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Mummy Guilt

Impassioned Plea To All Working Mums – Can We Please Stop Beating Ourselves Up?

This Monday I dropped J off at his first ever all-day holiday camp experience. He was set to enjoy a week full of adventures surrounded by children from his class at school, and lots more besides. Bouncy castles, sack races in the field and lots more fun and games. There’s no way that I would have been able to have laid on the same level of entertainment. So why did I feel so dreadful after I’d dropped him off? It didn’t help that he started stroking my hand as we had to queue in line to get him registered. It was after all, unfamiliar surroundings and although he acts differently, I have to remember he is still only four.

Working Mum Association founder Nicola J Rowley

Once the paperwork was all taken care of, he went off with one of the members of staff who showed him to his class, where he spent the day with his friends and as far as I know everything passed off fine. He was delighted to see me at the end of the day and it sounded as if he’d had a great time.

So why then when I got home did I sit down to work and feel rotten? I spent much of the day on Monday beating myself up about him being there for the whole week. But the decision for him to be at the holiday camp was to help him gain confidence, have lots of fun and also for me to get my work done. It also means the more I have got through this week, the likelihood is I can have next week off to fully dedicate to him.

As I write this, we are on the final day of the week and I can tell that he’s reached his peak, and keeps asking does he still have to go to that school any more. This morning I told him it’s just one more day and then he gets to be with a combination of both me and his Dad for the next seven days. At the first mention of this, his little face lit up. He was genuinely so excited. So cue yet again me beating myself up about the decision for him to be at camp all week. In fairness, I did try to find an alternative play date solution for this final day of the week, but it just didn’t quite pan out.

I have absolutely no idea how we’re going to cope with the summer holidays at all!

What I do know though is that I need to stop doing this to myself, and I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in doing this either. Have you ever felt like it’s wrong to leave them somewhere? You know they will be fine when they’re settled but you can’t help but feel bad all the same. I’m sure there’s a way to counter it, but it’s made harder when you know that for the time being at least, they just want to be with you as much as possible.

Of course, I should just be super happy that he feels this way and leave the guilt mixed with separation anxiety at the gate. There will be many years ahead when he won’t want either of us around and will just be content with locking himself away in his room.

So my plea to you all is to not beat yourself up on any level. We’re helping them to grow up to be independent, full of confidence and resourceful. It is often the pressure we place on ourselves that means we end up as our own worst enemy.

I know that I’m going to at least try and park this feeling of ‘have I done the right thing’ as much as I possibly can. It doesn’t do me any good and let’s face it, by next week everything will all be forgotten; by both of us.

If you’re doing the juggle with the Easter holidays, it would be great to hear how you’re managing. And how on earth do you manage the six weeks at summer?

Whether you’re holiday juggling or otherwise, this post is written to send lots of love and support your way… x

PS If you haven’t already joined our closed Facebook group please head on over now – some exciting things are being planned for the weeks ahead and I’d love for you not to miss out… x

Why Should Mums Have to Choose How Present They Are In Their Children’s Lives?

This weekend is Mother’s Day and across the UK for those who are still fortunate to have their mums, or a mother figure in their lives, there will be flowers and celebrations by way of thanks.

Because let’s face it our mums are really special and it’s only when we become parents ourselves that we realise how much they have done for us, and in many cases, continue to do so.

When I was growing up it was the accepted norm that parents would split the work-life balance with Dad’s going out to work and Mum’s being around to look after us as children. My Mum also managed to re-train as a teacher so that she could be around for us in the school holidays. She, of course, made it look easy that she did this. And when you’re little you never question how or why things are the way they are, you just accept them.

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the WMA

It’s only now as a Mum myself that I fully appreciate just how much my Mum gave up career wise to ensure that her family came first. Having worked for years in a career both as a Journalist and Communications professional I ask why anyone should be expected to give up being as present as they would like to be for their children?

Because that is the reality that so many mums are now faced with. They are either extremely lucky and have flexible working that is actually flexible, or they have to rely on others for wrap around care to ensure their child gets to and from school on time. But with this comes the inherent guilt of not being able to be as present as they would like or being able to attend every school play or event that’s laid on.

But it’s the fact that nowadays we have to choose how present we are in our children’s lives that gets to me. Surely, it would be better for everyone if we are able to be there for our sons and daughters as and when they need us.

Don’t get me wrong, some employers are brilliant and fully embrace flexible working and should be held up as shining examples because they get that mums have dual roles that don’t just end when they leave the office for the day.

Equally, the thought of not working for me would just feel wrong. Ever since I stepped foot into our local bakery for my first Saturday job at the age of 14, I’ve worked. And I love it.

But surely there has to be a way for Mums to not feel they have to make this choice.

This is why so many women are stepping away from the workplace. So many highly intelligent, qualified, smart women who are now finding a way to make everything work for themselves by going freelance or by starting up their own businesses. Because that’s the way they can work towards the freedom lifestyle that they crave. They no longer want to be a slave to their nine to five roles or feel like they have to be seen in the office, just because they are seen to be.

All of the Mums I know with a job are far more productive when they’re given the support and trust of their employers to work from home or have a mix of both. They work smarter because they have to, and they appreciate the trust that has been placed in them. They might complete their work at different times to others, but they will never miss a deadline and as a result, they’re incredibly focused.

So on this Mother’s Day when we celebrate everything that our Mum’s do for us, please remember this. Your Mum has given up so much for you to be able to do what you’re doing right now. She may well have made it look easy, but somewhere along the line tough decisions were made. She might have taken a pay cut to spend more time with you, she might have found a job that worked around school hours, she may even have made the hard choice that another family member / Nanny would help out more than she would have liked.

But these are choices she has had to make. Not necessarily choices she wanted to make.

And there’s an army of incredibly talented, strong, smart professional women who right now are feeling the injustice of it all. Why should they have to choose? I don’t know the answer to this I just know that when all is said and done, it feels really unfair.

Use the Mummy Guilt to Help Not Hinder You…

The one thing that no one mentioned when you became a Mum for the first time and decided to return to work was the Mummy Guilt.

Each and every one of us will experience this at some time as a Mum. It goes part and parcel with taking on the parenting mantel. But it seems to be far worse for Working Mums, who have to juggle competing demands and priorities around the clock.

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association on the Mummy Guilt

But the thing is you don’t need to see the guilt as a negative thing that has to be overcome. It can actually be quite positive and here’s why.

You can use how you’re feeling to spur you on to achieve more in your day.

Parking the guilt at the office door is a good thing. Remember, you’re setting the best example ever; you’re helping your children to become independent and resourceful.

Instead of feeling like you’re handing them over for someone else to look after, re-frame it so you make the most of the time that you do have together. And that time becomes even more precious.

It means you will feel more motivated to plan fun activities and days out for when you’re not in work.

You will be the fun Mummy when you’re around, not the Mummy who’s knee deep in chores (outsource everything at any given opportunity for your own preservation).

And you will be the best version of yourself because you will also feel more fulfilled and still have your own identity.

There are so many times when the Mummy Guilt will, of course, make you feel like rubbish. But if you re-frame it and carry on, then at least you will have made the best of it.

There is no magic formula or wand to wave as the Mummy Guilt creeps up on the best of us. It’s at its worst when your child is too ill to go to nursery or school but well enough to be up and about and you have to juggle working from home and looking after them at the same time. But it’s nothing that a small dose of television won’t solve and there’s some great educational content available nowadays which can help you get through any key meetings.

There will no doubt be those who will scoff at such an idea – but then they haven’t had a four-year-old walk up to them, shut the lid of their laptop whilst they’re typing and say, “enough Mummy, it’s my time now.”

Or the other spectacular one I once had, which was “Mummy I don’t love you anymore,” because I dared to be working.

I’ll admit it, that one really got to me and I’m not sure how productive I was after that.

The thing to remember with the Mummy Guilt is that it’s ever present.

But until employers start realising that we don’t need to be chained to our desks from the hours of 9am-5pm and if we work from stupid o’clock in the morning, take a breather and then again until stupid o’clock at night so we can make it all work, it is what it is.

It is though forever a juggle. I’ve switched to working on a freelance basis so I’m able to make the school run, and be there as much as possible for J. But with it comes the uncertainty of earning enough from month to month, and all those things that never bothered me when I was in a pre-child phase.

Whichever path you go down, there is always a trade-off. I have to get up crazily early to be able to fit everything in during the day and to stay on top of what I have to do. Yes I’m tired, but I keep going because he needs me to and hopefully somewhere down the line I’m helping you too as a Working Mum. At least hopefully you will realise that you’re not alone in your journey. And you’re certainly not alone in feeling the Mummy Guilt, day in day out.  Just use it to become even stronger, more resilient and even more fabulous than you already are… x

PS If you would like to feel more support, inspiration and motivation as a working mum, come and join us in our Facebook group. Together, we’re stronger