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Whether you work or stay at home (or both), there is one thing that unites all mothers: mum guilt. Like many things related to motherhood, mum guilt is personal. We all have our own version.
Of course, not every mum will feel guilty about the decisions she makes regarding work and motherhood. Some take great offense at the idea that any woman would feel guilty about the choices she makes for her career and family. However, the fact is that many mothers do struggle with career guilt and that it can strike regardless of whether you work sixty hours per week or don’t work at all.
Society is no help in this area—if you have a job and place your kids in outside care, you’re a “neglectful, inattentive mother.” If you don’t work at all, you’re a lazy sellout who failed to lean-in. It’s a double bind with no winners.
Having spent time as both a full-time working mum and a work-from-home/stay-at-home mum, I know the issues both sides face. I know there are no easy answers either way and that each road comes with its own challenges and sacrifices.
However, I believe it’s time we ditch the career guilt once and for all—for several reasons.
We know our families best.
For one, we know our families best. The choices we make for our families are our own. We make these decisions with our partners (or independently in the case of single mums) based on our knowledge of our own circumstances.
What works for one mum may not work for another, and that’s fine. We should feel fiercely protective of our decisions in the same way we are fiercely protective of our children.
Any outsider who tries to second guess or criticise our decisions does so with less knowledge, less investment, and no right to get involved.
Careers have peaks and valleys.
If you feel guilty for taking some time off from your career to raise your family, don’t. Careers have peaks and valleys. Some of the most incredible working mums I know are women who took time off at some point in their careers.
These are women who took at least a year or more off from work after having children who then went on to found their own law firms, work as commissioners of state agencies, teach in academia, and serve in public office.
A career is a lifelong thing. It changes as we do. You are the owner of your career. You make the rules.
Your life, your story.
Further, even if you never return to the workforce after having kids, that’s your business. If that is an option available to you, your decision is supported by your partner, you feel fulfilled by your path, and the choice is right for your family, then you should never second guess it.
Go with your gut and go with your heart.
You are a trailblazer.
Regardless of what you do, know that you are a trailblazer. Whatever road you travel will show other women that your path is available to them as well. You will be proof that one can successfully return to the office with a baby at home. Or that you can walk away from a career and still feel happy and fulfilled. Or that a working mum can take time off from her career and later return stronger than ever.
I know it’s not easy to ignore mum guilt. I know that you can quiet all the outside voices and still contend with the ones within and that they may be the most critical of all. Still, it’s important that you try your best to set the guilt aside and be confident in the choices you’ve made.
Is mum guilt something you struggle with? How do you fight back against it?