A recent survey by Working Mother magazine found that 57 percent of working mothers feel guilty every day, and 31 percent feel guilty at least once a week. That means almost all working mothers feel guilty at some point.
I’m not surprised by their findings. To be honest, I think the magazine would get similar results if they polled stay-at-home moms or work-at-home moms. Regardless of whether — or how much — they work, the moms I know, on the whole, feel guilty.
Why? If they work outside the home, moms feel guilty that they can’t always go to show-and-tell, volunteer at school, or be at home with their kids during the day. If they work at home, they feel guilty that they’re giving short shrift to both their job and their kids. And if they are stay-at-home moms, they feel guilty that they’re not setting a good example for their daughters by working or not contributing to the family finances.
As someone who works at home, I feel that in many ways, I enjoy the best of both worlds. I get the benefits of a pay check and professional credentials, but I also get to go on class trips and pick my kids up from school. But I still feel guilty that I’m not doing more — cooking and cleaning, exercising, volunteering. After all, shouldn’t I be lovingly preparing a homemade meal of organic, fresh ingredients for a nightly family dinner? Maybe I should sew my kids’ clothes while I’m at it.
Of course, guilt is only human and it can be productive if it spurs you to make changes in your life. But if it festers, it can also be a big drag for you and your family.
“The danger is that an overdose of guilt can be a complete waste of time and energy, especially if it traps you in a negative cycle of thoughts,” psychologist Dana Dorfman tells Working Mother Magazine.
I think the problem is that today’s Super Moms feel that they’re not successful unless they can do it all. Earlier this week, my Strollerderby colleague Sierra Black wrote about how perfectionism and parenting don’t mix. So don’t even try to strive for perfection. How about good enough? Cut yourself some slack and take some time to pat yourself on the back for everything you do right.
Do you feel guilty about working or not working?