Mum guilt: We all have it. Here’s how to manage it

Mum guilt experienced by mothers who work full-time is a complex and deeply ingrained emotional struggle that fills our society.

In a world where gender roles are changing but still often laden with traditional expectations, the concept of mothers dedicating themselves fully to both their careers and their families has become a balancing act fraught with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

This emotional tug-of-war arises from the conflict between social pressures to excel in the professional sphere and the innate maternal instincts to provide unwavering care and attention to one’s children.

For many working mothers, this internal turmoil is a daily reality, as they grapple with the guilt that stems from the belief that their careers might come at the cost of their children’s wellbeing. This long-standing dilemma, rooted in historical gender norms and perpetuated by societal expectations, highlights the need for a more compassionate and supportive approach to working mothers. One that acknowledges their dedication, resilience and the profound impact they can have on both their careers and their families.

Understanding and addressing “mum guilt” is not only a matter of personal wellbeing but also a crucial step toward fostering a more inclusive and equitable society that values the contributions of women in the workforce while recognising the unique challenges they face as mothers.

Feeling guilty as a working parent is a common experience, but it’s essential to remember that you can be a great parent while working full-time.

Here are some strategies to help you manage and alleviate “mum guilt”:

Shift your perspective:

    • Recognise that working provides financial stability and sets a positive example for your children about responsibility, dedication and the value of hard work.
    • Understand that quality matters more than quantity when it comes to spending time with your children. Focusing on making the most of your time together can help with the guilt.

Open communication:

    • Talk to your children about your work and why it’s important. This can help them understand and appreciate your efforts.
    • Discuss your feelings of guilt with a trusted friend or partner. Sometimes, just sharing your emotions can provide relief.

Prioritise self-care:

    • Remember that taking care of yourself is crucial. If you are physically and emotionally healthy, you’ll be a better parent.
    • Allocate time for self-care activities like exercise, hobbies and relaxation to recharge and reduce stress.

Set boundaries:

    • Establish clear boundaries between work and home life. When you’re at work, focus on your job, and when you’re at home, focus on your family.
    • Avoid bringing work-related stress or tasks home whenever possible.

Quality over quantity:

    • Make the most of your time with your children by being fully present. Put away distractions like phones and computers when you’re with them.
    • Engage in activities that create meaningful connections, like family outings, reading or simply having heart-to-heart conversations.

Delegate and seek help:

    • Don’t hesitate to ask for support from family, friends or childcare services. Sharing responsibilities can relieve some of the pressure.
    • Remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Set expectations:

    • Understand that you can’t be a perfect parent. It’s okay to make mistakes or have moments when you’re less available due to work commitments.
    • Accept that it’s normal for children to have experiences beyond your control and it doesn’t make you a bad parent.

Celebrate achievements:

    • Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments, both at work and as a parent. Positive reinforcement can help boost your self-esteem. If it helps, write a list showing all of your achievements. Be proud of yourself!

Find a support network:

    • Connect with other working parents who can relate to your experiences. Sharing advice and coping strategies can be very reassuring.

Seek professional help:

    • If your guilt becomes overwhelming and persistent, consider talking to a therapist or counsellor who specialises in parenting or work-related stress.

Being a working parent is a balancing act, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What’s most important is that you love and support your children to the best of your ability while also taking care of yourself and pursuing your career goals. Guilt is a natural emotion, but by adopting these strategies, you can manage it and find more peace and balance in your life.

More support can be found below.

Working mums   |   Working Families   |   Mumsnet   |   Made For Mum

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