First of all it is important to establish that not all “guilt” is bad, none of us are perfect and as fallible human beings feeling guilty about a mistake we’ve made is a good thing, not bad; it’s called having a conscience. Guilt feelings help us to examine our actions, we hopefully learn from our mistakes and make amends or corrections where we can; in essence guilt helps make us better people. And that theory extends to child rearing as well, children do not come with an instruction manual and as parents we’re bound to make mistakes despite our very best intentions, the key is to keep parenting guilt in its proper perspective, making it a positive rather than a negative.
For generations the majority of mothers were stay at home moms, today’s moms look much different. According to the United States Department of Labor, in 2013 women made up 57.2 percent of the work force in America, and of that work force 69.9 percent were working mothers with children under 18 years of age. As you can see women have become an integral part of the work force in today’s society, women are working to pursue their career goals, fulfill their dreams, and in most cases because they have to economically. The demands on women to be both bread winner and mom has created a sometimes hard to cope with sense of guilt among working moms.
Mothers wrestle with the maternal instincts hammering away at them, they feel guilty leaving their children in the hands of a nanny or daycare center when they go off to work and the guilt doesn’t end with the often tearful morning goodbye. Women often say they feel guilty throughout the day and that at the end of the day even if they have excelled at the days work load they still struggle with feelings of inadequacy due to those torn loyalties to career and the home front. So what’s a mom to do?
Face The Facts – You Can’t Have It All
Many parenting experts in the field today say its time to get rid of the myth that you can have it all, and still be the ideal mother. This impossible-to-achieve myth only lays the ground work for mothers to feel inadequate when they can’t be the perfect mom and work full time. These feelings of inadequacy will only lead to feelings of guilt.
Instead of beating yourself up trying to achieve an unattainable “perfection” experts suggest taking a more realistic approach, a dose of reality so to speak. Being a working mom means you can’t possibly do it all the way you ideally want to, there really is only so many hours in the day and often kid time and work time occur during the same hours of the day. You can’t be in two places at once so get over the myth that somehow you can. With this acceptance of reality you can rid yourself of feelings of inadequacy and guilt and get on with doing the best you possibly can for your children, which typically is much better than we give ourselves credit for.
The Key Ingredients to Guilt-Free Mothering
Child rearing is much like the principals you would apply to a marriage, to have a happy and successful marriage it takes practical application of the following: understanding, patience, love, forgiveness and very importantly compromise, and child rearing is no different the principals are just applied a little differently. Below are some tips on how you can apply these principals:
- Understanding – Write down the reasons you are working and how and why it makes you and your family’s life better, focus on the positive and understand how valuable all these things are to making your children’s lives better. For instance the positive role model you present for your child as a productive, self sufficient working mother who is making a positive contribution to your community while providing for, loving and raising a family.
- Patience – Be patient with yourself, don’t set unrealistic expectations on yourself to master things on the first go, some things we learn and improve upon over time simply through trial and error. Don’t beat yourself up over making mistakes, just learn from them.
- Love – Love yourself, having a healthy self image is an important message to send to your children. No one is perfect and giving yourself permission not to have to be perfect in everything you do will keep feelings of inadequacy and guilt out of your head.
- Forgiveness – Forgiveness is really important, we all make mistakes in life and parenting so get over it! Don’t harbor guilt feelings about your mistakes, instead address them head on, apologize to your child if appropriate, learn from the mistake, do better next time and let it go.
- Compromise – Recognizing that you can’t have it all and understanding the need to compromise is key to having a happy and rewarding personal and professional life free from guilt. Figure out what works best for you and your family in terms of quality time spent and which areas are of most importance to you, because rest assured you will have to compromise in some areas. This can be the hardest part of parenting because as a parent you want to be there for every hurdle, each accomplishment, and all their extracurricular activities, but the reality is we can’t. Discuss with your child what’s most important to them you be there for and see where you can accommodate their needs with your time constraints, but be realistic with yourself and your child. Making admirable, but unrealistic promises to your child that you can’t meet just sets you up for an extreme guilt trip and possibly hurting your child’s feelings or even self esteem. It’s much better to be honest with yourself and your child and if things change or an opportunity comes up to be there for an event your child wasn’t expecting, what a happy surprise.
Balance is everything, so just skip the guilt trips and love your work and your children!