Guilt and the working mum

Busy mom with two children works on laptop kitchen


Some 85 per cent of working mums say they feel guilty about working, according to a survey.

According to the poll of over 320 working mums only 15% said they didn’t feel guilty. Women mentioned working longer hours and less flexibly than they want to and other people’s attitudes as being behind this sense of guilt.

One woman said: “I do love working, but I do feel guilty when I’m not around my children. I would love to work 3-4 days and have some extra time with my children. The working week is just a write-off for me, I leave the house at 7am and am not home until 6.30. My three children go to bed at 7.30pm, so I’m lucky to get an hour with them; I’m usually tired and they are too so it’s generally fraught. I feel like my life is disappearing and my children are growing up without me.”

Another who works full time said she didn’t feel guilty because her employer was very flexible. The problem was more other people’s attitudes. She said: “I do have friends that think I work a lot. They are stay at home mums or have a business of their own and choose to work “as and when”. They are the ones who make mindless comments unintentionally that then brings on the guilt. I think there are a lot of mums out of work but if companies would allow them more flexibility the organisations would thrive.”

However, several mums questioned why they should feel at all guilty about working.

One said: “I don’t feel guilty for being a working mum, as if I didn’t work i would not be able to provide for my children. However, I do feel guilty that I have to put a lot of responsibility on my eldest child.”

For another, working made her “a saner person”. She said: “My time away from my daughter makes me a saner person, and then I am able to spend more quality time with her. She is looked after by her father, or occasionally her aunt and uncle or granny if we’re both working.”

One mother questioned why men are never asked similar questions. She asked: “Would the same question be posed to working fathers? Most of us would like to spend more time with our children. However, some of us are not in a position to stay at home and do so! I personally believe I am setting a good example for my daughter by working. Women are so quick to complain that the labour market is not fair on them yet they allow themselves to feel guilty for working…I don’t get it!

There is no shame in wanting to provide for your child. What we should be asking is what are organisations (regardless of size) doing to accommodate parents and their child care commitments. I would like to believe that there are more working parents than not, so why not make things better for us than trying to find negativity with us choosing to work?

Another asked: “I don’t understand why the ‘yes’ vote is so high. Why do something if you feel guilty? I’m skeptical of the ‘I have no choice but to work’ reason. Maybe the guilt comes from not ackowledging that you DO have a choice, but you prefer not to choose poverty.”

One mum who had chosen not to work while her children were very young said she would have felt guilty if she had gone back, but she feared it was going to be hard to get back into work. “I’m kind of scared of going back to work and I think I have lost my social skills or the ability to interact with other people who are not mums,” she said.

Comments [3]

  • Bex says:

    I don’t usually comment on such threads but my experience was different. My partner was jealous of the time I spent with our son when he was first born and he was working, which led us to swap when our son was 9 months in order to make it fair for my partner. And we do live on the poverty line, with me on minimum wage and having to be away for over 50 hours a week in order to make ends meet. It has made me stronger but by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do as I had seen myself as a stay at home mum, and not the other way around

  • Anonymous says:

    I have always worked, and felt guilty. I could never drop her off at nursery or school I got too tearful. A few years ago, she called me at work screaming, some girls had seen her going home followed her and kicked the door in to rob her.
    Fortunately good neighbours were there before the police arrived one girl dropped a school book that a neighbour retrieved and gave to the police another had even caught them walking by on cctv. With all that the police caught and convicted 5 girls. My daughter could not stay in the house alone, from that day I have not worked.

  • Anonymous says:

    When I first faced the pressure of juggling work and family I decided to start my own business so that I could call the shots and manage my own diary. It's now become a business that empowers many other working mums to juggle family and career – see for more details.

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