The Guilt of the Working Mum – how I have almost mastered the art of self-forgiveness.
I remember vividly my very first thought when I saw the positive read on my pregnancy test… ‘Oh My God, I can’t believe it, not – ‘I am pregnant’ but ‘I drank loads of wine at the weekend!’ Boom and with one swoop, without any warning – it began. The guilt of being a parent. The guilt that would appear is a prerequisite to becoming a ‘good’ parent.
From that moment on – absolutely everything – every decision I ever made; every thought I conceived; everything I ate and drank; everything I ever I did from that moment on was directly linked to a subconscious and often very conscious evocation of guilt that I was a rubbish mum and I was emotionally and psychologically damaging my children.
As a result of financial pressure, I had to return to work very quickly, so I felt guilty that I was denying my children the very vital bonding time that was needed to produce a well-rounded individual.
Ironically, I would then chance upon mum’s who had decided to take an extended maternity leave and they too felt guilty that they were not providing an adequate role model for their kids and had become over reliant on their spouses! It appeared I was not alone.
I felt guilty for bringing work home and guilty if I stayed late to complete it. I often felt guilty when I went out; I felt guilty if I stayed in as I should be living my life! I felt guilty for staying too long in an awful marriage and guilty for leaving. In short, I was capable of apportioning guilt to practically all aspects of my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t unhinged but this composite snapshot of my formative years as a mum was something that I didn’t want to continue.
At this point, enough was enough and I embarked on the art of appeasing the guilt of being a single-working mum; I realised that a couple of simple practices would contribute to a healthier and happier existence for me. I adopted four basic principles that worked extremely well for me.
1. I began to speak kindly to myself
I learned to tap into the voice of my Dad, who I lost in 2010. If I am struggling with feeling guilty about work or taking a phone call when the kids are mithering. I stop and think – ‘’what would my dad say to me now?’
At that point I speak as if I am the child and the with kindness of a parent, I say ‘Come on Sharon, don’t be hard on yourself, you’re doing a belting job with those kids. They’re alright!’
The guilt eases.
2. I built my own business around ‘us’ not ‘a them’
I left teaching in 2011 and systematically built a business around the lifestyle we needed that enabled me to be present and happy. I stopped working for others and began to work for myself. Not only do I have a tuition business that affords me the flexibility and freedom to have a life and relationship with the kids; I have successfully franchised this business and help others to do the very same. I answer to no-one except myself. What’s more I can bring my work home and my home to work!
The guilt eases.
3. I have swapped one ‘G’ for another ‘G’
I have swapped guilt for gratitude. It is impossible to feel any form of guilt or negativity when you are existing in a state of gratitude. Before my feet touch the ground in the morning, I have given thanks for five things. I keep a constant gratitude journal and my inner-self talk is in constant thanks and awe for what I have, not focusing upon the what I feel bad about.
The guilt eases.
4. Guided Mediation
A simple search on YouTube and you will find a raft of short, powerful guided mediations that you can listen to intermittently and depending upon your mood, guilt is the last thing that you will be feeling. https://youtu.be/nCq5MkNem6k https://youtu.be/mcmMz3T3te8
Don’t get me wrong, I still feel that pangs when I rant and rave at my 16 year old son when I unearth piles of dishes in his bedroom; lose my temper when I am tired and I don’t want to watch the 73rd cartwheel that my daughter insists I watch. I blend my life; I bring my daughter to my office and we work together, and I Facetime my son to warn him of my imminent return and to clear his room.
The guilt eases.
I finally realised that it not my fault if in twenty years’ time my then 12-year-old son would get divorced, just because I did. If my then 5-year-old daughter goes off the rails at the age of 21, you know what, – it isn’t because I drank a bottle of wine and was late home one night and missed ballet the following day because of a hangover.
As my life as a working mum; a business owner and franchisor continues to whizz along, what I do know is that I am the happiest I have ever been and as me and Ellie sit in the office working away, I can say today I don’t feel guilty at all.
Sharon Cawley is the Principal Director of Conexus Tuition Franchising Ltd
For further information on how you can become a business owner and a Principal of your own tuition company download the Conexus Prospectus here.https://www.conexustuition.co.uk/franchise/