Recently I attended an event for entrepreneurs, when speaking with many of the lovely women at the event, an issue that I found that was common among most of them was mum guilt and it's something that I could totally resonate with.
I define mum guilt, as the feeling of not being a good enough parent, thinking you are neglecting your children, being torn between being a mum, having a career, or being an entrepreneur and just having to do everything in life.
It should not have surprised me just how common this is, but it did. This is definitely not something that is just defined to women in business, but generally to all women, I’m sure some men must feel it too but I have never spoken to any man about feeling guilty about parenting. In this day and age, it has become a necessity to have a dual-income family where both parents work, either full or part-time. With the cost of housing, food and our wants and needs in life, dual incomes are a necessity to live a comfortable life of financial wellbeing. Even with mothers who are at home and not working they still have so many things to do to run the household, it could be considered a full-time job.
Many mothers just feel so guilty about leaving their children, many of the common feelings being, I feeling like I am neglecting my children, I am so busy that I am not present with my kids even when I am with them. I have so many things to juggle between work, kids, home life how do I even find time for myself, I want to do things, but I just can’t because I have kids.
In the olden days, many families had extended family members living with them; parents, grandparents, etc. who were there to also assist in the care of children and daily life as required. If I reflect on my own life, my grandmother lived with my parents for the majority of her life and was always there for us children and my parents, not just as another figure in the household but as someone who was part of raising us. My parents had their own business and my mother had the choice to either work or help out in the business, but there was always an extra pair of hands, to help with daily life. But now with most of our parents also having their own careers and working as long as they can to maximise their retirement years, extended families are not as common as they were. The cost of childcare is also so exorbitant that it doesn’t make it any easier.
Our lives are so busy and there are so many things to do, once you finish your daily work of earning dollars to be able to do life, you then have the household chores, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing and the list goes on. Add to this, helping kids with homework, being the taxi driver to take them to all their sporting and extracurricular activities and then just managing and organising the family household, no wonder we feel so tired.
My mum guilt started back when I had first fell pregnant. I just received an offer for a new job - my dream job when I found out that I was expecting. I called my new manager and told him that I couldn’t take the offer as, I would have to take maternity leave within 8 months, he was such a lovely soul that he said to me not to worry and that the job was still mine and that he was happy for me to take the leave. I initially applied for 9 months leave and I still remember the torment I felt at that time, having to leave my firstborn and go back to my dream job. I just couldn’t do it, leave this tiny baby who relied on me for everything, so I applied for a further 3 months and completed the whole 12 months waiting till he was one and I could leave him in care, still feeling so guilty, but I had no other choice. I was lucky enough that when I did go back, within a few months I also received a transfer to a closer location, only 15 minutes from home. This made it so much easier for me to manage my life, I was no longer spending 2 hours a day in travel.
That was when I decided that if I was going to have any further children I needed to find a way to work for myself quickly (not that this was the answer, but in my mind, it was my solution, because of course, I thought I could do it all). For the next few years as I continued in my employment I looked for opportunities and finally one presented itself to me and I took it and started my own business. But even then, when I baby no 2 and baby no 3 the mum guilt continuously appeared again, manifesting itself, but at a much lesser scale than when I was employed. This could be due to many reasons but I think having control of my own destiny and being my own boss allows me to work at whatever time and pace I feel was required at the time.
I realised that you have to see life in stages, I am now at the stage where my children are self-sufficient, my boys are grown up now but mum guilt is still something that doesn’t go away, even when your eldest is 25, but I have found ways to manage and reduce it.
Here are my top 5 ways I have learnt to deal with and overcome mum guilt.
Understanding that no one is a perfect parent, we are all simply doing the best we can. Each parent, each child is an individual and we all have our own trials and tribulations. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, run your own race.
You can’t do it all. Build yourself a team to help you, there is no I in team. Allow yourself to have help, a cleaner to help with domestic housework, order takeaway someday, have someone help you with your ironing, share taking the kids to sport or activities with another mum. Don’t think you have to do everything, your kids need a mum who is happy, rather than going to dancing, playing piano or playing soccer every week. If it's causing you too much overwhelm, give it a break.
Have compassion and be kind to yourself. Take time to do things for yourself and don’t just make your kids your number 1 priority. You need to give yourself love first and then you can be your best self for your kids. Even when you feel bad about it, take time out. You need it, to recover, rejuvenate and be your best self for your kids. Spend quality time with your kids, it's so much better than have lots of time and not even being present.
Make time for your partner, the two of you alone, date night, no kids. Your partner may also be feeling guilt and it's important that you talk about your feelings and share. They may also be feeling neglected because you are always so busy with the kids and the other things you do. They are an important part of your life, don’t forget them. Remember children have 2 parents who let them do their share of raising the kids as well.
Research shows 87% of mothers feel guilt, so embrace it and know that this is just a moment in time. As your kids grow up it does get so much easier. First, when they go to school all of a sudden between 9-3 you have time and then as they grow up they become so much more self-sufficient and can do so much more for themselves. Allowing them to do things for themselves also builds resilience and lifelong skills.
Being a mum could be one of the hardest jobs on the planet, we have no training and are mostly self-taught, winging it along the way. But being a mum is also one of the most rewarding jobs when a little human looks at you and you are their everything smothering you in kisses, then you go through a stage where you think this little human is growing up into a challenging little monster, questioning everything and making life so difficult. Then all of a sudden before you know it you are at the other side where they are an adult and you can have the most wonderful conversations with them and become one of your best friends.
Enjoy and savor each moment as these precious little angels that come into our life grow up way too fast.