Who was it that said ‘A mother’s place is in the wrong?’ There’s no one who feels this more than a working mum. You feel guilty about not spending enough time with your child when you’re working and about not spending enough time at work because you have to rush back to look after your child. Headlines in the media, such as: “Working mothers are bad for children” and “Sorry, Working mums, childcare is bad for your kids” do nothing to ease the guilt and cause you to lie awake worrying that by having a job you are doing your child some sort of long term damage.
If you feel guilty you’re not alone
There are now more working mums than ever before. According to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONO) almost three quarters of women with children are now in part time or full time work. A recent survey by babycare product company NUK, revealed that a whopping 87% of working mums feel guilty at some point and that 21% admit to feeling guilty ‘most or all of the time’. That’s a whole lot of working mums out there feeling gnawed away by guilt. It can feel good to know you’re not the only one feeling this way but wouldn’t it be even better if working mums could ditch the guilt altogether?
Guilt trip: pulled in two directions
Working and being a mum are two very different roles. Trying to juggle both can make you feel like you are never quite giving each enough. If you miss an important meeting because your child is ill, you feel guilty. If you miss sports day because you have to be in an important meeting, you feel guilty. It’s exhausting.
Ditch the guilt
Of course no one can be in two places at once. Sometimes you have to make difficult choices about whether to miss something important at work or in your child’s life. Remember that there will always be another opportunity to make up any time you miss at both. You can always reschedule a work meeting and there will always be another school event that you can attend. You might miss sports day but you can make sure you don’t miss the nativity play. If you make sure you spend lots of quality time with your child when you’re not working they will feel secure and happy in your love, which can help you both feel better too.
Guilt trip: working is a ‘choice’ therefore you must be selfish to want to work
The big question is why working mums feel so much guilt compared to working dads. The reason is perhaps that in previous generations it was mums who traditionally stayed home to look after their children. Suzie Hayman, relationship counsellor and trustee of the charity Family Lives, explains it well when she says:
Mothers can still see the idea of going to work and earning their own money as a “choice” and therefore they worry that they are “robbing” their family of their time and commitment. Men simply do not feel this way.
Ditch the guilt
Working is sometimes a necessity rather than a choice. Even if you did decide to work because it was something you wanted to rather than needed to do, that doesn’t mean you should feel guilty about it. Being a working mum can provide your child with a positive role model and can positively benefit your family. A recent study from a Harvard Business School found that daughters of working mothers grow up to have better careers and more equal relationships than those whose mothers stayed at home. It also suggested that sons of working mothers grow up to be more involved at home and took more time caring for their own family than those raised by stay at home mums.
Guilt trip: ‘nursery damages children’
There’s nothing to drive the nail of guilt further into a working mum’s psyche then headlines about how nurseries damage our children. Whether it’s this article Too much too young: is nursery stressing my child out? about how nursery raises children’s stress levels or this one Childcare minister Elizabeth Truss attacks unruly nurseries, in which childcare minister, Elizabeth Truss, claimed ‘chaotic’ nurseries are failing to prepare children for school. It’s no wonder mums feel guilty about using childcare to allow them to return to work.
Ditch the guilt
For every negative headline or article about the damaging effect of nurseries there is a positive one about how children can be happy and thrive at daycare. As recently as October 2018 a report concluded that children who go to nursery are better behaved than those that stay at home. It found that children who attend nurseries are less likely to have poor social skills, difficult relationships with peers, or behavioural issues. The key thing is to find a nursery or childcare option that feels right for you. Where you are sure your child will be happy, safe and well cared for. If you get that right then it goes a long way to remove any guilt you feel about being a working mother.
Guilt trip: you need to be the best at everything
Social media heaps on the guilt that mothers feel. It fuels the idea that mums should not just be the best they can be but that they should be The Best. Full Stop. We’ve all scrolled through shiny Instagram images from mums who seem to be on top of it all. With beautifully dressed kids and stylish interiors in the background of their polished pictures, we’ve felt inadequate as a result. We’ve all been drawn into the heated discussions on Facebook about how almost every parenting decision you make seems to be the wrong one. It sends a message that it’s not good enough to be good. If a woman is not the best mum, the best employee, the best wife, the best friend, the best housekeeper then they’re falling short.
Ditch the guilt
Your rational mind will tell you that not everything you see or read on social media is the whole truth. For every perfect Instagram shot there’s another photo that didn’t make the feed. It could be a pile of mess swept out of shot or a crying child who had a tantrum and had to be soothed with a bribe of chocolate buttons. For every negative comment you read on Facebook about the evils of working mothers there will be another about how being a stay at home mum is equally bad. When it comes to parenting sometimes it feels like nothing we do is every right or ever good enough.
Being good enough really IS being good!
Despite all the negative headlines, despite all the pressures and debates on social media and despite all the worries and feelings of inadequacy that plague you in the wee small hours, it helps to know that the truth is simple. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. Whether we breast of bottle feed, whether we let our children cry it out or co-sleep, whether we work or stay at home, we’re all just trying to find the way that works for our family. We’re all doing our best. If you can do that, you’re doing an amazing job.
See just what a hard job you’re doing with our article World’s toughest job advert
- “Working mothers ‘bad for children'”, The Guardian
- “Sorry Working Moms, Daycare Is Bad For Your Kid”, HuffPost
- “Surge in number of working mothers with dependent children”, The Guardian
- “Nearly 90 per cent of mothers feel guilty. The good news? You can conquer it”, The Telegraph
- “Having a working mother works for daughters”, The Guardian
- “Too much too young: is nursery stressing my child out?”, The Telegraph
- “Childcare minister Elizabeth Truss attacks unruly nurseries”, The Guardian
- “Children who attend nursery are better behaved than those who stay at home with parents, study finds”, The Telegraph