Having worked in early years my whole career whilst raising a family of 5 children, I don’t think there has ever been a day when I haven’t felt ‘mum guilt’. It starts the minute that little blue line shows up on the pregnancy test and never seems to return back from the depths from which it appeared.
Suddenly you feel guilty for having that coffee or forgetting the folic acid, for wanting that small glass of red with dinner, or for secretly wishing for your old body back.
When the little bundle of joy makes an appearance into the world, we feel guilty for not having a natural birth, for using pain relief or not making it into the birthing pool in time. We feel guilt for not having the right start, the supportive partner, the best house, the newest car seat. Let’s not even get started on the breast versus bottle guilt! Mum guilt is with us from the start.
Choosing whether to back to go back to work is no different. If we stay at home, we feel guilty for not contributing financially to the home, or not having enough disposable income to do all the things we would like. Perhaps even for leaving our colleagues with more workload. If we go back to work, we feel guilty that our child is in nursery and worry that we don’t spend enough time with them.
It’s time we set ourselves free from the guilt.
You see, most of us make choices in the best interest of our families with the information and support we have at the time and we absolutely should not feel guilty about those choices. I chose to work for the majority of my children’s early days. I felt the guilt of not being home for bedtime, of missing sports day. But by having the extra income, we made the most of our time together and I have been able to support my family financially. My children saw a mum who works hard, plays and contributes and I see that as a great role model. There was a time I stayed at home for a short period and I felt guilty about the reduced income and having to watch the pennies. My children saw a mum who was home for them, relaxed and available, another great role model. I have put my children into creche while I have some time to myself to attend appointments or relax and felt guilty that I was spending time and money on myself and not them. My children saw mum who respected herself was ready to play when she collected from creche, yet another great role model.
Spending time on yourself, enjoying a coffee with friends, an hour at the gym, or a much-needed lie in is not something to feel guilty about. As mums we give so much of ourselves all of the time, we deserve to fill up our own cup every now and then. Looking after our own well being is as important, if not more so, as looking after our family’s well-being. If we as mums don’t take care of ourselves then we end up worn out, with not a lot to give.
So, throw the mum guilt out of the window. Take that gym class while the little one has fun in the creche. Get your nails done and leave the baby with a friend. Read that extra chapter and let the kiddos watch an extra cartoon, it will be worth it!
Kelly Hill, Director of Operations