Mirror, mirror on the wall ... who feels the guiltiest of all? It appears to be the working mother.

It is quite normal for a mother to want to be a good mother to her children. It therefore goes without saying that mother’s guilt will be part of your parenting experience, and is especially heightened when experiencing the tension between the commitments of work and family.

Mother’s guilt is an emotion related to fear, obligation, perfectionism and expectation.Unchecked it can lead to overwhelming anxiety and burnout.

It’s time to take charge of “Ms Guilt’s” relevance and keep it within healthy limits.

Guilt actually has a place in your life and, like some other painful emotions, can be useful. So once you are aware of its existence avoid the tendency to run away from it. Allocate some “me time” to sit down, invite the emotion to the table, take a few deep, long breaths and ask yourself what parts of your guilt are appropriate and what are not.

  1. Reality check the reasons you work.
  2. Reality check your thoughts for exaggeration — make a note to research areas where you may need further information such as the benefits of day care in a child’s socialisation skills.
  3. Look at your values, beliefs, expectations and judgments.
  4. Repeat this process, looking at the views of significant others and again at societal views.
  5. Review what you can control and note the non-negotiables.
  6. Make a plan to implement changes so you are more in alignment with your values.
  7. And hardest of all, let go of what you cannot control with self-acceptance and loving compassion.
  8. Don’t fight inappropriate guilt and get annoyed at the times you feel guilt for the guilt.

Observe your feelings and consider it a part of your human experience.

Remember, it is perfectly fine to follow your instincts and to make mistakes. While mothers are great multi-taskers, please lighten your load by managing that inevitable energy sapper — Ms Guilt.

Kim Hadley BADipEd, GDip Psych, PGDip Psych (Macq) MAPS
Hills Psychology Castle Hill. Ph: (02) 9899 7779 hillspsychologist.com.au