I’m a mother of two, an eight-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son. I work full-time and being unable to give them enough quality time has left me feeling terribly guilty. I was working before I got married but led the housewife life for a while before both my children started school.
I returned to chase my professional dreams after I felt I’d be able to manage everything. But that hasn’t been the case. It’s been a few years now, but I still struggle to juggle between work and my duties as a parent.
We are a nuclear family, but I don’t get enough help from my husband. Until my husband and I return from work, my children stay with my parents, both of whom are in their 60s and live a few lanes away from our place. That’s another round of guilt trips I’m often confronted with, as I feel terrible bothering my parents during their old age.
I cannot afford to quit my job but also feel guilty as a mother. It seems like I’m a failure at motherhood because of my inability to spend quality time with my children. Please tell me how I get rid of this feeling and how to work around my extremely challenging situation.
— A guilty mother
Dear guilty mom,
I hear how challenging and overwhelming your situation feels. It is completely understandable to feel torn between professional aspirations and personal responsibilities.
Having a balance between work and family can be incredibly difficult and demanding with the guilt of not being able to spend enough quality time with your children and feeling guilty for your parents to be looking after them.
I also see you’re being hard on yourself and calling yourself a failure due to your inability to spend time with your kids.
Let’s have a look at how we can break down this situation and see what we can do.
What you are experiencing is what we call “mom’s guilt”. Many working mothers experience a similar feeling, know that you are not alone, and you are doing the best you possibly can.
You have mentioned a couple of things in your query above.
You were a professional, took a career break for your kids and decided to rejoin once they were older. This was a conscious decision you made for your kids. Now that you’ve resumed it sounds like you are feeling guilty for pursuing your dreams and only seeing one as more important than the other, while both are equally important to you.
You also mentioned you feel like a failure due to your inability to spend quality time with your kids.
Quality time is subjective. For kids, it is emotional attunement from their parents. You could be with your kids all day and not spend quality time. And you could be with your kids for some time and really be present and give them quality time. The kind of time you spend with your kids is pivotal for their personality development.
I also hear you feel guilty for working, but I also understand you don’t have a choice because you can’t afford to quit your job. When our choices are limited, we need to lean in, focus and manage the things we can.
Below are some things you can do :
- Let your husband openly know how you feel, communicate the impact it is having on you and your mental health and what support you require from him
- Focus on spending quality and attuned time with your kids where the focus is purely spending time with them and not being distracted by other things around.
- Expand your support system. Perhaps hire some help to send with your kids to your parents’ house so it might be less of a burden for them as well.
- Practice self-compassion. Understand it’s natural to feel guilty and focus on the time you have with your kids.
- Communicate to your kids why working is important for you. You are a role model for your kids and through this depict the value and importance of hard work and pursuing your passion to your kids.
- Prioritise yourself. Amidst all of this prioritise yourself too, you are a human being with needs and wants. Being a mom doesn’t equate to sacrificing yourself.
- Seek support. We cannot manage and do everything on our own. If all of this is having a negative impact on your well-being, consider speaking to a therapist who will aid you in managing feelings of overwhelm and managing feelings more effectively.
Chasing your dreams doesn’t mean it won’t be a struggle. It is hard. If you were to be at home throughout and sacrifice your career that would also be hard for you.
Really take some to think about what is it that you want (no matter what it may be), what your priority is and OWN your choices.
Once you have clarity, It will be easier for you to map out your path.
Our options are endless, it’s our visions that are limited.
Remember, being a loving and caring parent isn’t solely defined by the quantity of time spent, but by the quality of the moments you share. Your efforts to provide for your family while managing a career are commendable. Give yourself credit for all that you are doing and remember that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. You are doing the best you can, and your dedication to your family is admirable.
I hope this helps and remember — YOU GOT THIS!
Haya Malik is a psychotherapist, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner, corporate well-being strategist and trainer with expertise in creating organisational cultures focused on well-being and raising awareness around mental health.
Send her your questions to [email protected]
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