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From The Vault: Letting go of working mum guilt 

By Vicki Edwards 

Starting and running a business takes hard work, motivation, and persistence. It’s an exciting venture, but one that comes with its fair share of obstacles and challenges. However, when you’re a mother, you may also face an additional struggle that can make it harder to continue – the overwhelming feelings of guilt that come with balancing work and motherhood.  

For most people, welcoming a baby into your life can be an indescribable joy. However, it also means a significant adjustment is required, which can double your to-do list overnight. And, when you inevitably cannot complete some of these tasks, it’s common to feel inadequate or guilty, especially for mums who run their own businesses. But these emotions are normal – in fact, 94% of mothers experience them. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and struggling to cope with these feelings, here are some ways to help you manage them. 

Set realistic expectations 

Setting realistic expectations is crucial when it comes to managing both motherhood and running a business. Acknowledging that you cannot do everything and be everywhere at once is the first step to finding a healthy balance. It is important to set realistic expectations for yourself and your business, keeping in mind your limitations and available resources. Trying to accomplish too much can lead to stress and burnout, which can ultimately affect your productivity and well-being. By setting achievable goals, you can avoid overwhelming yourself and focus on what truly matters. 

Make a list of the essential tasks that need to be accomplished each day and prioritise them based on their level of urgency. This will help you stay organised and ensure that you are focusing on what needs to be done rather than feeling guilty about what you haven’t been able to do. By staying focused on your priorities, you can be more present with your family and give your business the attention it needs without feeling guilty about neglecting either. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help 

It is important to remember that you are not superhuman, and it is okay to ask for help when you need it. If you have a partner, ask them if they can pitch in on tasks that are not already on their list, to free up some time for you to spend with your kids. If you can afford it, consider hiring someone to assist with tasks such as laundry or cleaning. If hiring help is not an option, reach out to relatives or friends for support. 

One trick you can use to spend time with your children, whilst also ticking off household tasks that they are capable of doing, is making it a fun and enjoyable game for everyone. Being open with your children is also key. Explain to them that in order to spend more time together doing the things you both love, there must be a little bit of work involved. Having someone else lend a hand will also improve your mental health. 

Prioritise time with children and loved ones 

Juggling a business alongside being a parent means that your other relationships may take the backseat, so it is essential to schedule time with your children and loved ones. Make sure that you put time aside that is both business- and phone-free, and the quality time you have together is not interrupted. Spending time with your significant other is vital in maintaining a strong emotional connection, and it will help your child understand the importance of valuing relationships. 

It is important to remember that you are not superhuman, and it is okay to ask for help when you need it” 

Avoid the comparison trap with other parents 

Making comparisons often leads to feelings of inadequacy and guilt. The next time someone wants to compare how early your kids started walking or how long you breastfed your babies, politely change the subject. Remember, you and your child are unique – embrace the parent you are and the child you have. 

Making comparisons often leads to feelings of inadequacy and guilt. It can be particularly hard when talking to mums who have decided to stay home with their child. Remember that you and your child are unique and embrace the parent you are and the child you have. Involve your children in your day if you can and share your day with them if you cannot. Your kids will benefit a whole lot more if you follow your dream. 

Finally, if guilt continues to plague your days and prevents you from enjoying your life, you may benefit from talk therapy with a mental health professional. When kept to yourself, mum guilt can feel very isolating and lead to more mental health problems, so it is essential to seek help if you start feeling overwhelmed. Although it is not technically a diagnosis, the heaviness and impact that guilt can have on overall daily functioning are alarming. Finding healthy support from peers and professional support groups can be incredibly validating. 

About the author: Vicki Edwards is a clinical psychologist and for the past five years has been the clinical director at The Purple House Clinic Leicester. She specialises in associate recruitment, service development and employee mental health and well-being. 

This first appeared in our May 2023 issue.