How to not Feel Guilty as a Working Mom

How to not Feel Guilty as a Working Mom

14 May 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 3 mins

In the past, it was typical for a mother to stay at home and take care of the house and children. It is much more common now for both parents to work full-time, yet often moms continue to be responsible for the majority of child-rearing and household tasks. Even if we are feeling stressed by all our responsibilities, we still might feel guilty for even thinking that we need a break from them. As a working mom, my wish for you is to be kind to yourself, even if it may not be possible to eradicate feelings of guilt all the time.

Here are some ways to help you not feel guilty as a working mom, and help you deal with guilt when it does arise:

Identify your accomplishments

We are often very aware of our faults or shortcomings as parents. We might be focusing so much on these that we forget about all the things we are doing amazingly well. A strategy that can help here is to start an “affirmation diary,” where each day you write down something you did that you are proud of. When you need an extra boost, you can remind yourself of your accomplishments by reading through previous affirmations before starting your new entry.

Challenge the emotion

When you are feeling guilty, ask yourself, “Am I being fair to myself?” If you feel guilty for not spending enough time with your child, ask yourself if you have the time or energy to spare. If not, you might be making yourself feel guilty for something that you can’t change right away. What can you do in the future to help alleviate this guilt? Maybe you can set a specific time to spend time with your child(ren) over the weekends. You might be able to schedule a storytime at night, which can be a special bonding time.

Quantify your boundaries

If you have set boundaries, you can let go of some of the guilt you might be feeling. If you determine how much time you have available to spend with your child(ren), you can quantify these as mentioned above—a story per night and weekend activities. When you notice that you are starting to feel guilty, challenge the emotion as described above, and then ask yourself if you have been able to stick with your set boundaries. If you have, try and let go of the guilt and give yourself a break. Go for a walk, or try out a short guided meditation. You can focus on mindfulness activities in these moments to ground yourself again.

Presence as a present

With so many available toys and resources, it might be challenging to determine what of these are appropriate. In my experience, children are happiest when they spend quality time with their parents—when parents are fully present and actively involved in games or activities. Try to see the quality of time spent focused on your child as more important than the actual hours or the money spent. According to Genadek and Hill (2017), parents spending quality time with their children is positively related to their educational and cognitive outcomes. This study further examines how parents can schedule quality time in their daily calendar, which relates to the quantifiable boundaries mentioned earlier.

Be kind to yourself

I usually mention to parents in my practice that their children will benefit more from a rested, calm parent than one who might be feeling overwhelmed. Take care of yourself first. Make time for activities that refresh and restore you, and remind yourself that you are doing your best. The kinder you are to yourself, the more you will be able to recognize and let go of feelings of guilt.

Genadek, K. R., & Hill, R. (2017). Parents’ work schedules and time spent with children. Community, Work & Family, 20(5), 523–542.

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental