Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: Mothers: Working on the Guilt

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Mothers: Working on the Guilt

As a mother, guilt pervades all we do to varying degrees but perhaps the most common focus is that of our employment status; the working versus stay-at-home mother conundrum.

Regardless of path chosen and whether it was done so out of choice or necessity, we self flagellate either publicly on social media, or behind closed doors. We fear having ruined our children by proving to be poor feminist role models if we relinquish the monthly pay check but then lambast ourselves if we return to the workplace; cruelly abandoning our beloved progeny to be raised by people who are paid to care about them.

Then there is the coveted middle ground: the much sought after "part time" work. What could be better? You get the best of both worlds. No need to compromise. Can life get any better? Well, yes. The unspoken truth is that part time work is a mine field. You feel stretched so thinly that where you were once a nice comforting naan bread you would now be more suited to wrapping up the Peking duck. The guilt gnaws away at you as you turn your back on their little doe eyed faces; knowing their gaze is following you across the room, beseeching you to stay just a little longer but then you also feel guilty for leaving your kids.

I think that there is a secret that no one has been telling us. I think that there is a simple truth needing to be acknowledged. I think that there is a fact that once considered can never be denied. There is no right answer. No one  has achieved the holy grail and been entirely liberated from their maternal guilt.

Guilt is as integral to parenting as poo, Mr. Tumble, soft play and bribery. Acknowledge it,  accept it and move on. No one is getting it right all of the time. No one has worked out the perfect balance where they attend every pre-school sports day, are their to kiss away every scraped knee but are also managing to dismantle that ceiling one glass pane at a time. It's time we gave ourselves, and everyone else a break. Guilt is just a side effect of loving them.

I have two friends (I actually have more, but for the purposes of this I shall keep it to my two relevant friends) where one is a full time working mum with multiple children, the other stays at home mum with her toddler. Both are taking over the world and bossing the parenting role in their very own way and I openly admit to envying them both for various reasons.

Let us take Mum A, the worker, she is highly regarded in her profession (and rewarded appropriately). When she discusses her work she exudes competence and capability. She is exceptionally smart in both intelligence and appearance and her children are charming and affectionate; clearly both happy and loved. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Next we have Mum B, the stay at home mum. She is insanely competent in all things homemaking. She can reupholster the couch while her homemade lasagne warms in the oven and her toddler works through an engaging messy play activity set up in her Tuff Tray; which will unwittingly teach her how to sort and reason. This mum makes me want to be a better mum.

These mums are getting it right. Both of them. They probably don't feel like it all of the time but they are. They are both nailing being strong role models and loving mothers. Strong female role models are not just the ones who go to work everyday and being a loving mother and being on the payroll are not mutually exclusive. So whichever path you (or circumstances) have chosen, cut yourself some slack. We are all just muddling through.
 
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