Mom guilt is the feeling of doubt, anxiety, and uncertainty that plagues many women with children. This guilt commonly arises when a woman believes she has failed to meet certain expectations in her life. Many mothers experience mom guilt in their parenting journeys, and working moms are no exception. It’s no surprise. Women constantly receive conflicting messages from society and often don’t receive the support necessary to thrive as parents and professionals.
Many working mothers often feel intense pressure, guilt, and self-consciousness as they strive to live up to the expectation’s they—or others—have set them. While feelings of mom guilt may persist, it’s important not to let them get you down. Here are six ways to beat working mom guilt.
First, understand the cause of mom guilt. We tend to feel guilty about things we believe we have done wrong. The expectations we set for ourselves come from many places. From the example, our own parents set to ideas from friends or popular culture, many beliefs we ascribe to ourselves did not originate with us. If you let yourself get weighed down by what others believe you “should” be doing, you might never feel secure in your role as a mother in the workforce. Assess your values and decide once and for all what matters to you—not to your neighbor or your aunt Sally, but what is most important to you and your family. Your choices don’t have to look like anyone else’s to be the right choices for you.
While no one should feel guilty about participating in the workforce, we should all assess whether we are truly happy with the arrangements we’ve made. For instance, if you work for an employer that does not provide adequate support or flexibility for working parents, you may naturally feel a deep sense of conflict regarding your job. High-pressure professional jobs like law and medicine often require long hours and inflexible schedules. That doesn’t mean you should give up on your years of education and training, but it does mean you should begin to take ownership over your work life. Set boundaries and stick by them.
For example, establish a window that will be 100% free of work tasks each day. Set hard limits for when you will leave the office, power down your laptop, or turn off your cell phone. Finally, decide when it is time to leave an employer that doesn’t value and support its working parents—and yes, that matters. Don’t let someone else dictate what kind of mother or worker you will be. Find the work environment that doesn’t force you to choose between being an employee and being a mom.
Regardless of where you work, you will want someone who understands the struggles you face as a working mother. If you don’t have some already, actively seek out mom friends and colleagues in your field. There is nothing like expressing a secret fear or insecurity and hearing that someone else has been there, too. However, working mom mentors aren’t just good for commiseration. They can also share tips and advice that can help you better navigate the challenges you face each day.
Joining or creating an affinity group for working parents can help engender a sense of community in your workplace. Not only are working parents groups good for bonding and creating friendships with other moms and dads at work, but they’re also a great way to advocate for the needs and rights of parents in the workplace. These committees give a voice to issues that might otherwise go unheard. Plus, uniting your identities as parent and professional is a great way to assuage any guilt you may have about spending time away from your family and encourage other parents to feel more comfortable with their dual roles as well.
Don’t simply assume that more time with your family is better. Focus on the quality of the time you spend with them. Mothers who spend time away from their families are acutely away of the hours they have with their kids. Of course, stay-at-home moms also enjoy precious time with their children, but they are not immune from the burnout and frustration that can accompany around-the-clock caregiving.
Understand that sharing the caregiving role with other adults is healthy for you and your children. It takes a village—and whether that village is your partner, family, daycare provider, or school, you are helping your children form healthy relationships with other educators and adults in their lives. Your role as a parent is not just to be physically present for your kids, but to help them form and navigate relationships and build life skills. Sharing that responsibility with other trusted adults can be a very beautiful thing.
Finally, talk to your kids about the work you do and why it is important. Share what a wonderful thing it is to be their mother and to serve the community. Have daily discussions about the best things that happened at school and at work. Let your kids know they are a part of your life even when they are not with you.
Of course, moms and dads should always check in to ensure their employment choices aren’t adversely affecting their families, but there is nothing inherently wrong with pursuing your career passions as a mom.
Remember what you are doing matters. Not only are you helping your family thrive, but you are helping normalize mothers in the workplace. You are showing your sons and daughters that women are just as capable as their male counterparts. You are contributing resources to your family and are investing in your current and future self.