Over 70% of mothers with children under 18 are working mothers. So, socially, it is more typical to work (or work from home) than to stay at home with your kids. Based on that you would think that the norm would be an ABSENCE of mom guilt about returning to the workforce. But, it’s not the norm. So where does the working mom guilt come from?
If it’s not coming from what we experience TODAY socially, then the answer may lie with our PAST.
Working mom guilt may come from the conflict between our engrained beliefs about motherhood and our current goals for ourselves.
What does science say about mom guilt?
In 2017, a study was published by Queen Mary University proposing that “mom-guilt” for working mothers comes from trying to emulate their own mothers, who were SAHMs. The research discovered that these women wanted to “work like their fathers but want to parent like their mothers.”
This is the real root of the problem for so many of us working moms who were raised by SAHMs. We want to do it all—all that our mothers did AND all that our fathers did. And, when we fall short–we feel like crap and blame ourselves.
How do you measure success?
As Science Daily tells us, “the research raises awareness of the gap that often exists between unconscious expectations and conscious ambitions related to career and parenting.” Unconscious expectations that were created when we were kids observing how motherhood was “done.”
For those of us working moms who were raised by SAHMs, we saw how motherhood was done and that became the measuring stick for successful parenting. Unfortunately, that measuring stick for success doesn’t apply to 70% of us who rejoined the workforce.
Default Standards Create Guilt
Those expectations we created as unwitting kids are the real ball buster. We don’t even realize that we are trying to live up to an ideal that we didn’t really choose—we just observed it and made it the standard by default.
The study claims that the ideas and expectations surrounding the family/work-life balance are engrained early and have “powerful sway” over the decisions we make and perceptions that we have about motherhood.
But, there it is–that standard that we can’t really reach yet constantly measure our value by. That’s the source of the guilt.
Mom Guilt: The Root Problem
In the back of your mind, what stories do you tell yourself about what you should be doing to be a good mother? Those are your unconscious expectations.
Why do you think you have that story playing on a loop? Was it because it’s what your mother did, so you should?
Next, think about your conscious ambitions (let’s call them goals) about your career and parenting. Do you have a career that you worked hard and want to keep, or really want to go back to?
If there’s a gap there—between what you feel like you should be doing and what you are doing (or want to do)? If so, then you’re likely knee deep in mom guilt.
Accepting Your Version
Depending on the year, my mother was a SAHM, a WAHM, or a working mother. But, she always wanted to be a SAHM. That was her gold standard, which she probably got from watching her mother. So, that was the message I had imprinted on me at a young age.
But, I was an attorney and a nonprofit program developer before I got pregnant with my first kid. I loved my career, and I had no intention of putting it on hold.
That said, I did end up leave my career behind for a number of reasons. And, I struggled with that choice for YEARS. I truly felt TORN between my guilt and my desires—by my “unconscious expectations” and my “conscious ambitions.”
Close the Gap
The thing that has helped me reconcile the gap between my own expectations and ambitions is figuring out what I really believe vs. what I absorbed as a child and am trying to live up to as a grown ass woman.
Once you figure it out, then fucking own what YOU believe. It’s okay to ditch the OLD ideas that make you unhappy, feel guilty or less than. Especially when they do nothing more than act as a place holder for a standard that’s not of your own creation.
Tweak Your Expectations
Your mother couldn’t have done all the things that a SAHM and a working mom do, so why would you hold yourself to that unattainable standard?Why would you set yourself up for continued failure ensuring that more mom guilt is on the horizon?
Ask yourself these two questions:
- What are your expectations about work life and mom life?
- Do you feel like you have to do them both perfectly to be without all the guilt?
Rewrite your Limiting Story
It’s time to look at where the expectations come from and decide if they are worth keeping or if it’s time to flip the script.
This is true with so many things that hold us back in our lives. These limiting stories make us miserable. Decoding the truth about these stories running in our brains is the only way we are ever going to rewrite them to fit who we truly are today and who we want to be tomorrow.
Isn’t it time to ditch the guilt?