The Guilt of a Working Mum

Over the last week, I have been really struggling with a horrible cold/virus thing that’s been doing the rounds. I’ve been absolutely floored by it. It has resulted in me cancelling and rescheduling a LOT of private consultations, rescheduling many meetings and letting my inbox overflow with requests from desperate parents needing their children to sleep through the night.

Did I feel guilty having to do this? Absolutely! Would I let it happen that way again? Absolutely!
You see, the guilt of letting someone down, knowing that they are depending on you is horrible. It’s like an unfulfilled promise. An abandoning of my duty to my clients. But I’m lucky. I’m my own boss. I’m responsible for my team and I. There’s no-one above me that I feel I’m letting down as well. I’m one of the lucky ones.
Many working Mums (when I say working Mums, I am referring to Mum’s that have paid jobs as well as unpaid home based jobs) have the guilt from all angles. I call it the “Mummy guilt Trifecta”.

Imagine you’re in the office and you get the phone call… “Hi Trish, It’s Tara from Day-care, Jacqui isn’t well. She’s got a temperature. We need you to come pick her up”. Your heart sinks. You’re worried about your child being unwell but now you’ve got the “Mummy guilt Trifecta!”
1. You can’t fulfil your promises to your clients/patients/employees
2. You are loading up your colleagues who are already struggling to stay on top of their workloads
3. Your Boss is going to be PISSED!!!!! Are they going to eventually become fed up of you taking time off every time “your child sneezes”? That’s the immediate reaction.

What your Boss, colleagues and clients may not see is your dedication to everything and everyone around you.

They don’t see you getting up at 5am just to make sure that the dog is fed, the kids lunches are packed, breakfasts are prepared and eaten, children are dressed, teeth brushed, bags packed and that’s not even touching on what you need to do for you!

They don’t see you rushing out the door, dropping the kids off at childcare and trying to beat the traffic to get to work on time.
They don’t understand why you should get a special break once or twice a day so you can go to a quiet room and express your child’s food for tomorrow.

They don’t see you worry about the deadlines that must be met before you go home, cutting it very fine for day-care closing.

They don’t see you rushing to pick your child up after work, cooking dinner, bathing and trying to get some precious quality time with your child before bed.

They don’t see you trying to catch up on all your work that you didn’t manage to get to that day, working till 10pm before giving in to the fatigue.

They don’t see that even though she’s 12 months old, she still wakes 4 times a night. And yet, you get up and do it all again the next day.

It’s no coincidence that in Australia, the largest growing industry is small and micro businesses that are run from home by Mums. Mum’s taking back control of their lives, in their terms, allowing them the flexibility that both she and her family need. Some are fortunate enough to be able to do this. Others, not so.

So, next time you’re at work and a fellow employee needs to rush home to her sick child, stop and think about what’s going on for her more than the inconvenience to you. Because I guarantee you, she is feeling worse than you are about it.
Goodnight and sleep well, even if it’s just for a few hours.

Emma Pollard
The Goodnight Nurse