Why mummy guilt doesn’t help anyone – and ways to avoid it

family time shared no guilt

‘Mummy guilt’ creeps in for many women when they start life as working mums.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and thinly stretched across work and home, and can affects their confidence – leaving them open to feeling ‘not good enough’. 

The causes of this are worth a blog post in their own right, but on the home front range from literature, instagram,family members, to your mum friends who have made different choices to you… or the ones who seem to do it all, effortlessly.

On the career front, the good old Protestant work ethic (crossed with a bit of Devil Wears Prada in certain industries) and the business self-improvement industry have a lot to answer for – convincing many people that to succeed you have to ‘give 110%’.

Butall this happens inside our heads and we can make it stop! Guilt is not a badge of honour that shows how much we care… it’s a waste of energy that could be put to better use elsewhere.

The system does enough to keep us working mums down – we owe it to ourselves not to do the same.

Feeling stretched and guilty saps your energy and puts you into ‘reactive mode’It means you’re less likely to make time to rest, or enjoy quality time with your children and it may impact your relationships, if you feel judged.  

At work, if you’re less confident, you’re less likely to represent yourself and your ideas, and more likely to hide away from senior management, to allow others’ priorities to overrule your own, and generally take any crap that is dished out…   it will also affect your motivation and energy to do a good job and make the most of your time.  .

 In a horrid vicious circle, people will often treat you as you treat yourself – if you doubt yourself, they will also doubt you.  They will then be more likely to impose their own views, demands and ways of doing things, making you more reactive and making you doubt yourself even more. And you can bet, if you’re part time, you will end up doing many hours for free.

So the most important thing is to get rock-solid confident in your own head – and keep the guilt away.  If you are confident then people will treat you as you deserve.  Easier said than done though!  

Here are some ways to send guilty thoughts packing:

Think of the things you can do better now than before.  Chances are, you can get more done in a child-free afternoon now than you could in a day before kids.  You can do most stuff one-handed, to a backdrop of screaming.  You’re likely more resilient and emotionally aware.   You have more reason to want to succeed than ever before… not less.  

Remind yourself why you’re happy with your choices.  What do you love about your work and how does it make a difference?  How does childcare give your child an experience you could not?  What are your priorities and what have you agreed with yourself to let go?

What would a working dad think or do?  Men have been combining work and family – relatively guilt free – for a long time.  If what you’re feeling guilty about would baffle most working dads of your acquaintance, chances are you can safely dismiss it.  For a darkly comical view, turning traditional gendered advice on its head, Manwhohasitall is worth a look on Facebook or Twitter

Unpicking what’s causing the guilt can be enough to make it go away… 

Has your inner voice been channelling

  • Sir Alan Sugar?
  • Your imaginary (or otherwise) super-critical Mother-in-law?
  • Any or all of the posters on mumsnet?

Or are you comparing yourself to someone who has made different choices to you?

  • The attachment-parenting mum in your group who could never imagine leaving her children and fills their days with wholesome educational and fun activities?
  • The blogger on your instagram feed who has a seemingly perfect house and cute stylish children?

Whose inner voice do you want to channel when your own needs a bit of inspiration?  One of my go-tos for a bit of down to earth confidence is Della  in Caitlin Moran’s TV series ‘Raised By Wolves‘…

Think of it as a video game – and be kind to yourself!  When you become a mum you go up a level – it takes a while to adapt and learn the new skills you need. Then your world expands and you can find the strength to cope with anything it throws at you.  Adding work into the mix is just going up another level – of course it takes a while to find your feet, but when you do it will feel great – just need to find the way that works for you, and spread your wings.  Unpicking what’s causing the guilt can be enough to make it go away.

Liked this article? Follow us on Twitter at @parentwrkthrive

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