It’s OK for Me to Still Be Me? A Therapist’s View on Being a Working Mother

Welcome to this BlogSpot where Psychotherapist Emily Reeve shares her experience of becoming a mother and subsequently returning to work.  Emily speaks openly about ‘Mummy Guilt’, and how she has come to manage her parenting worries with acceptance and love.

Emily Reeve RHCP Associate Counsellor

Emily Reeve RHCP Associate Counsellor

I want to share my experience of the most life changing event to happen to me so far, the event that has forever changed me as a person, I am of course talking about becoming a parent.

As soon as I became pregnant people were keen to impart their pearls of wisdom and offer advice. I felt as prepared as I could be for a change in my life that I had no concept of, and how could I? It is an entirely new world. But one thing I certainly was not prepared for was the new emotions I was about to feel, and that they would soon become my trusted companion. I would carry them around with me, every day and everywhere, and in particular what is commonly known as ‘Mummy Guilt’. It extends to all areas of parenthood so I am not suggesting this as a phenomenon that only mothers feel, but it has been my account being a mother. Even these two words do not encompass it for me, not only is there guilt, there is anxiety, judgement and pressure. I am faced with these feelings and challenges each and every day, and, if I let it, it would be all consuming.

I feel utterly responsible for my daughter’s happiness and well-being. I am often plagued with the ‘Shoulds’; Should I have done something different? Should I have done this or that? In the parenting world there are no quick decisions and anything I want to do I first consider the effect on my daughter. What used to be a treat for me, or something I would have just planned with only considering time is now littered with emotional turmoil. Should I be spending more time away from my daughter? Am I being fair? Will she think I love her any less? I am in emotional conflict with many, if not all of my decisions.

Since my return to work it seems to have increased and gained momentum. I feel guilty about everything, guilt for returning to work, guilt for not thinking about my daughter for an hour, guilt for enjoying being part of the adult world again. Guilt because actually it feels nice to feel like me again.

My guilt is emphasised by the fact I have always been a perfectionist. It is also another great means to beat myself up about my parenting. How do I manage this? How does anyone manage this? I have come to learn that by understanding that ‘mummy guilt’ is a natural part of the course for me, and not holding myself up to unachievable expectations. By understanding that it is born from a place of love. It’s ok for me to still be me and not feel guilty for enjoying the things I used to enjoy before becoming a mother. It’s ok to enjoy being back at work and enjoy being away from my daughter it doesn’t mean I love her any less. Being a mother is a part of me and a brilliant part, but it is not all that I am.

I am not perfect, none of us are and so by embracing my ‘mummy guilt’ I can teach my child not to have unrealistic aspirations. I learn to control my guilt rather that letting it control me. Guilt can be a useful tool, it can make us pay better attention to what we are doing as parents, it exists and occurs because we care, but I give myself permission to be a person in my own right and to extend that care and attention to myself. It’s okay to enjoy being back at work and feel like me again and that doesn’t mean I have failed at parenting. I follow my instincts for what is right for me and my family and it’s okay to make mistakes.

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