Why do mothers feel guilty? I believe that mothers – working or otherwise – are conditioned by their need to be perfect mothers to feel guilty. I have come to the conclusion that guilt is ubiquitous – working moms feel guilty that they are away from home and not spending enough time with their kids, stay-at-home-moms feel guilty as they are not able to contribute to their children’s college fund, mothers with a single child feel guilty that their child may be lonely……the list goes on. Whatever the choice a mother makes, she is bound to feel guilty about it.
So, how does one deal with this? The trick is in realizing that guilt springs from the feeling that you are not doing ‘enough’ or participating ‘enough’ in your child’s life. I would advise all mothers prone to such inadequacies to take a reality check and accept that nobody can be a perfect mother. Whether one is a working mother or a stay-at-home mom, there will always be areas where one is not able to do ‘enough’. Agonizing about them does not serve any purpose and it has the added drawback of your child picking up on your guilt and taking advantage to get her own way. Recognize your limits and say a firm ‘No’ when necessary, this allows your child to learn some important life lessons and makes her more independent. After all, we live in an imperfect world and the sooner our children realize that they cannot have everything their way, the better.
If you are a working mother and have had a particularly busy time at the office that has perhaps forced you to miss important events in your child’s life, don’t mourn, and don’t feel guilty. Instead, make amends. Take a day off or a few hours off and reconnect with your child by doing all the things the two of you love doing together. The time you spend together will be valued by your child when she realizes that you have taken time off just to be with her. This will also give you an opportunity to assess if you would be happier being a 24*7, ‘on call’ parent. In all probability, you will reaffirm the life choice you have made which will enable you to get on with your life with a lesser degree of guilt. Working mothers also need to consider that they would perhaps be miserable stay-at-home moms. They may need the stimulation of working to be happy and fulfilled, and could turn into bored, irritable and frustrated women if they quit. Children need quality time with their parents and a miserable parent will definitely be detrimental to the quality of parent-child interactions.
It is important for mothers to balance their personal needs with being perfect mothers -putting themselves all out for their children is not healthy – neither for them or for their kids. Both, mothers and kids need space to grow, and a helicopter mother who ‘smothers’ her child with attention and advice will ultimately harm her child’s self-esteem. Give yourself a break….and stop trying to be a perfect mom!