my story with some tips on how it has evolved over time!
This is my working mom guilt story
When Jack was born my employer was very understanding so I went down from 40hrs to 32hrs a week. The Director was completely understanding and was amazing through it all. She gave me the most precious time to bond with my kids that I could never repay.
I would work when he slept and weekends to keep him out of daycare as well as to keep us afloat. By the time he was almost eight months old he was so mobile, it was time to give him more. I broke down and enrolled him into daycare 2-days a week. At the time we also knew I was pregnant with Luke and I was sick all the time.
I cried on and off for weeks as I felt like I was giving someone else my son to raise. I called daycare daily and sometimes several times daily to check on him. In time I saw a lot of positive things, so I came to realize that I had chosen the best place to put him and he was safe. The staff truly cared about every single child within the facility and out.
When Luke was born, I stayed out of work for 2-months and kept both boys home. When I started to go back to work, I decided since Jack really loved going to daycare to increase him to 3-days a week. I kept Luke home with me until he was 6-months old.
When Luke started daycare, they were both their 3-days a week until things had changed. One day I got an email from my Director that my schedule could no longer be accommodated and that I would have to work a set schedule. I was completely crushed as that meant more of an 8 am to 5 pm schedule.
I ended up being forced to put the boys in daycare full-time and not only was it a disaster for me emotionally, but it was also financially tough. It was time to put my fears aside and put them in full-time.
I saw more growth in them than ever before just by going to daycare five days a week. Their vocabulary and sign language got better daily. Reading to them daily helped as well. A major thing is that they were able to interact with others their age.
All that said, it does not make it easier for me to send my children to daycare and rely on someone else to raise them. However, I must work so this is the hand I am dealt with. I have come to realize it isn’t a bad one even though I still have days where I am completely crushed to not have a full day with them both. Then the weekend comes, and I cherish every minute I can with them.
Why do Mothers feel this way?
Working moms are chasing the balance of working a job that they want or need and being the mom that they envisioned. You don’t just feel bad about letting your kids, team, or boss down; you also feel guilt about practicing self-care, remorse for not helping aging parents enough, or embarrassment about telling a friend how stressed out you are— as if you don’t have a right to feel this way.
What’s more, the Covid-19 pandemic has left working parents, and in particular, mothers, having to find solutions for education and child care. The windows into their world have been opened for all to see as women still disproportionately take care of the housework and children while working. As a result, guilt is permeating everywhere as kids spend more time on screens and moms spend more time on Zoom.
What are some ways that mothers have found to help them cope with their guilt while working outside of the home:
Letting go of guilt has to start with a commitment to stop beating yourself up over your choices and circumstances. Guilt gone awry turns into shame, and it is emotionally painful to constantly feel like you are a bad mom, a bad employee, or a bad friend. Instead, remember the reasons behind your choices. Every time you think to yourself, “I feel bad about __” replace that with, “I made that decision because ___” and then move forward.
Revisit your values.
For years now, I have worked with parents who experience guilt over their parenting decisions or their hours at the office (or now, the hours plugged into work at home). One of the most grounding exercises people can engage in is getting clear about what their values and priorities are in life and then living life in accordance with them. So often people say one thing matters to them most, but they don’t live into those values.
For instance, if family time is at the top of your list but you don’t feel like you get enough of it, rid yourself of guilt by consciously finding ways to spend more time with your family. Practice saying “no” to unnecessary commitments, like volunteering at every school fund-raiser, going to a regular happy hour with coworkers (even virtually), or sitting on your neighborhood HOA board. Involve your children in tasks you already do, like completing chores, making meals, or taking the dog for a walk. Or use your weekends intentionally, dedicating blocks of time for family, rather than errands. This will likely entail setting clear boundaries in other areas of your life and constantly revisiting (and updating) your family values statement so that you are in integrity with what you want.
Ask for help.
One of the hardest things for many women to do is to ask for help. Instead of asking for help, a working mom may just be fueling her stress by trying to do it all herself — then realizing that it is just impossible. Asking for help takes practice, but once you take a vulnerable step in doing so, others around you will start doing the same. Reach out to neighbors, personal friends, parents of your kids’ friends, your own parents, your in-laws, the aftercare program at school, or carpool parents. Before you know it, no one has to feel bad for asking, and it becomes a reciprocal relationship in which everyone benefits.
Be “good enough” at home.
The idea of the “good enough parent” goes back decades. Attachment researchers, such as John Bowlby, discovered that parents need to be emotionally present, to comfort their child, attune to their child’s feelings, show delight when seeing their child, and support their child in order to have a healthy and secure parent-child attachment. In other words, they are caring for and connected with their child, without sacrificing their personal needs and health. We need to follow this example and lower the bar from the perfect mom who can do it all, who does everything she “should” be doing, and is praised for her selflessness to the mother who reclaims her own life and takes care of herself. Rather than putting additional pressure on yourself, remember the basics. Realize the connection you can still have with your children by simply being “good enough.”
Unfollow those that bring you down.
Watching other people vacation, share their family photos, or publicize their latest promotion on social platforms like Facebook and Instagram is enough to drive a working mom to tears. The time you take to scroll on social media for connection is a time that needs to lift you up. If you find that a person or group’s posts consistently bring you down, unfollow them.
The benefits for children when they see their mother in a position of power, not just at home but also in her career
A mother who successfully manages both an outside job and parenthood provides a role model for her child. In most families with working mothers, each person plays a more active role in the household. The children tend to look after one another and help in other ways. The father is more likely to help with household chores and child-rearing as well as breadwinning. These positive outcomes are most likely when the working mother feels valued and supported by family, friends, and coworkers.
It was so amazing to see them transform and grow that I knew it was time for a change. Shortly after Luke’s first birthday, I switched companies. It was one of the best decisions to this day. It has provided me with a better work-life balance. They have now even started understanding that mommy and daddy work so we can have a house to live in and to have some fun.
Do you have tips from personal experience? Let’s share in the comments below, please.