5 ways to turn off working mum guilt for good

Suddenly I’m back at work and the working mum guilt is rife.  I feel like I’m not doing either role very well at the moment. Or maybe I am, I don’t know. But that little voice in my head doesn’t think so.

I spend too much time at home thinking and planning for what I need to do for work, and I spend my time at work wondering what my one year old is doing and feeling a little bit sad.   It also hasn’t helped that I had a couple of late nights and early starts this week. At one point I only saw him for 5 minutes in the morning.  (Other than seeing him through half-open eyes for most of the night when he wasn’t sleeping. FML!)

I can barely keep my eyes open when I come home from work and we end up watching more TV than I would care to admit.  To compensate, I try to fill our days off with fun activities only to end up totally wiped when it’s time to go back to work.

It’s not that I dislike the work either. I’m really enjoying being back in the classroom again, dealing with the quirks and charms that is the teenager.  But it’s that conflicted feeling of wanting to be in two places at once that is running me down.

So I’m letting it go.  No more working mum guilt.

working mum guilt

How I’m letting go of the working mum guilt for good.

I’m remembering that there is no working dad guilt.

If your family is anything like mine, your partner has probably been going to work since your baby was a few weeks old. Do they feel guilty?

Unlikely. Instead they feel pride at being able to provide for their family. They probably even enjoy the break away from the home that means they get to look forward to coming back home at the end of the day.

So you’ve got to question – why do I as a mother feel working mum guilt if my partner doesn’t even think to feel like this? Are these feelings really mine? Or are these beliefs I’ve adopted from our culture about ‘what makes a good Mum’ that I don’t even agree with.

I’m looking after myself because it allows me to be a better Mum.

I noticed when I first went back to work that I stopped taking any other time for myself. I felt like I’d already spent 8 hours away from him, how could I take an extra hour to go to a yoga class or to catch up with a friend.

Again, madness. I know my husband doesn’t ever think this way about taking the time that he needs!

Instead, I’m remembering that when I take time for myself I’m a better mother (and a better wife). I’m taking the time to look after my body and to feel like a social being outside of being a mother, because all of this makes me a happier human. All of which I need even more of, now that I’m back at work.

I’m going to lean on my village.

Okay, so I don’t actually have a whole village. But I do have a few key people who help me out in this season of motherhood.

Before going back to work, Andrew and I had a big conversation about working mum guilt. Honestly, he didn’t really ‘get it’ because he’d literally never felt anything like it. But this too was helpful. Seeing how genuinely baffled he was by my feelings helped me to see that they weren’t truth. I don’t need to organise my life around them. Now he encourages me to take the time that I need for myself when he notices me hesitating.

I’ve also asked for extra help from my Mum and sister-in-law when it comes to childcare. I’ve realised that some of my working mum guilt is actually just feelings about having him in daycare every day. Dropping him to family where I know he’ll be doted on just makes life easier some days.

I’m practising being present in each moment.

I mostly feel working mum guilt when I’m not being present. It’s loudest when I’m in my head thinking about how I should be with my baby, or giving myself a hard time about how I’m about to leave him to go to work.

I never feel working mum guilt when I’m in the moment tickling him and laughing hysterically. I don’t feel it when I’m putting him to bed at night and being conscious of his tiny body curled against mine.

Whenever I feel the working mum guilt creep in, I’m reminding myself to breathe and come back to this moment. I’m noticing when my mind shifts away to thinking about tomorrow, or next week, or when I get home; and bringing it back to this moment right here.

I’m also doing my best to actually enjoy each moment while I’m in it. I’m letting myself enjoy being back at work and I’m letting myself enjoy the way that working has changed our weekly rhythm. I’m focusing on all the good that it brings, rather than just feeling sad about all the things I feel like I’m missing.

If you’d like to learn how to get better at staying present, try the motherhood sessions in my Online Yoga Circle Community.

I’m listening to what’s underneath the working mum guilt

I’ve noticed that sometimes calling what I’m feeling ‘working mum guilt’ is just an easy out. If I take the time to sit with the emotions I notice other things. Sometimes it’s actually resentment over not taking the time I need for myself. Other times it’s anger over how unequal our roles can be when it comes to the mental load of looking after a child. And sometimes I’m just sad because I feel like I’m missing out on time with my baby.

Noticing what I’m actually feeling instead of just automatically labelling it as ‘working mum guilt’ has helped me to get better at making changes. If I know what I’m really feeling is anger, I can ask for the ways I need our family workload to be divided more evenly. If I know what I’m really feeling is sadness over missed time, I can make sure I don’t waste the time I do have by being truly present in those moments I’m at home.

Where to now if you’re still feeling working mum guilt?

Take some time for you. Try this guided yoga nidra meditation for postnatal depletion. I’d want to bet that if you’re working and looking after a little one, you’re probably also running on empty.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of it, please reach out to someone to talk. This could be your partner or doctor. You could also find a local counsellor or reach out to me for a 1:1 session.

**Originally published February 5th 2014**

3 Responses to “5 ways to turn off working mum guilt for good

  • Bec | Mumma Tells
    10 years ago

    You’ve summed it up perfectly – being there in the moments that you can be. Although I am at home these feelings still exist. Am I ‘there’ when I am behind the camera lens? Am I there when I check my emails, update Facebook, or the million other things I do on my phone? Being present in the moment is something I need to remember too. X

  • Sarah McArthur
    10 years ago

    Never feel guilty. Enjoy being a Woman, Wife and Mum. All in that order. So long as your little boy is getting love from his Mummy and Daddy, that is all that matters.

  • MotherDownUnder
    10 years ago

    I actually find the hypnobirthing working from home part of my career much more challenging than the days I spend at the hospital.
    When I am away from C it is easier to focus on what I have to do and not think so much about him.
    But I am still working on balancing phone calls and emails from clients with playing trains and going to the playground.

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