Over 70 percent of moms with a child over 1 years-old head off to work! So whether it’s due to choice, financial reasons, or even for the potential benefits to their child’s development, if you are a working mom, you are not alone; you are the majority! However, even though working moms are in good company, guilt about returning to work can still make us feel alone. – Ashley Howe, Relationship Therapist
The most comprehensive and recent research coming out of Columbia University on the full effects of maternal employment on child development, and any potential harm and/or benefit that can come as a result being a working mom, says the effects of working versus not working are NEUTRAL (so the positives of one, cancel out the negative of the other).
Therefore, there is nothing to support that your child’s development will be harmed by being a working mom, if you are a responsive or sensitive parent, or that your child’s development will be helped if you stay at home mom.
Guilt is the space between where we perceive ourselves to be and where we perceive success/perfection. The bigger the space between these two things, the more guilt we feel.
As moms we often tend to expect that we will be perfect in all areas of our lives, or that our versions of success will look the same as before we had children. However, often when you have small children, we have to get really good at being good enough. So, I always say, redefine what success looks like. If your version of success is that your children will have the perfect meals, the perfect days, the perfect schedules, and that you will be in the perfect mood everyday with your family, then you’ll feel like you’re failing. Adjust your definition of success. If the children are doing well, feeling loved, are clothed, getting to school, and you manage a ten minute connection talk with your partner or husband each day, and you manage to get your work done as best you can, and you manage to get dressed in a half way decent way each crazy morning, this IS A SUCCESS!!!!
So, think about what your version of success looks like (think about how realistic this is) and readjust what success looks like (in all its imperfections). Then assess how you are doing, and chances are you will be meeting more of your expectations than you thought, you will feel more successful and therefore less guilty!
We are a culture that tends to focus on quantities over qualities. We tend to feel as though we have failed when we haven’t spent X amount of days or time home with our kids. However, we forget that we can spend 4 hours of “busy, distracted or simply proximal” time with our kids (meaning time “with them” in the house, but not really engaged with them), and still feel as though we haven’t had enough time with them.
It is always important to remind yourself that a quality 10 or 20 minutes of conversation, cuddling, playing, etc when you are fully engaged and in the moment with your child, means a lot more than 4 hours when you are in the same house and are distracted or your attention is elsewhere.
A great thing to do is to be “intentional” about your time with your children and not to worry about quantity. So, tell yourself that bathtime/ bedtime or between 7-8pm will be focused on just your child and nothing else.
Also, if you are feeling really guilty from working too much try using a vacation day/half day once in awhile to spend with your child. Put nothing else on the agenda that day but to connect with your child. Your child will relish in those “special days” with mom, and again, often one special day, is worth 50 “normal, busy, distracted days.”
If vacation days not possible, then declare one evening a week or every two weeks as “just mom” nights or a whole weekend every few months if can.
If working is part of your fulfillment or happiness, in addition to all of the happiness that comes from your child, then you will be a happier mom if you are working. When kids experience a happier mom, this translates to a happier kid. A working mom can show your child that it is important to strive towards your goals (whatever those might be), and to show them that finding balance in your life by doing many things that are important to you can often be essential to our happiness.
Write down your motivations for being back to work and read them over whenever you get those guilty pangs. Trust in yourself and this decision that you have made for your family and then try to let go of the guilt.
To stay at home or not to stay at home- neither is perfect and moms inevitably struggle with guilt and ‘what if’s’ with both scenarios. Did I spend too much time, too little time, too available, not available enough?
Moms on both sides of the fence wonder or often experience guilt about whether or not they are doing it right or doing enough. It’s also easy to idealize the other side of the fence: if you were at home you’d be stimulating your child and would be doing nothing but running through pastures and making meals from scratch, however, all moms have challenges. There is no such “ideal” playing out for most moms.
When you can, and when your child is old enough, it can be really helpful to check in with your child about the things you feel guilty about and to hear your child’s thoughts on the matter. Often times the things you feel guilty about are not things that the child actually feels to be a problem.