Have you ever felt guilty because you couldn’t be the present mother you wished or hoped to be? You are not alone. Mum guilt is an increasing concern in modern society as more women are pursuing careers and contributing to family finances. Today, one of the most difficult decisions many women make in their lives is to go back to work after they have had a baby. Whether it is because of finances or career aspiration, it is a tough decision.
Mum guilt, a journey
The first day back to work can feel rushed, traumatic. Some go as far as to question their ability to be good mothers. I remember when we sent our daughter to nursery on a full-time basis. I felt horrible. It was like I had abandoned her in the care of strangers: the epitome of mum guilt. One day, on my way to work, I was convinced that we had made the wrong decision and thought of how I would quit my job to stay at home with my daughter. The reality was that we needed that job!
I could not just leave, and this feeling of powerlessness fuelled my mum guilt sentiment. For other mothers, what adds oil to the fire is the struggle to rationalise the idea that they will miss their child’s first steps, first word, and many other firsts. These precious moments never come back. But, most working mothers have no other choice but to accept their new situation. I too accepted my new (full-time) working family life dynamic. But my mum guilt lingered on.
No one ever tells you how long it will take to get used to your new situation. That’s because they can’t. The time it takes your child to settle in a nursery can be significantly different from that of your friend’s or sister’s child. Some children are amazing at this, and adapt fast in their new environment. Others, like my daughter, take weeks or even months to get used to the nursery setting. If the latter is your case, the journey is even more challenging. You hurt every time you think that your child is struggling, and may feel alone and lost in that new world. No amount of phone calls you make to the nursery throughout the day, ever make you feel fully reassured that everything is ok.
The good news is that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how long it takes, everybody eventually gets used to the working family life dynamic. Most children do settle in and love their nursery. When you go to pick them up, you can see that they enjoy the time they spend with other children and their carers there.
Mothers also settle in and adapt to the new situation. But, unlike our children, many mothers may still struggle with the separation. The long hours you spend away from your child every working day can be daunting and agonising. It’s therefore not abnormal to feel mum guilt. For new mothers, the mum guilt feeling is even greater.
Mum guilt, there are ways to cope with it
There is no shame in feeling guilty for not spending as much time with your child as you wish to. As mothers, we ought to talk more about mum guilt, share our experiences, and support one another. Mum guilt can cause an internal conflict within a mother, which can then trigger a mental breakdown. There’s nothing worse for a mother than being unable to take care of her children because of a mental breakdown or physical illness.
If mum guilt becomes a really draining feeling for you feel, please do bring it up with your partner, a good friend or a family member. A problem shared is a problem half solved. You can also consider discussing flexible working hours (or part-time) with your employer. Employer’s best asset is their employees, and if an employee’s mental health is jeopardised, it will affect their performance. More and more employees in the UK understand this and are willing to have such conversations. Finally, having an organised schedule at home can help you feel less stressed and free some time that you can use to spend with your children.
Mothers are blessed to be at the heart of the magical life adventure that is motherhood. Every day and hour you spend with your child is a blessing; let the guilt go and make the most of your motherhood journey.