Top 3 ways to resolve mum-guilt and reclaim life on your terms

Working mom works from home office with kid. Mother and daughter read news. Woman and cute child sitting on window sill.

Family versus career. It’s an age-old battle that ambitious women have faced. Whether they’re negotiating maternity leave or facing judgement for working, the emotional weight falls on mothers all too often.

Ever since my children were born, I’ve experienced terrible working mum guilt. Regardless if I missed an important meeting because the kids were sick or because I couldn’t look after them due to a business trip, I blamed myself for being both a horrible employee and parent. No matter how much I tried to juggle, I felt like I always had the wrong priorities.

That familiar feeling of mothers-guilt was so all-consuming that when I wasn’t mentally punishing myself for conflicting priorities, I was exhausted trying to juggle it all.

A great example of this was in the spring of 2020. I was building my business, home-schooling my children, working as a therapist and studying for my exams – all at the same time. I developed the “brilliant” habit of waking up at 2 am, studying for 3 hours, going to bed, then getting up an hour late to take care of the family. To no one’s surprise, it took me less than six weeks to completely burn out.

I knew something had to change, so I told my husband that I needed to go on a solo trip for a few days to clear my head. The desired getaway resulted in a much-needed breakthrough.

I realised that I had two options. Give up my professional life and stay at home with the children or continue working and accept that the family has to make some sacrifices. But whatever choice I made, I had to stand by it 100%.

Being a stay-at-home mum is wonderful, but it is not for everyone. Personally, I am far too invested in my business to stop. We shouldn’t have to compromise our career for our family or vice-versa!

Since then, I’ve introduced a few rules that have completely transformed my life. If you had told me a few years ago that I would be able to have a healthy balance of work, family and even time to myself, I would have laughed in disbelief!

Now, I enjoy a guilt-free existence knowing my priorities and where my boundaries lay with unshakable certainty.

If you are a working mum who’s wondering how to juggle it all, read on to discover three helpful tips for resolving mum guilt and reclaiming life on your terms.

  1. When it gets overwhelming, remember your “why”

Simon Sinek coined the concept of ‘finding your why’ to remind people of their ‘raison d’être.’ To discover your “why” simply ask yourself the following questions:

Why are you doing this task? To pay the bills? Because it is what you studied or it is expected from you? Does it bring you joy? Is it leading to your ideal life? Is it contributing to how you’d like to be known? Does it make you want to leap out of bed each morning?

Knowing what you stand for will help you clarify what matters most in life.

  1. Create a daily routine

I am a big fan of Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning. Studies show that the initial moments of waking are crucial in setting your intention for the day.

Creating a healthy routine for your morning and evening will boost your sleep hygiene and optimise your body and mind for success. Daily routines are especially important for young children.

My husband and I wake up at 5:30 in the morning, and we use the time to lift our energy both physically and mentally. But you don’t need to be an early riser to make the most of your routine.

  • Select one change that you would like to see in your day-to-day life (i.e. 10-minute workout, reading, meditating, telling a story to your children, etc.)
  • Keep each other accountable
  • Track your progress for the first 21 days or until it becomes an automated habit.
  1. Have a support system in place

You can’t do it alone, and that’s ok! Even with the best intentions, it’s not physically possible for us to be there for your kids all the time. I learned this the hard way.

I vividly remember being on a business trip and receiving a call from the school. My heart sank, knowing they would only contact me if it were urgent. It turns out my daughter had an accident and hurt her head badly, resulting in a minor concussion and several stitches. I frantically tried to get back home, but no flights were scheduled. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep that night. I felt utterly helpless, waiting in my hotel room and bawling my eyes out, furious at myself that I couldn’t be there for her during this crucial time. 

Thankfully, my husband could drop her off at the hospital and look after her. When I finally arrived home the next day, she was already on the mend and feeling much better.

Knowing you have a reliable support network around you offers peace of mind.

Whether you’re leaning on a partner, extended family, friends, a therapist, cleaner or nanny, there is always someone who can lend a hand. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

The secret to reducing mum guilt is removing shame. Parenting is incredibly personal. Aim for your best but don’t try to be perfect. You are ENOUGH!

When you prioritise what matters most to you, you can redefine success and happiness on your terms. The best part? Everyone in the family will benefit from it.

About the author

Nora Tollenaar-Szanto is a certified Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) practitioner, Matrix Reimprinting and Psych-K Therapist, with a master’s degree in psychology. She enjoyed a career as a high-performance strategist for business leaders and professional athletes, helping clients overcome subconscious blocks and limiting beliefs to reach their full potential. Since the breakout of COVID-19, she has turned her focus toward supporting families.

During her master’s degree, Nora did extensive research into revealing the common characteristics of some of the most successful people in the world. She interviewed CEOs, presidents, and founders of multi-billion-dollar companies. Her research revealed certain connecting patterns that resulted in elevated professional achievement. Based on her key findings, she wrote her first adventure novel, The Celestina Code. Perfect for middle graders, it aims to inspire children to believe that their dreams are attainable by empowering them with essential high-performing traits to rise from adversity, overcome obstacles, step into their truth and reach their goals with integrity.

The book is available for pre-order at [email protected]