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Working Mother - Easing the guilt

It's not easy being working mother. Not only do you have to deal with the anxiety of being separated from your child, you also have to put up with judgement from wider society about what makes a good mum.

Then there are the (ungrounded) fears that childcare is damaging to children or that a child will love their nanny more than you.

But while mother guilt may be part and parcel of parenthood, there are ways to lessen the burden you might be feeling.

Remember why you work
Go back to the thought process you went through while making the decision to return to work. Was it to help pay the mortgage? To send the children to a good school? To keep your qualifications up-to-date? To gain some 'me time' or save up for a dream vacation? There is no 'right' answer, but the point is, at some point you made a logical decision that working was the best decision for your family. Have faith that your decision was the right one.

Are you happy with your child's current carer?
Underlying feelings of guilt may be doubt about the quality of care your child is receiving. If you feel that their current environment is not the right one, perhaps it's time to think of different options, such as the one-to-one care that a nanny provides. Or if you have some concerns about your current nanny, now is the time to book a meeting to discuss those concerns. No-one else will care for your child exactly the way you will but that's OK. They will have other skills and attributes that your child will enjoy. Even for a working parent, your child's happiness is your number one priority.

Re-evaluate your working conditions
Perhaps it's not the job but the conditions making work unenjoyable for you. Australian laws state that employers must seriously consider requests for flexible work arrangements from staff members who hold parent or carer responsibilities. Could your working day start and finish earlier, or perhaps you could work four longer days instead of five shorter ones? Many workplaces also allow an employee to work from home at least one day per week. For parents of young children, flexible work hours may be worth a small drop in income.

Make weekends fun
Many working parents find that their weekends are quickly swallowed up by an avalanche of cleaning duties, shopping errands and garden maintenance, adding further guilt about the time spent having fun with their children.

Is there some time each weekend to lock away as non-negotiable family time? Perhaps it's a special Sunday morning pancake-fest, or board games after Saturday night dinner. Having a few special rituals each week helps families to bond.

Some jobs, like watering the garden or washing the car, are activities every member of the family can join in and enjoy - especially if they end in a water fight!

Remember that it won't be forever
Whatever guilt you're feeling now won't last forever. Children grow up, careers change, family dynamics shift. The truth is you won't be there to witness every waking moment of your child's life. Focus instead on the positive things you bring to the family, and on being a happy and well-rounded mum. Surround yourself with positive people who support your working arrangements.

Final word goes to Life coach Gail Kauranen Jones, author of To Hell and Back . . . Healing Your Way Through Transition.

"I don't know one mother who doesn't feel guilty about the times she thinks she has failed her child," she writes.

"The key is to be able to acknowledge the feeling for what it is and to learn from it. When you let go of the guilt, you can actually be a better, more relaxed mother."

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