Sarah's blog: The guilt trap

I read an article once which I think summed it up perfectly – life as a working mum can seem like one long exercise of never measuring up!

I think the guilt factor is ever present for all parents and definitely gets ramped up as a working parent – well at least for me it certainly does.  There is the guilt of seeing your child grow up but not being there every step of the way, or of seeing them unhappy or struggling, or the guilt of having only that precious 60 minutes in an evening when everyone is tired and cranky, knowing that it really is not the most quality time you will spend together. And then there is the work guilt.

On the days I work in the City I tend to bring home a little treat for the children – in the early days it may have been a gummy bear or two from the packet I kept in my bag but it gradually progressed to more serious candy treats as they got older. We still call it their bed time treat (I never disclose this to the dentist!!)

When the children (frequently) ask me why I work, I have a stock of answers ready to go at this stage i.e.  I love being a mum but I love to work also, it’s part of who I am; The money allows us to do extra activities as a family that we would otherwise not get to do etc. etc. But when I hear little comments about how we are not home much or God forbid that I missed that harvest assembly (lets ignore the fact that I have managed to tick off all nativities, Easter bonnet parades and sports days!) I do know that it has probably resulted in some not so necessary purchases, but I like to think that still it is reasonably measured. Or maybe not…

Recently my rather astute 7 year old has started to try to up the stakes. One particular scheme started with talk of his birthday, which is still 6 months away but it is his favourite topic of conversation. So far so normal. Then he dropped into the discussion about how we would be taking him to Disney as his main present but he would have to think about what he would be getting as something he could unwrap! I can assure you the conversation of a Disney trip for his 8th birthday has never happened outside of his own little head and the more I tried to laugh it off the more offended and defensive he became, and the more offended and defensive I became!! We had a stand off until I decided to be the adult in the conversation and walk away!

However it did eventually lead to a talk about values (and reality). Hopefully some of it stuck and while the birthday present conversation has continued on, Disney seemingly has been pushed aside, for now at least. In the meantime I did some Goggling on the whole parent guilt thing and of course with all things on the internet you will always find a bigger story (thankfully!) – like the mum whose offices were beside the Lego store – you can guess how that story goes…. Or the rather heart-warming story of a mum who travelled a lot so she had a big valentine’s party for her daughter every year without fail.

But I did pick up some top tips along the way too – namely give myself a break and lower the bar of expectations on what I can do. The children are alive and well, happy, healthy and seemingly pretty clever (see the above paragraphs!). It’s easier said than done I know, but I’ll start with that.

Sarah has 2 children and has worked in financial services for 22 years.

Category: A Citymother's Diary


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