Monday, 1 October 2012

A mother's guilt over a new job

Parenting forums contain a common thread. Whether it's Britmums, Mumnet, Netmums or your local equivalent, there will be a mother on a forum mentally beating herself up for going to work.

In this blog post I am concerned with mums who choose to go back to work, but technically could probably stay home if they wanted. I am one of those mums.

I don't, technically, have to work.  But I was brought up in the late 70s and early 80s on a diet of material girl Madonna and the Brat pack.  My mum returned to work when I was about 12 yrs old and my sister had just started school.  I grew up learning to be financially independent by working with my mum in her hair salon on Saturday mornings as soon as I could.  If memory serves I was about 15 or 16 years old.  I have, since then, always had a job, whether its been working behind a bar 12 hours a week whilst at University or teaching dance for 3 hours a week whilst temping in an office for the rest of the week making endless cups of coffee.  

When I eventually grew up and trained for a career in Accountancy I found my forte.  I love it.   I absolutely love it.

Having children put a back burner on my career aspirations.  I had chosen to start a family so that became my priority.  I stopped pushing for promotion and settled into working well within my comfort zone for just 18 hours a week.   Whilst the girls were little this worked perfectly.  I wasn't stressing myself out trying to work up to the next level.  My work / life balance was pretty good.

However.... I started to get a little bored at work.  Add to that the upheaval in the NHS over the last 18 months and the very real possibility that my job would move 50 miles down the road, and I found myself looking for a new job slightly earlier than I'd anticipated.  Our younger daughter is one of the oldest in her year being a September baby and as such she missed out on starting school this September by only 2 weeks.  I have another 11 months of pre-school childcare to go.

But I spotted a perfect job.  It's local, it's a career step-up and it's still with the NHS doing the work I love.  I went for it.  What else could I do?

And now I've been offered a full time job.

I wanted the job. I applied. I was offered the job. I accepted. And I now feel guilty.

I shouldn't. My elder daughter (in year 2) is thrilled at the possibility of going to after-school club one day a week with her mates. I'll still drop them off and pick them up at least 20% of the time.  Their dad and their grandparents will do the drop offs and pick ups on the other days meaning that my husband will be getting more quality time with them than he gets now and they'll see their grandparents regularly, all of which is not a bad thing.  I'll be home before 5.30pm most of the time.  But it's the younger I feel more guilty about. She doesn't start school for another 9 months and I somehow feel it should be me, not dad or grandparents, that spends as much time with her as possible before then.  As I write that it looks ridiculous.  Parenting is a team effort and as long as she's loved by us both, how many pickups and dropoffs we each do won't make a bit of difference to her. 

If I think about it logically, our elder daughter, one of the youngest in her year, starting school when she was 4 years and 3 months.  By the time I start work at my new job I will have equally had 4 years and 3 months with the younger.  It couldn't get more equal. 

I just need to sort out the practicalities of childcare and recognise that I'm choosing to work 5 days a week, but that I still love her and will be picking her up early as often as I possibly can, even if it means working into the evening once she's asleep.  More often than not I'll work 8am til 4pm meaning I'm home in plenty of time for homework and reading books!

I love my work.  I love the challenge.  I love the excitement of year-end.  It's what makes me, me. 

So should I feel guilty?  Or can I just let it go and enjoy my success without the guilt? 

I appreciate that this is an emotive subject for many.  Please feel free to share your thoughts on the subject by commenting below or by connecting with me on facebook or twitter @ymummyreally.  Please respect other's views and be polite.  What works for one may not work for all.  Thank you.


  1. Hi, I have been working full time since my son was 6 months old and feel the guilt every day. I do have the advantage that my other half is a teacher so school holidays are sorted. But my son starts school next September and we have to figure out how we are going to do all the school drop offs and pick ups, as my son won't be in the same school as Daddy! For me, my work have the option of flexible hours, where in term time I can drop my son off everyday and pick him up at least twice with working from home, grandparents and maybe an after school club night and then in the school holidays when daddy would have him, I would have to work longer hours, yet this means I would still keep my much needed full time pay. Being a mum is hard, being a mum and working full time is even harder. But then I look at our wonderful son and know that we must be doing something right! Amanda

  2. I think it's extremely unlikely that you'll be able to get rid of the guilt, whatever anyone tells you - it's an intrinsic part of being a mother. You are lucky that you don't 'have' to work, and that you choose to do something that you absolutely love - I expect this will make it somewhat easier than if you were (a) having to work, and (b) didn't love what you did. Ultimately, if you are happy that is going to rub off on to your children - no point being a frustrated banshee forced to stay at home by guilt, but you have to accept that there will be things that you miss and I expect that however much you can rationalise it, you will inevitably feel guilty. It's a tough one - I work 6 hours a day at home and very flexibly so I can fit it all in around the kids, and I still find myself feeling guilty about things.

  3. Thanks for commenting ladies.

    I feel like I will never shake the guilt as, like you say, it's part of being a mum. No matter what you do, you are always doing it at the expense of something else.

    Good idea to look at the children and remember we must be doing something right. They are polite, happy, kind and generous. :-D

  4. Good for you! You sound like you want to work and you are making the childcare work for the family. You are lucky your husband and the grandparents can help, so you have nothing to feel guilty about. I work part-time and don't feel guilty as such, more torn. I don't want to work any more. My husband works stupid hours, so my kids need me. Don't know if I will ever be able to give up though!


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