The Guilt of the Working Mum – how I have almost mastered the art of self-forgiveness

The Guilt Of Being A Working Parent

I remember vividly my very first thought when I saw the positive reading on my pregnancy test… ‘Oh My God, I can’t believe it, not – ‘I am pregnant’ but ‘I drank loads of wine at the weekend!’ Boom and with one swoop, without any warning – it began. The guilt of being a parent. The guilt, that it would appear, is a prerequisite to becoming a ‘good’ parent.

From that moment on –  absolutely everything – every decision I ever made; every thought I conceived; everything I ate and drank; everything I ever I did, from that moment on, was directly linked to a subconscious and often very conscious evocation of guilt that I was ‘a rubbish mum’ and I was emotionally and psychologically damaging my children.

As a result of financial pressure, I had to return to work very quickly, so I felt guilty that I was denying my children the very vital bonding time that was needed to produce a well-rounded individual.

Ironically, I would then chance upon mums who had decided to take an extended maternity leave and they too felt guilty that they were not providing an adequate role model for their kids and had become over reliant on their spouses! It appeared I was not alone. 

I felt guilty for bringing work home and guilty if I stayed late to complete it. I often felt guilty when I went out; I felt guilty if I stayed in as I should be living my life!  I felt guilty for staying too long in an awful marriage and guilty for leaving.  In short, I was capable of apportioning guilt to practically all aspects of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t unhinged but this composite snapshot of my formative years as a mum was something that I didn’t want to continue.

At this point, enough was enough and I embarked on the art of appeasing the guilt of being a single-working mum; I realised that a couple of simple practices would contribute to a healthier and happier existence for me.  I adopted four basic principles that worked extremely well for me.

1.       I began to speak kindly to myself

I learned to tap into the voice of my Dad, who I lost in 2010.  If I am struggling with feeling guilty about work or taking a phone call when the kids are mithering.  I stop and think – ‘’what would my dad say to me now?’

At that point, I speak as if I am the child and with the kindness of a parent, I say ‘Come on Sharon, don’t be hard on yourself, you’re doing a belting job with those kids. They’re alright!’ 

The guilt eases.

2.        I built my own business around ‘us’ not ‘a them’

I left teaching in 2011 and systematically built a business around the lifestyle we needed that enabled me to be present and happy.  I stopped working for others and began to work for myself.  Not only do I have a tuition business that affords me the flexibility and freedom to have a life and relationship with the kids; I have successfully franchised this business and help others to do the very same.  I answer to no-one except myself. What’s more I can bring my work home and my home to work!

3.       I have swapped one ‘G’ for another ‘G’

I have swapped guilt for gratitude.  

It is impossible to feel any form of guilt or negativity when you are existing in a state of gratitude.  Before my feet touch the ground in the morning, I have given thanks for five things.  I keep a constant gratitude journal and my inner-self talk is in constant thanks and awe for what I have, not focusing upon the ‘what’ I feel bad about.

4.       Guided Meditation

A simple search on YouTube and you will find a raft of short, powerful guided meditations that you can listen to intermittently and depending upon your mood, guilt is the last thing that you will be feeling. https://youtu.be/nCq5MkNem6k https://youtu.be/mcmMz3T3te8

Don’t get me wrong, I still felt the pangs when I ranted and raved at my 15 year old son when I unearthed piles of dishes in his bedroom; lost my temper when I was tired and I didn't want to watch the 73rd cartwheel when my daughter insisted I watch. I blended my life; I brought my daughter to my office and we worked together, and I ‘Facetimed’ my son to warn him of my imminent return and to clear his room.

I finally realised that it is not my fault if in twenty years’ time my then 12-year-old son would get divorced, just because I did.  If my then 5-year-old daughter goes off the rails at the age of 21, you know what, – it isn’t because I drank a bottle of wine and was late home one night and missed ballet the following day because of a hangover.

As my life as a working mum; a business owner and franchisor continues to whizz along, what I do know is that I am the happiest I have ever been and as me and Ellie sit in the office working away, I can say today I don’t feel guilty at all.

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