How To Stop Feeling Guilty – Working Mother Guilt
As a working mother, one of the most challenging emotions to deal with is guilt. This negative feeling permeates through most of working mother’s lives, leaving mums feeling exhausted, anxious and with loads of self-doubt. However, no-one teaches mothers about how to stop feeling guilty. If guilt is not dealt with early in motherhood, it only gets worse and can significantly impact both personal and professional relationships.
Why is guilt such a big part of motherhood
One of the biggest changes that occurs when you become a mother is this immediate sense of protection and responsibility for your child and his/her development. This instinct is seen in all cultures across the globe. Along with this instinct in human beings, comes judgement as mothers take responsibility for every aspect of their child’s life – from friendships, to academic performance and physical and mental wellbeing.
The problem with this sense of responsibility is that there is no perfect outcome, or a manual to guide mothers towards the perfect way to parent in order the assist her child to achieve the best outcomes.
There is no ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL. So mothers are left to judge themselves based on the opinions of others in their lives, social expectations, media portrayals of the perfect parent and on the ever changing landscape of research. The latter is often contradictory and very confusing and thus leaves many mothers stressed about whether or not their chosen parenting method is the ‘right’ one for their child. These feelings lead to constant guilt over whether or not they are doing the ‘right’ thing for their child. Further, mums are often too embarrassed to even begin to ask how to learn to stop feeling guilty in motherhood, for fear of admitting they are not perfect.
Is it possible to learn how to stop feeling guilty when there are so many conflicting guides on parenting?
Research into parenting is often at polar opposites. For instance, one researcher will find that babies should not be left alone for one moment. They should be carried all the time and co-sleep safely with parents. Another, equally respected researcher will find that babies are best placed in a routine, should be sleeping safely in a cot and this cot should be in a separate room. These researchers and popular opinion lead parents to have particular views on best parenting.
These views often result in criticism of other parents for not adhering to perceived best parenting styles. For instance, stay at home mothers may assume working mothers are not providing the best care for their child, whereas working mothers may believe they are providing the best example for their child. So you can see why it’s so easy for mothers to feel stressed, depressed and full of guilt and self doubt. However, the reason for these feelings is that parents are focussed on the wrong aspect of parenting – the method, rather than the outcome.
Low self-esteem: the culprit and the savour
Research shows that women in general have low self-esteem (low levels of confidence, self worth and self belief). In motherhood, this level of self-esteem is tested even further. Mothers often find it very difficult to trust they are doing the right thing for their child. There is often self-doubt and worry over their chosen parenting styles. There is also a huge amount of self-criticism when things do not go according to plan or expectation (e.g. a child acting out in public, or achieving poor grades).
However, those mothers that have invested in themselves to boost self-esteem and self-confidence find parenting much easier. They research the best parenting methods to suit their lives and their child’s best interests. Mothers with high confidence can block-out the opinions of ‘well-wishers’ and criticisers trying to tell them their way is the best parenting method. These mothers know that one of the biggest mistakes the population in general makes is assuming there is a ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL approach to parenting.
Mothers with a higher self esteem know that children differ significantly due to their temperament, personality type, family customs and cultural and religious norms. Most importantly they know that the best way to measure a parenting style success is in their child’s level of health, happiness, safety and security. These are the key elements of parenting success.
The key to good parenting and thus learning how to stop feeling guilty
The key to good parenting is not whether or not you are using a particular method – it’s in regularly evaluating your method to assess the outcomes. For instance, regardless of whether you are co-sleeping or using controlled crying with your baby, if he/she is safe, secure, healthy and happy that’s all that matters.
If any of these four elements are compromised, then yes it’s time to re-evaluate and modify your parenting style accordingly. Similarly, if you are working full-time and feeling highly stressed on a regular basis and you can see this is having a negative impact on your children, then it’s time to change something. If you’re working full time, but managing your stress well and have a positive and healthy relationship with your children and they are healthy, happy, safe and secure – you do not need to feel guilty and you do not need to change anything! The core element here is NOT working full-time, it’s the outcome for your child and for your personal health too.
Good parenting comes from creating a lifestyle that best suits your needs and those of your family. That’s what really matters. What hold most mums back from trusting they can ‘have it all’ is lack of self-belief and an expectation that they need to live up to other people’s expectations of good parenting. In order to trust that in yourself, it’s imperative that you invest in yourself to build your self-confidence and self esteem.
Begin building your self-esteem in motherhood now
Download these two free books
- How to understand your child’s temperament from birth
- 5 everyday ways to add serious self-confidence to your life
Lizzie O’Halloran, Founder of Help For Mums