We’ve all been there and experienced the ‘Mother’s Guilt’. There’s no way around it, you’re going to experience in some way, shape or form at some stage on your parenting journey. With four children, who are all very different in so many ways, I’ve experienced plenty of mother’s guilt. I’ve had those gut wrenching moments, where I’m in floods of tears, yelling, screaming and probably even rocking. I’ve questioned myself countless times, ‘am I even cut out to be a mum?’. Hey, guess what, there is no mothering manual, a step-by-step guide to being super mum or a framework outlining all the pitfalls to avoid being a bad parent! We have ample books helping us through the pregnancy trimesters, we know what changes to expect in our body and what is going on with our baby growing inside us, we can even watch videos and television shows outlining how the birth process could go, the good, the bad and the ugly. But, when our little bundles of joy arrives though, we step out of the hospital, blink at the bright lights, tighten our grip on the babe, brace ourselves and hope for the best. The path to being a good parent is not a destination, it is a journey. So, don’t beat yourself up, we’re all doing the best we can.
You know I’ve come to realise that the harshest critics or judges when it comes to parenting or parenting choices is actually other women. Nothing puts more self-doubt into us like another mum casting her judgmental eye at us, especially one who appears to have it all together. I remember my Grandmother giving me that look, when I informed her I was going back to work as soon I as I could and that my newborn would most certainly go to a ‘Daycare’. Oh the look of horror, “but he’s only a baby”, she cried. “I’ve got to work, lot’s of mum’s go back to work early these days. I’m a bread winner in the family as well and I want him to have the best education he can possibly have,” I pleaded, desperately trying to also convince myself this was the right thing to do.
As women we can never get the balance quite right. Stay-at -home to raise your children and you are judged as lacking ambition (for the record I think going to work is much easier than staying home all day with kids), go back to work full-time and you are considered overly ambitious and lacking maternal empathy. We just can’t win
I’ve been all the above mums, the back to work at six weeks mum, the stay-at-home mum, the casual, part-time, full-time, business owning mum. In all honesty, they have their own set of challenges and none of them are easier or harder than the other. I did what was best for me and my family at the different phases of my parenting journey, and that was my choice to make and no one else’s.
Here are some top tips every working mother should know
1. Be yourself – there is no perfect mum
Accept that there is absolutely no such thing as a perfect mum. It is impossible to think that every day is going to work out as you planned it. Just like when it comes to birth, most well laid birth plans go straight out the window when the actual birth eventually plays out. Don’t set yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations about how the perfect mum should be or act. Be yourself always.
2. Move on – don’t beat yourself up
Ok so you’ve had a rough day. You lost it at the kids getting ready for school, you yelled, swore, threatened, told the kids you’d drop them to the orphanage, it’s honestly ok. Accept the situation for what it was, you were triggered, you were pushed too far, you’re tired and you probably shouldn’t of reacted the way you did. Guess what, we all do it. Apologise, communicate and learn how you could handle the situation better next time. Then move on, don’t dwell on it.
3. It’s a balancing act – do your best
It is a balancing act when you are a working mum and trade-offs are inevitable, unless you have your own business. You might have to miss some awards ceremonies or sports days, and that is part of life. Just make sure you don’t make it all about work and never get to anything. The times you do make it to those events will be extra special for your kids, so don’t worry about it.
4. Good Enough Is Perfect Enough
So, you have a basket of washing on the kitchen table, the floors haven’t been moped for two weeks and you didn’t have time to help with homework. Stop focusing on the things you didn’t do so well this week and focus on the other amazing things you did accomplish.
5. Ignore Judgement – you Made The Right Choice For You And Your Family
Never justify your decision, whether you stayed-at-home longer or went back to work early, that was your choice and you did what was best for you and your family at the time. If anyone has a problem with it, have a problem with them.
6. It’s ok to enjoy work
There’s no shame in enjoying going to work. You shouldn’t feel guilty for looking forward to it and appreciating some time away from your children. As much as I love being a mum, I personally love the challenge of work, I like achieving things and I really enjoy adult company. At the end of a long day at work, without my children, I also love going home to them. And that is totally ok!
7. Don’t compare yourself to others
We are all different, just because your neighbour slide back into her size six jeans weeks after having her baby and your muffin top is still bulging six years later it doesn’t matter. You know the only person who cares about it is YOU! Your best friends baby is sleeping through the night at four weeks and yours is screaming till three in the morning, or your cousins boy just got into a gifted school program, while your boy just got expelled from day care for biting another kid, laugh at these moments. They happen to all of us and we all have our different challenges, even the ones who seem perfect.
Ultimately, the quality of our parenting shouldn’t be determined by our choices, it should be determined by how much we love and care for our families, regardless of the choices we have to make. Your children won’t remember all the little things you did or didn’t do that make you human. They will still love you and think you are the best mum in the world, even if they have just told you the opposite and slammed the bedroom door firmly in your face. Why? Because you are their mum and that love is unconditional.
Keep your sanity as a working mum with these handy ideas:
- Get a family Calendar
- Get help – invest in a cleaner or ironing lady
- Get organised – spring clean your home and office
- Brain dump – every week dump everything in your head onto a piece of paper
- Practice relaxation techniques
- Carve out time for yourself – every week
- Be present when you can ie meal times or car trips
- Have a work wardrobe – one less decision to make in your day
- Direct debit bills
- Have a morning routine to set you up for the day
- Share the workload with other parents if you can – share school drop off or pick up, car pool to extra-curricular activities
- Order groceries on time
- Get a tutor