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With so little control over their time, new mothers suffer guilt at home and at work. There’s tremendous pressure to be there for the baby, siblings, spouses or partners, and others in the family – including, sometimes, aging parents. At the same time, there is pressure not only to perform and keep up with peers but also to keep up with “pre-baby” productivity standards.

Some mothers believe that others are judging or criticising them, without any evidence to support this belief. When this happens, I believe the mother is often harbouring her own secret feelings of guilt, and projecting them onto friends, family and work colleagues.

Projection is when the parts of ourselves that cause us pain or that we have not yet realised in ourselves, become repressed or just below conscious awareness and from that point on, start to show up in other people, via experiences, relationships, at work, family, etc.  Taking responsibility for our own negative traits, and yes, if necessary dealing with the emotional pain involved, is the only way to free yourself from this type of situation.  See a coach or counsellor to support you if necessary.

Some tips to help you along the way:

  • Align yourself with your decision to work.  Write out a list of all the positive reasons why you are working – what are you really trying to achieve for yourself and your family?  Then stop and think about that part of you that is trying to protect you, somehow, by making you feel guilty.  What is this part trying to achieve?  What is it’s positive intention for you (not your child)?  Is it to ensure you feel loved and respected by others? Is this intention different to your positive intention for working?  Often the positive and negative ‘parts’ really want the same thing.  Think about how you could satisfy this negative part with a new decision that serves you better. Ask a NLP practitioner to help you with integrating these two ‘parts’ of yourself if you are struggling with this on your own.
  • Remember that your choice to work is yours alone to make. Your role as a mother is frought with opportunities for self-doubt without external criticism; you certainly don’t need anyone else questioning whether or not you’ve done your best as a parent. Just remember to love your child and give them the very best of you when you are together. Whatever your reasons for working after having children, know that your family benefits from either the financial assistance you provide or from a mother who is fulfilled in all areas of her life.
  • Strive for balance.  A sense of balance has to be worked on continuously, day by day and sometimes hour by hour. Many women say they need to be more disciplined in managing their time than ever before.   Even women who are well organised and who carefully plan their schedules have to adapt to last-minute contingencies, at home and at work.
  • Reward yourself.  With life being so much busier, it’s sometimes difficult to see the benefits of what you are achieving in amongst the household chores and to-do lists.  Schedule time out, even if it’s a monthly massage or manicure, or a weekly walk around the park on your own.  Something that’s your small reward and ‘time out’ from the daily balancing act.  And remember to tell yourself how well you’re doing – whether success is big or small it’s worth celebrating!

If you continue to feel mother guilt after returning to work and settling your child in to a high quality care environment, think about the positive things you could do to proactively deal with the guilt consider:

  • Spending a whole day with your child at the weekend doing nothing but fun stuff, ignore the household chores and spend the time doing things you all love.
  • Negotiating to work more flexibly, for example ask whether you can start work earlier and finish earlier so you can pick your child up in time to spend a few hours with them in the evening.
  • Finding a child care service near you or your partner’s workplace so one of you can pop in during the day.
  • Creating special family routines around your work schedule to give you some firm personal commitments and some events to look forward to in the working week.

Although, it may sometimes feel as though guilt and parenting go hand-in-hand, remember that guilt is simply a negative manifestation of the deep emotional bond you have with your child.  Parenting is THE biggest learning curve ever, I believe.  There’s all those daily small decisions contribute to the development of a whole new little personality – decisions that differ from parent to parent and situation to situation.  There simply is no rule book, or one right way to be a parent.

Whether you return to work or not doesn’t predicate you as a good or bad mother.  Align yourself with your choice, either way and then confidently make it happen.  For your sake and for your family.

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