Mummy guilt comes in many forms – from what you feed your little one, to how you should spend more time doing amazing arts and crafts projects like your coffee group friends do with their children (and why do their efforts always look amazing while yours look NOTHING like the picture on Pinterest!?). But for many of us, weighed down with high rents, mortgages, and the ever increasing cost of living, one of the biggest causes of mummy guilt is the need to return to work.
The decision to place your (in some cases barely months old) baby into care is a very hard one to make. As a parent, you may simply need to cover the weekly bills or you may have other motivations or obligations, but whatever your reason, you know that you made a decision that is ultimately in the best interests of you and your family.
That doesn’t stop people passing comment on your decision of course, although the concept of families with both parents working is now the norm. Lots of comments passed in conversation probably aren’t meant to make you feel bad – but when you would rather be home with your child, or you just missed out on going to their Christmas break-up or sports day, it stings.
But you are not alone – the concept of mummy guilt is an international phenomenon and at PORSE we’re all on that same journey with you. As an organisation with a workforce consisting predominantly of working mums, we get it. You should never feel guilty for making the decision that is right in your circumstances, and for your child – we know it’s not a decision you make lightly.
As we go to print, some of our team are on maternity leave and some are sending their babies off to University (that comes around faster than you think), but we have all gone through the challenge of being a working mum (or dad).
In addition to our own experiences as working parents, we have helped thousands of families as they transition out of maternity leave and back into work.
The PORSE philosophy is built on the science of attachment theory – how the relationships between children and the caregivers in their life impact on that most critical period of brain development, from birth to age three and beyond.
We know how important it is for children to build a strong relationship with their educator, but also for parents and educators to have a good connection. As a parent, you can’t focus on work if you're worried about the wellbeing of your baby. You should rest easy knowing that if you can’t be with them, they are getting the next best thing – an educator who will cuddle them, keep them clean and safe, and make sure their routine is maintained, all while supporting them to learn and develop through play.
So, with this in mind, here are a few of our tips for reducing your mummy guilt!
Know who is caring for your child
Choosing your childcare provider carefully is the first step to alleviating guilt. You need to feel confident that your child will feel safe, secure and loved because that is what they need for healthy development. Knowing that they are in their 'home away from home' also keeps the guilt and stress at bay while you are at work.
Your children are influenced by those who care for them, so focus on the person and place less importance on the facilities (excluding safety of course!).
“We know it’s hard at the start - that first day when you drop your most precious being off is nerve-wracking,” said Naomi Fergusson, PORSE Marketing & Communications.
“I wasn’t working at PORSE when I made the decision to go with home-based care – I had visited centres in my area, but my daughter was only ten months old at the time and they just seemed too big and overwhelming. When I met my educator Janet and saw how she interacted with my daughter, it just felt more natural and calm. I felt confident she could provide the attention and affection I felt was so important.”
Reduce their separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is a normal part of childhood and reflects the attachment relationship your child has formed with you. Take the time to let your child build confidence with their educator by staying with them until they seem comfortable.
For PORSE Education & Training General Manager, Erin Maloney, one thing that has worked for her was to leave her son with something he associated with her.
“If Jack is upset when I leave him to go to work, I give him one of my ‘special items’ – like a photo, a piece of jewellery, or a scarf to look after while I’m at work. It allows him to still feel connected to me when I’m not there and eases my mummy guilt about going in the first place.”
If your employer is willing, it’s also beneficial to transition back into work – either doing a few hours from home or working part-time and building back into full-time hours.
PORSE General Manager Kerry Henderson transitioned back into work over time, taking advantage of the Nanny Intern Programme after her son was born, to work from home.
“Having Jess there in the early days built all of our relationships and gave me the confidence to go back to work knowing he was at home in his environment and in good care.”
Once you are back into the swing of work, find ways to keep fuelling that special connection with your child. When you aren’t working, be present with your children (and your partner), and have a strategy for leaving work stress at the front door.
“I love getting my Storypark online journal updates through the day – seeing pictures of Ben during the work day helps me to know he is having a really good time with his educator,” says Kerry.
“As he’s gotten older, we can use his journal to talk about his day over dinner.”
Making the most of her time at home is also important to Kerry, who is conscious of not taking work home in the evenings.
“It can be really hard to switch off when work is busy, but being 'fully present with your presence' is important. It helps to have a special thing you do to have that one-on-one time with your children – bath time, story time, special play time when you get home – something to always look forward to
and be fully focused on.”