Mom guilt is a common phenomenon experienced by all types of women.
Some feel guilty for not playing with their kids, others for working outside the home, and others for choosing to stay home and the associated loss of income.
Pick any mom on the street and she’ll be able to tell you the source of her mom guilt.
What is working mom guilt?
Working mom guilt can be a constant niggle in the back of your head that you’re not spending enough time with your child.
Or it can be a sucker punch to the stomach when you miss something because of work.
Perhaps you can’t get time off to attend your child’s nativity, or you forgot it was the dress-up day because you were rushing to get to an early meeting.
Working mom guilt is the guilt felt by moms trying to juggle motherhood demands with the demands of working life.
It’s feeling as though you are being spread too thin and worrying you aren’t spending enough time at home or enough time on your work.
Why do women feel guilty for something men do seemingly guilt-free?
Firstly, some men probably feel guilty when they drop their crying toddler at daycare; being a man doesn’t mean you don’t experience guilt.
Secondly, traditionally, women were expected to stay home and raise the kids.
Although it is often expected that dads will return to work, moms might worry society is judging them when they return to work.
Interestingly, stay-at-home moms often worry they are judged for not returning to the work field, so nobody escapes the guilt.
Why do working moms feel guilty?
There is no scientifically proven answer for why working moms feel guilty.
Is it because society expects too much of them or because they expect too much of themselves?
Is it because we live in a society that expects both parents to work while also making it a difficult juggling act, leaving parents to worry they’re not doing a good enough job?
Working mom guilt is often worse in the lead-up to and the early stages of returning to work after maternity leave. These feelings are often connected with:
Missing your baby.
It’s a big transition to return to work full-time, especially after staying home full-time for a while. Of course, you’re going to miss your baby.
It will take time to get used to your new schedule
Lack of trust in other caregivers.
It can be difficult to hand your baby over to somebody else. You’ll probably experience anxiety about whether your baby will be well cared for in your absence.
Make sure you are pleased with your chosen caregiver, so you have one less thing to worry about
You might worry about missing your child’s important milestones. Although this is possible, it’s by no means guaranteed.
Choose a caregiver who will celebrate your child’s milestones and share them with you upon your return
Worrying about your bond.
Many parents worry that the bond they enjoy with their baby will be damaged by childcare.
However, you only have to look around at your friends and family to reassure yourself that this is not the case.
Worrying about your child’s development.
Many parents worry that their child’s development will be negatively affected by time spent in daycare.
Find a childcare provider you are happy with and one that will encourage your child’s development and focus on naming emotions and positive discipline
Worrying that something bad will happen.
This is a common anxiety when it’s time to leave your baby.
Remind yourself that it’s very (very, very) unlikely that something bad will happen in the few hours you are away.
And that if your baby is upset while you are gone, the childcare providers will reassure him.
Worrying that your breast milk supply will decrease.
If you’re hoping to continue your breastfeeding journey, you might be worried that returning to work will affect your supply.
Breastfeeding is a great way to reconnect with your child after a time apart.
For more advice, read our article Returning To Work & Breastfeeding – 8 Tips To Help.
How do you stop feeling guilty about being a working mom?
Overcoming mom guilt is possible, so you don’t need to accept a lifetime of guilt.
The following tips will help you to overcome mom guilt so you can be rid of the guilty feelings and focus on enjoying your time with your child, as well as your time at work:
#1. Focus on the gains
There are benefits to having a career, so make sure they don’t get lost when you’re feeling guilty.
Focus on the money you’re earning and what it allows you to do.
Even if the bulk of it is currently going to daycare, it won’t always be that way and you’ll be able to reap the financial benefits when your child starts school.
#2. Make your work day work for you
One of the things working parents love about work is that it gives them a break from home.
Ah, bliss… adult conversation, hot drinks and time to read a book during the commute.
Make sure you are getting the most out of your working day.
If you can squeeze a yoga class into your dinner break or treat yourself to a nice meal with a colleague, do it.
Make your work day something you look forward to rather than something you dread.
#3. Set boundaries
Many workers struggle with setting boundaries, especially in a post-pandemic world, where people often work remotely.
It’s too easy to end up working when you shouldn’t be, which means work commitments eat into your family time.
It’s your responsibility to be strict and have firm boundaries. If after work time is your family time, ring-fence it.
#4. Get organized
Organization is key to a happy home and a stress-free life. Organizing your household, so chaos is kept to a minimum, is crucial.
It’s worth speaking to friends who are also working parents, to ask if they have any tips to share.
Family calendars can help make sure events aren’t missed and nobody is double booking themselves.
Do a daily check of school bags to be sure forms are filled in and returned on time. Staying on top of life admin is crucial.
Be sure to get your partner involved, too. Life admin is not women’s work; it’s for the whole family to undertake.
#5. Quality over quantity
If you’re splitting your time between work and home, you might not be able to spend as much time with your children as a stay home parent can.
However, you can focus on enjoying quality time together whenever you are home.
If you have mornings at home, make sure you spend time together over breakfast.
If you’re back by bedtime, you could make that your quality time for the day.
Giving your child your full attention for a slice of the day is arguably better than being distracted all day.
#6. Remember the word ‘and’
Tell yourself, ‘I am looking forward to returning to work, and I will miss my baby’. ‘And’ is a much better word to use than ‘but’.
The word ‘but’ implies that the first thing isn’t completely accurate. In reality, both things can be true.
It’s ok to have contradicting and complicated emotions here. You don’t have to fight with yourself; accept all of your feelings as they are.
#7. Remind yourself why
It’s easy to get carried away with negative self-criticism, but you have genuine reasons for working.
Whether you work because you desperately need the money or because you love your job, your reasons are valid.
Whenever guilt creeps in, remind yourself why you work and tell yourself those reasons are valid.
#8. Talk back to your inner critic
Your inner critic is mean. She wants you to believe you’re rubbish – but you’re not.
Don’t be fooled into believing her nasty comments and endless jibes. Instead, break free from her criticisms and celebrate your achievements.
For example, if your inner critic says you’re a bad mom for being late to daycare pickup, remind yourself that a late train can happen to anybody.
It is absolutely not related to your mothering skills.
#9. Remember, everybody drops the ball
Working parent guilt can hit when you’ve dropped the ball.
You didn’t hand a form back on time or you sent your child in with the wrong kit and suddenly you’re blaming yourself for having a career.
Stay-at-home parents don’t have it all together; they’re dropping just as many balls as you are .
#10. Remember, everybody feels guilty about something
If the tips above aren’t helping with your mommy guilt, then remind yourself that everybody feels guilty about something.
For example, the stay-at-home mom feels guilty that she isn’t working.
You could stay home but it wouldn’t defeat your guilt; it would only give it a new focus. Don’t believe me?
Try asking your parent friends what they feel guilty about; you’ll soon have a whole list of complaints.
Does the mom guilt ever go away?
Mom guilt will change as your child grows.
Right now, you might be worrying about how you feed your child or how badly you want five minutes to yourself; this is perfectly normal, even during the newborn stage.
Over time, your guilt will evolve. At each stage of parenting, your guilt will find new things to piggyback.
Missing your kid’s baseball games? Mom guilt.
It’ll always be there, to some extent, like a voice whispering in your ear that things could be better.
The key is to stop believing it and learn to challenge it instead.
One way to help battle your mom guilt is to connect with other parents.
Speak to your mom friends about your guilt and sit back as they share their own worries and anxieties with you.
Sometimes, knowing other people are experiencing the same problems can help lighten your load.
How do I let go of parenting guilt?
Learning to let go of parenting guilt isn’t necessarily going to be easy, but it’s worth the effort.
We spend so much of our lives racked with guilt about various things, and it rarely achieves anything more than making us feel bad.
You are a good parent and you are enough. You are doing your best and your child loves you.
That’s all that matters. The parenting guilt in your head is just white noise you must learn to ignore.
As your child grows and develops, it becomes easier to ignore parenting guilt because you can see how well your child is developing.
That negative voice in your head loses power as your kids evolve into wonderful independent human beings.
If you are preparing to return to work after maternity leave, read this helpful article: Going Back To Work After Baby – 5 Tips For A Smooth Transition.