Mother’s guilt

mother's guilt

Until my children were 6 and 3 I worked full-time on a busy regional daily newspaper.
I dropped my son off at breakfast club and my daughter at nursery, then raced home at the end of the day hoping to snatch a few moments with them before the bedtime routine.

I felt incredibly guilty.

Six years ago I quit my job to work from home.
It was a Big Decision. I was in a job I adored, on a paper I loved, working with people who inspired and entertained me in equal measure.
But it meant I got to take my children to school every day.
No breakfast club at the crack of dawn.
No racing down the motorway to make sure I made it in time for nursery closing.
When my daughter started school I got to hold her hand every day without having to rearrange annual leave or beg someone else to help me out.
I watched school plays, rugby matches, visited class open days, hung out with other parents at netball tournaments.
We had years of warm, summer mornings strolling down the hill to school and cold, frosty walks back up the hill back home.

I still felt guilty.

While I was freelancing from home, our income dropped and was erratic, our savings got eaten up and I effectively waved goodbye to a great career.
But I was so very grateful and happy at being afforded the opportunity to do it.

Last year I went back to work. Another Big Decision.
It’s been really tough. Gone are the morning walks to school, the chats with other mums, the socialising at the school gate.
To be honest, not all of that is because I’ve gone back to work; my kids are older now and they don’t want me walking them to school, holding hands, holding bags, cramping their style!
So I went back to work primarily for me. Because, although I adored working from home, I was lonely and wanted to talk rubbish with someone else about my latest hairstyle, last night’s movie or our plans for the weekend.
I missed face to face interaction. I missed actual people.
I’ve now landed a job I love and once again have managed to find somewhere with inspiring, wonderful colleagues.

But you’ve guessed it, I feel guilty.
We have to rely heavily on the help of family, the dog misses me and the end of the day is a mad rush as I try to fit in the Mum Taxi, homework, after school activities, washing and friends over for tea.

Here’s the thing; it never ever gets any easier. Any of it.
Whatever you do, whatever your circumstances, whatever you choose to do, you will always feel Mother’s Guilt.
It will sit heavily on your shoulders, weighing you down, making you question yourself, making you feel like you’ve always got something to answer to or something to prove.

I love being a mum. I also love working.
However, it feels like if I try to combine both of these things I’ve always got a little voice in my head telling me that I’m not doing either of them to the best of my ability.
And I really really hate that.

I know mother’s guilt is a pretty universal thing – no matter what you have, how much money, what career, how big your house is, you will always feel that painful sting of parental guilt, whether you’re a mother or a father.

But how do you deal with it? Does anyone think they have the balance right?

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18 Responses to Mother’s guilt

  1. Mwa says:

    I don’t think there is a balance. I’m still in the going-crazy-at-home stage, and longing for a job. When I finally get one (if?), I will long for alone time at home. I think the best you can aim for is acceptance. The energy you put into the guilt can be directed at something more useful then.
    Good luck!
    Mwa recently posted…FlashbackMy Profile

    • Tara Cain says:

      That was me M; I longed for a job and now I have it I miss all the things I had when I worked from home. But LOVE your idea of putting the energy from guilt into other things. Wise words my friend x
      Tara Cain recently posted…Mother’s guiltMy Profile

  2. Iota says:

    I work 3 days a week, and before I took the job, I negotiated a deal whereby I can work up to 12 extra days in termtime, giving me an extra 4 weeks holiday which I can take in the school holidays. I work in a school (not my children’s), so it’s ok with them for me to do that. It’s a really good compromise, and I find the 3 or 4 days a week just enough.

    The children are of an age where they need me much less (11 to 18), and I think that’s when the guilt diminishes. They just grow up, and so you can grow out of the guilt.

    But yes, I still feel guilty when my youngest doesn’t have as much of me as the older did at her age. I still feel guilty when the dog is manic because he didn’t have enough exercise that day (ie my days off, because when I’m at work he goes to a dog-walker and has 2 long walks in the day). I still feel guilty when Husband is doing my share of domestics as well as his own instead of having time off, because I’m really tired. I still feel guilty that I haven’t fulfilled all my potential – my 24 year old nephew has just started a graduate-entry job, nothing glamorous, and is earning more than me. If I was working full-time, I’d be earning more, doing more, achieving more.

    I feel I’ve got the balance as right as I can, though, and so I rest in that knowledge. I am luckier than many! I wouldn’t have missed the baby and toddler years for anything, and having been both a SAHM and a working mum (albeit part-time), I can say that there’s no perfect answer.

  3. I think mother’s guilt is that injection they give you as soon as you give birth. There’s no escaping it – It just there, lying in wait. x
    Helen at Casa Costello recently posted…Speculoos Macarons – Bake of the WeekMy Profile

  4. Still in the 1st year of parenthood but from what ive learnt everything about being a parent is compromise. Time…money….sleep. do whats best for you and your family 🙂

  5. Emma says:

    You said it. No matter what we do, we will always feel guilty about something. Congrats on the new job! 🙂

  6. Expat Mum says:

    I gave up my corporate job when my second was a baby, so I’ve been sort of working from home ever since. I do a lot of volunteering and run a charity to fund a school in Africa on top of my blogging and writing – and I feel guilty for not having a “proper” job. I love being on my own all day (becoming a recluse) so I’m not unhappy in what I do and we’re lucky enough that we don’t need a bigger income from me, but I sometimes wonder if I’m being the best female role model I can be for my kids (male and female). I guess we just have guilt hard-wired in to our brains.
    Expat Mum recently posted…Missing David BowieMy Profile

  7. Ninjacat says:

    I work in a school so I could be with my son , he’s moved on and I’m still there . I feel guilty that I’ve not earned mire like other mums at times but he’s a brilliant boy
    Ninjacat recently posted…Blogging 5 YearsMy Profile

  8. Ian says:

    As you point out, we all suffer with this, balls or not.

    This feel like it changes on almost a weekly basis. Some weeks I feel life is well balanced, and others I feel like I’m getting it drastically wrong. My tendency is to fail on the professional side, which in turn has its impact on the materialistic family side, having time but not the money.

    I’m lucky/unlucky* to not love work, never really having a job I’ve like or cared about. Plus I’m most comfortable as a machine in work mode, preferring to answer any questions about last night’s TV with “why are you even asking me? Don’t you want to go home on time tonight?’ or even shorter ripostes.

    That typed, I do feel I should do more professionally. Push myself to discover a professional existence that is much more fulfilling. I’ve done some of that, and I’m much happier with the work I do now, but I still have that feeling I could – and should – be doing more.

    Self-development guilt perhaps?

    *delete as appropriate.
    Ian recently posted…Second time luckier, and living LAGOM with IKEAMy Profile

  9. Suzanne says:

    I think the fact that we even carry this Mother’s Guilt around with us like some burden shackled to us 24/7, means that we are good parents who are doing a GOOD job. We care enough to want to do the very best that we can. BUT we are not machines and not superhuman either. We have to make choices and decisions then live in the aftermath of those. I certainly haven’t got it sussed and am constantly preaching the above to myself, every time I let the guilt get the better of me. We cannot be perfect but we can do our best. I have no doubt you are doing that. x
    Suzanne recently posted…Meet Ups, Menopausal Moments and Michael FishMy Profile

  10. Carol says:

    My twin sons turn 18 in February. I was doing a PhD when they arrived. It has been a struggle along the way to keep doing my research (partner often working away too); get my foot through the door into part-time lecturing, then uproot the boys when 7 for a full-time position ‘up North’. I finally went temporary part-time this academic year. Wish I’d done it sooner, but can’t feel guilty about choices I have / haven’t made along the way; decisions were taken with best intentions at the time. So agree with Suzanne: ‘We have to make choices and decisions then live in the aftermath of those.’ Also know I’m hugely privileged to have been able to make such choices in my life – and be sitting here writing about it. So many others have a really hard time every single day and probably can’t afford to think about guilt, let alone write about it.
    I only came here for cake recipes – thank you!

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