The Guilt of a Working Mom

The guilt of a working mom

The guilt of a working mom is a real thing. A very, very real thing. I define this as

A working women feeling guilty about not spending enough time with her kid when she is at work and then, not giving her 200% at work because she has a kid to look after.

There are several things flawed here.

The first is that women are conditioned to feel this way. The environment we are in and the world around us does that. We put people who have achieved extra ordinary success in their career on a pedestal and worship them. How often do we take the effort to learn about their character traits, their habits and the skills they developed? How often do we get exposed to the true story of every sacrifice they made, everything they gave up to be where they are? Very rarely I would say. However, these women become role models and we try to emulate their professional success. Unaware of their situation, we beat ourselves up for not achieving heights of professional success and increase our efforts at work. If we are unable to do that, it just adds to our stress.

The Guilt of a Working Mom


On the other hand is the idealistic definition of a perfect mother. Can you define the perfect mother? let me help you. Close your eyes for a moment and think about the early images of mother you were exposed to. Yes, I am talking illustrations with nursery rhymes or kids story books. I am talking charts and stickers in kindergarten when relationships are first explained to children. What is the picture of the mother you recollect? In most cases it would be a demure looking lady in conservative clothes with a backdrop of a well kept home, a neat and happy child in her arms or lap. She could be feeding the kid or helping them study. You know what I am talking about. Right?

The Guilt of a Working Mom

Working moms are trying to chase both these goals at the same time – A highly successful career woman and a loving, nurturing perfect mother.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Working moms are trying to chase both these goals at the same time – A highly successful career woman and a loving, nurturing perfect mother.” quote=”Working moms are trying to chase both these goals at the same time – A highly successful career woman and a loving, nurturing perfect mother – Tweet This if you agree!” theme=”style6″]

The PTAs, the school plays, the storytelling sessions, the music recitals, the football practice, the basketball match and every little activity the child does must have mom’s attention. The homework, projects and exams need to be managed with the same attention to detail as meetings, deliverables and team management at work. On the other hand, as we grow in our careers, going that extra mile to make an impression, assignments turned around faster than expected, taking on projects not in KRA, late evening overseas calls, early morning breakfast meetings all these require adjustments that get tougher and tougher to balance. This is what I mean by showing 200% commitment to your job. Because these days, 100% just isn’t enough.

The Guilt of a Working Mom

In my experience, women have to continuously prove at the work place that they are dedicated to their jobs. Men on the other hand, are assumed to be so just because of their gender. It gets even tougher for a working mother because everyone just assumes that the child is her first priority. Even though she gives no indication, it is assumed that she is tied to the city, the office and the role because she has a family and a child. Without asking her, it is assumed that she won’t be willing to travel, won’t take risks and pass up opportunities that are challenging. Hence the need to show extra dedication intensifies in the head of the working mom.

To top this, any flexibility given to a working mom is passed off as a favour. It does not matter that she delivers all that her KRA demands. It is the use of this flexibility and how grateful she should be that takes precedence in her performance evaluation; thus making a case against a good pay rise or a level change. This widens the pay gap between genders and firmly affixes a glass ceiling on a working mom’s head. Can you imagine the stress this causes? Can you imagine what kind of anxiety this creates? Beyond a point she starts questioning the point if all this and wonders if she is better off giving up her financial independence. She starts to believe she will be happier letting go of her ambitions and surround herself with kids. Isn’t this a big reason for women dropping out of the workforce? If she chooses to battle it out, every day is s never ending hustle of juggling multiple priorities, of multiple tasking with several different hats at the same time.

The Guilt of a Working Mom

But you know the biggest problem here? It is the judgements she gets from people around her. Now it is all very well to say one should not care and live life the way they want but if you stay surrounded be people, you do care about how others perceive you. But going through it on a daily basis can break down even the toughest of women. I firmly believe that she needs a very strong support system around her to function effectively.

Working moms need unwavering support from their spouse, extended family and friends to function. They can function better as mothers and career women if we take off the pressure of excelling at all things all the time

I am lucky to have this kind of support. And all those who do, must be grateful and never take it for granted. To every one else, please support working moms in your world. Even if it is an encouraging word telling them that they are doing a great job, it can do wonders to their morale.

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34 thoughts on “The Guilt of a Working Mom”

  1. I am sure I commented on this post but unfortunately it did not go through! Even when I work on my blog from home there is this guilt but aswoman who have ambitions, don’t we want to do something for ourselves too? I think Guilt is part of being a mom, but being a mom with work is important too, keeps you sane <3

  2. Have been there. And finally had to quit job bcoz baby couldn’t cope. But actually the main reason of women opting is work pressure both at home and work.. and no one ever gets satisfied inspite of giving 200%.

  3. The guilt is directly related to the society’s judgment. Frankly I am WAHM and I feel guilty at the same level. It requires us to be blind and deaf to what others say and think about us and just focus on balancing the two worlds in the best of our capacity.

  4. I think guilt comes when you dont have supporting family around you … Since I have family who support my work and takes care of my kid, I dont feel. Guilty at all when I return back

  5. Beautifully expressed! Can’t agree more. It’s not easy being a mother and when we have so much on our shoulders it gets overwhelming. Having a support system in place is a blessing which many aren’t lucky to have. As you rightly said just a few words of appreciation is all we can do to encourage mothers who are trying to manage work and home both.

  6. Thankfully I realized the importance of being a Guilt Free Parent early on in my parenting & professional journey. Of course I can not be perfect in all that I do, but being enough is enough at times. This article is beautiful & all working parents need to read this.

  7. I totally agree and i can relate with everything you’ve mentioned here as i had been there and I could understand your emotions very well.

  8. “Working moms need unwavering support from their spouse, extended family and friends to function. They can function better as mothers and career women if we take off the pressure of excelling at all things all the time” . Perfectly expressed !!!

  9. All mothers whether working or not can relate to this very well. The pressure to prove themselves is always there be it as a caring loving mother or a dedicated professional. I really hope and wish that people start understanding what we women go through and offer their support to beat the blues.

  10. “They can function better as mothers and career women if we take off the pressure of excelling at all things all the time” I just hope people understand this and not make it tough for a mother who is trying to make a living and caring for her family simultaneously.

  11. Moms already have enough in their plates to worry about. And criticism on their motherhood instead of supporting is just not fair. Does anyone question a father? Do we have a status of fathers as working fathet or SAHfather? So, why overload a mother when she is already doing her best… Stay strong mothers.

  12. Very well said, Ankita. Mothers are loaded with their own guilt, but the society does nothing to alleviate it, in fact, it sometimes just does the opposite and ride on the mother’s guilt to make her look culpable. Mothers need to stay strong – they are doing their best and that’s what matters.

  13. You hit the nail on its head. And the worst part is most of the times it is women judging other women. even as a WFH mom I faced dilemmas similar to these. Damned if you do and damned if you dont.

  14. Dr. Surbhi Prapanna

    I had been there and I could understand your emotions very well. you had expressed it so wonderfully. #surbhireads

  15. A very relevant post. I m not a mother but I understand the issue. We live in a strange siciett where a woman bears the child in her womb and is expected to take primary care of the child even though the child inevitably inherits the father’s name (excluding outliers). Father’s should step up to take larger share og responsibility in upbringing since they get the credits anyway 😉

  16. Well written post. What others think becomes irrelevant after a while but what matters is for a woman to break the stereotype in her own mind and life. Superwomen are fictional characters that we try to become in real lives.

  17. You said it right. It is the judgements that pull women down. Imagine a world where such judgements aren’t made about anyone. Can’t even imagine such a world, isn’t it? It goes the same for a homemaker. She, who toils night and day for the family and puts herself at the end of the priority list has to still face the barbs about how she has no knowledge about the world so she better shut her mouth and go back to her kitchen! Whatever we may do, these judgements and those comments will always be there to make us feel inferior and undervalued.

  18. What a great post. I can relate to every word. How I wish I had some support, as back home in India… it’s tough juggling work, home, kids and yourself

  19. You are true , a working women need support from her spouse , family , I too work from home, and sometimes it difficult to manage everything but somehow I manage

  20. Very well narrated. There are families who feels it as a favour if they at all allow the mother to work and pursue a career. The Guilt feeling is a REAL ONE. I also agree that surrounding often make women feel this way. However, today’s women can change that mindset by making next gen, understand the reality. Loved your post 🙂

  21. Such a true guilt this is, I have faced this and I remember the golden words my boss told to me. never take any decision in 15 minutes after you reach home and see your baby:)

  22. Well said Anks! A topic I am so passionate about as a working mom and a writer. Its never easy for a woman and I fail to understand when these biases will end. A few days back I was discussing the same with a good friend who is also passionate about her career but we find so few women at the top and the reasons are never justified. Believe in yourself and stop trying to be superwoman, its ok to not be able to read that bedtime story or cook a four course meal- once this sinks it life is easier.

  23. This is a topic close to my heart. I could never imagine me quitting my career. But the thought of putting my little one at a child care at 5 months of age looked very difficult for me specially because I dont have anyone from my family / extended family in my city. The very thought of not fulfilling my duties as a mom or an employee completely was painful. I work from home on my own stuff and that gets difficult too with the now three year old because when he wants attention i want to give it to him and when i cant because of work when he wants to play i still feel guilty though i am in the next room or the same!

  24. I agree with you and I believe every woman deserves some encouragement. A woman today is educated and for whatever reason she chooses to stay home or work it should be respected as that is her personal decision.

  25. I completely agree. Every mother goes through the guilt at some point of time, but there is not need to stress ourselves much. We need not be 100% in everything. We can be our best selves. The support of the family makes a hell lot of difference.

  26. You have brought a very relevant topic Ankita. I totally agree with you on these points. Being a working Woman and a mother even I have seen many situations but one thing I always believed in Stay strong and DO what makes you happy which means “Kuch to log kahenge logon ka kaam hai kehna” We should believe in ourself. Kudos!

Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Let me know your thoughts :)