There are certain feelings which are characteristic to most mothers: one is love for their child, and the other is guilt. Once you become a mum you experience the kind of unconditional love you never knew existed before; but you will also experience an almost constant feeling of guilt over things you never would have thought of.
- Whether you breastfeed or not
- Using the television as a baby-sitter
- Not preparing organic home-cooked meals every day
- Losing your patience sometimes
The list is endless. But there’s nothing like the feeling of guilt of returning, or indeed not going back to work. That’s in a league of its own.
Mums who want to go back to work
You may be a mum who wants to go back to work, simply because staying at home with your baby isn’t your thing. There’s nothing wrong with this! Not everyone is an ‘Earth Mother’, and that’s fine. Especially as a woman who had her baby in her 30’s or 40’s with a successful career that you actually really enjoyed, you might find that you miss your professional life. The buzz of the work environment, the high after securing a deal or accomplishing a task. Coffees and lunches out with clients – this is a very different world from being stuck in the house and wearing yoga pants all day. But no matter how much you long to go back to work, once you’re back the feeling of guilt will creep in and make you question your decision.
The thing you need to bear in mind is that your child needs a happy mother. If staying at home makes you a miserable person who ends up hating her life and resenting those around her – then that’s not going to be good for anyone. Some women feel they are better mothers when they spend some time away from their children. If your professional life fulfils you and makes you a better person, then don’t give it up. Make sure you get the best nanny or babysitter that you possibly can, or the best nursery; anything to give you peace of mind that your child will be loved and well looked after while you’re away. You will still feel guilty from time to time… it’s best to anticipate that and prepare for it. The transition back to work might not be the smoothest ride but things will get better with time.
Mums who have to go back to work
If you fall into this group it’s a bit trickier. You enjoy being at home with your baby, thriving on your changed role and doing mummy jobs all day. But you need the income to survive and don’t really have another choice. Needless to say going back to work will be a lot more difficult. So it’s important that you consciously prepare for it; practically and emotionally.
Making sure you find childcare that you trust is absolutely crucial. You’ll probably feel really guilty leaving your child with somebody else. So it’s important to know that at least you’ll be leaving them in good hands. You can also try to negotiate your working hours to fit around family life as much as you can. Make a budget and work out how much money you need exactly – would a part-time job be enough to cover it? It’s also useful to know your rights about returning to work.
Women in this category tend to feel just as guilty as their working counterparts, but for the opposite reason: not going back to work. This means not bringing home money, not contributing to the family budget, not contributing to the economy through paying taxes, feeling overlooked and invisible… I know this too well, because I was one of them. Being in this position can seriously undermine your confidence and self-worth. The incredibly hard work mums do (for free) is not widely recognised in our present society, which I think is very sad.
Whatever choice you make about going back to work, guilt will always be a part of the journey. The only difference is different mums feel guilty about different things. Is this how it should be? Of course not. Is this something we can work on? Absolutely.
As a mum you’re likely to put so much pressure on yourself trying to be perfect and doing it all, juggling a million things. You don’t have to do it all; in fact, you can’t do it all. That’s a highway to burnout. Nobody can do it all. Have realistic expectations and accept that you have limitations. Aim for a healthy balance of work and family life, and aim for being a happy parent – because that’s exactly what your child needs.
Check out this article for some further tips on how to reduce your guilt.