Parents

Are we finally starting to banish working-mom guilt?

Feb. 27, 2012 at 9:42 AM ET

The tide may be turning for working moms and their guilt. According to a national poll of 1,000 working mothers recently conducted by Care.com, eight out of 10 mothers enjoy being a working parent and 64 percent say work does NOT interfere with their ability to be a good parent.  Half feel that work makes them a good role model for their children.

Clearly, this is encouraging news!

Most working moms know there’s no such thing as achieving the perfect balance. And work isn’t the only thing sending moms on a guilt trip these days. Add anything from not cooking enough to not having enough sex with their husbands to not wanting to embrace the role of parent to this list.

That’s a lot to feel guilt-ridden about! Moms need to face the reality that it’s possible to be a great mom and a great worker (and a great wife, and a great friend, and a great daughter…), but you can’t “do it all” all of the time.

Life has tradeoffs, and limitations, especially when you’re a parent.

So where does all this mommy guilt come from? A lot comes from an overly idealized notion of perfection and motherhood, which most moms have internalized. Moms have been told by society that they should never feel ambivalent about or overwhelmed by parenthood and the restrictions it places on their lifestyle. These mythic ideas about being the perfect mother create a “self-attack” mode, wreaking havoc on moms’ feelings about themselves and their parenting skills.

Studies show women are more susceptible to suffering from guilty feelings than men because women tend to be more interpersonally sensitive.

We are constantly exposed to “perfect mother” images, from celebrity mothers to CEO Moms seemingly parenting with ease – of course, we don’t know what really happens behind the scenes. How can moms not feel guilty when exposed to these non-real-life moments? Guilt is a great equalizer, with 94 percent of moms, whether they work outside the home or not, revealing to Babycenter.com that they have felt guilty.

What are some strategies for women to be kinder to themselves when dealing with the ever-pervasive feelings of guilt? Know that you are not alone! Any feeling you could have regarding parenting (positive or negative) has been felt and dealt with before. Take solace in knowing that sometimes feeling conflicted about being a parent is universal. The more you can take time out for yourself to gain perspective on your life, the better you will feel.

When all else fails, remember that guilt is normal.  In manageable doses, it helps us to live better lives.  Moms must remember that there’s no harm in striving to be better, but reasonable expectations along with a forgiving attitude toward themselves will go a long way toward a less guilty, and happier, life.

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