young working mother cuddling baby and using laptop at home

Source: Pexels by Sarah Chai

Mothers are at the heart of the family unit. The responsibilities of a mother are often taken for granted, because a mother is presumed to always be there. Yet modern day society often dictates that mothers have to be part of the workforce too, which takes them away from the home and adds many additional pressures on their time. However, it can be extremely tough for any mother to make this transition from full-time motherhood into the world of work; this is when “mum guilt” can invariably creep in.

Feeling torn

We mothers can often feel extremely torn between wanting to be there for our children and wanting to help with the family finances. As the famous saying goes, nothing can really replace a mother’s love. However, our desire to provide financially for our children is equally as important. We want the best for our children, but it can be hard to know how to balance these priorities. This is where the “mum guilt” comes in, because we cannot be in two places at once. Despite what some may think, mums aren’t superhumans. We feel guilty for having to leave our children in a childcare setting, because we hate the fact that someone else is raising our child whilst we are working. Unfortunately, for more and more households, having both parents (or their only parent) at work may be essential. We are forced to balance the needs of our finances and our children.

What is it that children really need?

There really isn’t a catch-all answer. Children are all different, and therefore their needs are all different. Children also don’t have any concept of the pressures their parents may be facing (and it is right that they aren’t subjected to these worries). Children need stability, and this is often the motivation for many mothers choosing to return to work after having children. Financial stability offers children the best opportunities in life; as a mother, that is what I want for my children. Yet the guilt really doesn’t go away. Christmas, Easter, and other holiday periods prove to be a constant reminder of what we sacrifice to go back to work.

Missing school plays is tough

In an ideal world, bosses would allow all parents time off to go to school plays. However, the needs of businesses dictate that it isn’t possible for parents to attend all the events that crop up in a school year. A school’s social calendar is a full-time job in itself. But when your child is all excited about being the rear end of a donkey, you cannot help feeling guilty that you cannot be there to see it. Mum guilt makes you feel horrible. You feel sad for your child, but also incredibly bereft that your work is coming before your family. It really is an internal battle between the heart and the head.

Cost of living crisis

No doubt this cost of living crisis is forcing many more mums back into the world of paid employment. Parents are desperate to keep paying the ever-increasing bills, and just want to keep a roof over their heads. But our little darlings do not understand these pressures, and in their world, everything seems simple. They do not understand why their mother cannot be at school events, whilst other mothers still attend. Children don’t always want to hear the word “no”, and mum guilt leaves us feeling a sense of despair. Often we are left wishing that things could be different. If only we could win the lottery, or inherit money so that we can be back full-time with our children. Alas, such wishes are only pipe dreams, and it’s real life that brings us crashing back to the ground.

How does one get past this mum guilt?

Personally, I don’t think it is possible to fully escape “mum guilt”. However, by reminding oneself of the importance of the decision to return to work, it can help to push the guilt down a little. Yes, the “mum guilt” is always going to pop up again, sometimes when you least expect it, but you have to believe in yourself and trust that you are doing the best for your children. Life really isn’t easy, and sometimes we do have to make sacrifices for the greater good. Next time you feel “mum guilt” creeping up on you, tell yourself that you are a fabulous mum and that one day, your children will understand why you couldn’t always be there.

Published by Karen Burns

A 50-year-old mother of 3. Graduated from Warwick University in 2021 (with a degree in Social Studies). I have chronic illness, which affects my mobility. However, I love writing and I am a prolific writer of poetry as well.

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