The Guilt Factor

On planning my return from maternity leave I recall saying to a coffee morning group of mums how excited I was at the prospect of returning to work. This was a few years back, but the response I received was interesting and, sadly, remains far too common. I could almost see them pulling their chairs away as they cast furtive glances around the coffee shop to see if anyone had overheard.

“You can think those things but you shouldn’t say them out aloud, it makes us come across as bad mums”, one Mum whispered. The rest nodded in agreement.

I have never felt guilty about being a working mum nor about having career aspirations. While I have respect for the women who choose to quit work for full-time motherhood, I fall into the 45% who are happy career mums. I share Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” point of view: I would rather spend most of my salary on childcare and remain in the work force than not.

This life choice has prompted many remarks: most enquiring how I was coping with the guilt; some trying to make me feel guilty.

“I may have quit my job but I am at least raising my children myself, and that is more rewarding than work itself”, is the mantra I hear the most.

Now my conscience is clear because besides enjoying my work life and my career, I also know that I am also providing a positive role model for my son. He sees me working and he knows it is important to me. He also knows that on weekends we have quality time and I make sure that we do special things together. Working does not mean I love him any less or am compromising his upbringing. The fact that I also have a career does not mean that I am not a hands on Mum — it may take a bit more organisation and planning but I  am focused on all aspects of his life.

Even if statistics reveal that working moms spend on average 81 minutes per day to childcare, here are some facts consider from a recent article in the Telegraph:

  1. Stay-at-home mothers did not spend more of their time directly caring for their children.
  2. The important thing is that some of the time is spent on activities that are child-led.
  3. Psychologists said it was more important how the time caring for children was used, and that less time than 81 minutes could be enough if it included fun activities which were sufficiently bonding.

We have all of our meals together on the weekend and make a big deal when it’s Friday! He also knows that I will do my best to come to the Christmas show and parent teacher meetings. But most important of all, he knows that he can count on me!