Most modern mums feel mum guilt, whether it’s over what they feed their children, how much screen time they have, or about having the odd night off being a mum. However, with 70% of mums working, the guilt about juggling motherhood and a career is definitely one of the biggest areas where we working mums suffer.
In a report by goodtoknow.co.uk, a huge 78% of mums reveal that they regularly feel guilty, with the majority of them saying that their main source of guilt was not spending enough time with the kids.
And it’s something that doesn’t just afflict us ‘civilian’ working mums – even the Duchess of Cambridge has spoken out on this very matter in a frank podcast with fellow mum, Giovanna Fletcher
So, who am I? Am I someone who has got it all sussed, with the perfect life balance? No I am not and I am not sure that kind of mum event exists. My name’s Nicole and I have been self-employed for almost 12 years, running my own marketing business. Even though I work for myself, the guilt is still there, even though my children are now 13 and 9.
I became self-employed because I had become disenchanted with the corporate world, but the main reason I set up my own business was in search of that elusive work/life balance. I wanted to be there for my children and self-employment makes school runs, school holidays and sick days easier for sure than being employed – however, it isn’t all a bed of roses. It continues to be a constant juggling act and I’ve learnt that it’s not always easy to please both my children, clients and me all at the same time. Perhaps that’s another example of guilt!
My version of mum guilt is feeling guilty about what I am doing – or not doing – when it comes to my kids. Should I be more present when the children and I are at home? Should the laptop be switched off at 3.30pm sharp? Nice idea, but not always practical.
Work wise, this guilt comes in the form of wondering if I should be working 9 to 5 and not finishing at 3pm for the school run? Do I look unprofessional if I say meetings have to finish at 3pm? I had a session once with a coach and she asked was I aware that I say the word should a fair bit!
It certainly doesn’t come from my husband, clients, children, friends and family. Some of it may be from society or social media and from being told that as women we can have it all! Sadly though I think a lot of it is probably in my head – and the heads of other mothers. Would you agree? It is a real thing for sure, but maybe I make more of it than I should sometimes.
I am certainly not a perfect mum, but I’m lucky enough to have pretty much attended all of their assemblies, sports days, concerts and so on. The reason I can is because I chose my career route to enable me to do so. On the rare occasion I haven’t made it, my husband has gone or I’ve asked one of my lovely (and valued) school mum friends to be the children’s pretend parent for the morning or afternoon so they always have someone to smile at.
It’s sometimes assumed that because I work for myself, I can do what I want when I want and it’s the easy option. Sorry to shatter the illusion but this isn’t true! Being a self-employed marketing consultant and working mum isn’t all about watching Loose Women with the laptop on sleep mode and a cuppa on the go! Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is, but there are other days when I am going from meeting to meeting, call after call and often eating a bag of crisps or some other unhealthy snack in the car, waiting for the school bell to go and hoping I make it on time. I always do pretty much, but that’s because I am ridiculously organised and plan in advance.
Whereas I feel guilty a lot about my parenting skills and whether I am doing it right or not, I feel that I am doing my best. When the children are dependents, of course they come first and always will. There will be days when I can’t come to work as I need to stay at home and I may miss deadlines. Equally, there may be days when I need to call upon my mum or husband to help with the children because I must or – dare I say it? – want to go to work.
Does this mum guilt ever go? Probably not – we have to accept it and own it. The guilt will change as the children get older – but it probably always remains a constant.
The take home is no mother is immune to this guilt, so here’s my top advice on dealing with it:
1. Accept it, but don’t dwell on it or overthink it.
2. Do what you can and be the best version of you that you can – whether at home or at work.
3. Take time out for yourself. This could include taking a girls holidays or something small, like taking time out to read a book. Doing something for yourself makes you happy and relaxed – and this will have a positive knock on effect when you’re back in your mum role.
4. And as someone once told me, always remember, “Good is good enough!”