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What can I do about my working mum’s guilt?

The problem with working mum’s guilt is that it doesn’t get you anywhere. In fact, it can actually working mum's guiltmake things worse. Parents who feel guilty about spending time apart from their children are far more likely to give in to whining or complaining. By giving in or reversing our decisions when children turn up the emotional (or actual) volume, we accidentally reward this type of behaviour and therefore make it more likely to reoccur. Home becomes a battleground – not because you work – but because of a misplaced belief that your working might somehow be bad for your children.

Banishing guilt is hard, but here are some ideas to get you started. 

Talk back to working mum’s guilt

It’s hard to stick to your guns and impose appropriate boundaries when a little voice is screaming “You’re mean!” and another little voice inside your head is telling you it’s all your fault. Talk back to those negative thoughts. She’s behaving that way because she is a child who hasn’t yet developed self- control, not because you go to work.

Have realistic expectations

When we feel like time with our children is limited, it can create pressure for that time to be 100% enjoyable. That’s an unrealistic expectation. No family has ever got through a whole day at a theme park without at least some tears or tantrums (and not always from the children!). No child is good all of the time and part of being a parent is learning how to impose boundaries and manage misbehaviour in a calm, fair and consistent way, no matter what the circumstances. Aiming for perfect family time will only lead to stress and disappointment.

Build a good relationship

Good relationships aren’t built on long days’ out or treats. It is the frequent repetition of attention that makes up the fabric of positive relationships. Make the most of those small, inconsequential ‘turn to’ moments when your child turns to you and asks you to look at what they are doing, or asks you a question, or tells you something that happened that day. Stop what you are doing and respond to them. Pay your child attention when they ask for it, even if only for 1 or 2 minutes at a time, and they will learn that you are available to them when they need you. Chat and listen to them, share experiences from your own day.

Separate work and home

If you can, when you are at home with your children, try not to think about work. Develop relaxing coming home rituals to ease the transition. Don’t carry the stress of work into the evening whirlwind of swimming lessons, dinner, homework, bath and forgotten-assignments-due-tomorrow. You will be more productive and effective at work if you take a proper break from it. When you are at home, be at home 100% and, hopefully, you’ll have a lot less brain space for that pesky working mum’s guilt!

A version of this post originally appeared on

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©Anita Cleare 2015

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The Work/Parent Switch.

By Anita Cleare

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8 responses to “What can I do about my working mum’s guilt?”

  1. Some great advice there. My mummy worries that she doesn’t spend as much time as she should with me…but this post has made her feel a bit better. We’re lucky that we get to spend full weekends and one day during the week to hang out with each other 🙂 #BrilliantBlogPosts

  2. Great advice, although I work from home one day week (so I can do the school run) so for me it’s not possible to switch off at home on that day. Luckily my boys understand when I am working from home so are generally very good. I also tend not to use my laptop when they are around (on non working days) and save any work that needs doing for the evenings when they are in bed. I do think I need to work on using my phone less though as this is probably more distracting! #BrilliantBlogPosts

  3. @SarahAnneDG says:

    These are all great points, especially about the moments of attention and the setting of realistic expectations. I’ve been trying to do those things more, and I do feel the balance is much easier to find and that the guilt does ease because our time when we are together is much more positive, for all of us.


  4. Firstly, welcome to #PoCoLo and thank you so much for linking. You are so right about this. Grace has been pretty lucky up until a few months ago as I mainly worked from home. Now my hours are more set and she sees a bit less of me. As a result, she does turn on the guilt comments about not seeing me! In turn I explain to her that it will mean that all the time we do spend together is more precious and I am working hard to be able to afford better things. Hope to see you again x

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