Working Mums – Can You Plan Ahead and Avoid the Guilt?

I was asked by a journalist recently to make some comments on women and guilt for a magazine. The article was based on the premise that women always feel guilty when trying to achieve a harmonious work life balance.

Work Life Balance?

I can empathise with this. I had my own feelings of guilt for sure! Guilt when I was home that the burden for finance fell on my husband, and that I wasn’t ‘contributing’, and guilt when I was working that I wasn’t at home with my kids!

In the end I did what many women do (if they have the luxury of choice) and that was to work part time. There is no doubt that it harmed my career. However, I think if I had my time again I’d do the same thing but this time I’d plan for the impact it would have on my career and make adjustments.

Women have children, simple fact. Societies need women to have children. Some countries, notably Scandinavia have allowed for this in both legislation and child care facilities. We have some legalisation which helps, but attitudes are still very mixed towards working mothers.

Don’t Give Up Too Early?

I read of a recent survey that said women were dropping out of the career trajectory often years before they had children. The knowledge that they wanted children was causing them to not apply for promotion or invest in their careers several years before they actually planned to conceive; they were penalising themselves in the career stakes.

If this is true, (and I suspect it may be as I can distinctly remember myself not applying for a job thinking I’d have to leave it when I fell pregnant and it wouldn’t be fair – pre maternity leave etc!) this may well be a significant part of the complicated equation that explains why women are still so under represented at higher levels.

Plan Your Career

My advice to any woman is plan your career. And plan for your motherhood, if that’s your choice. Work out what you want to do very early on in your career. Women’s child bearing years generally coincide with significant career years. It’s not impossible to combine the two but it’s not easy. But like everything in life, if you’ve set yourself some goals, if you know where you want to end, it makes all the decisions along the way that much easier! It’s a lot easier to have rational discussions before those hormones kick in, believe me!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic; please share! And if you’d like to read an interview with a young professional woman who found herself pregnant at just the wrong time, read this.

Photo Credit: Mokra


Posted on August 26th, 2011 by

5 Responses to “Working Mums – Can You Plan Ahead and Avoid the Guilt?”

  1. Ros says:

    Hi Jane, I have just read your article. I’m not sure how many times I have wanted to share my journey of the past 8yrs, still not to sure how. But I’m closer now while doing an MSc Coaching as this is a passion of mine and has provided me the tools over the past 8yrs.

    My son was 15 months when his father, my best friend, my lover, the father of my first born, delivered the bombshell that he was leaving me! We were supposed to be celebrating his birthday with friends that evening. I didn’t see him for about 18months and he didn’t see his son!

    Fast forward 8yrs and I have built a professional network of business colleagues, I have returned to a company I helped build and I am half way into an MSc and I now coaching professionals too. This has not been without it’s challenges and most of all that has been the guilt of leaving my young son!

    But, with love, support, direction, consistency and guidance I have a grounded young boy,now 10yrs, who always understood where his Mum was and what she was doing and why. He now has a great relationship with his Dad and a steady, realistic relationship with his Mum.

    How? I’m not sure! For certain, optimism and goal setting played a massive part and continues to do so.

    There is a whole stack of ‘stuff’ which I would like to share with women like me……….. A single mother working full time to support yourself and your child.
    One day I’ll write a book.
    Now more than ever before we need these goals and steely determination to succeed. The guilt will never go but it’s it how you deal with it.

    • Jane says:

      Phew Ros, what a story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. It will inspire women going through something similar, I know. So, what is your goal now?

  2. Ros says:

    Personal goal – to complete MSc over the next year. Graduate with my son, he from primary and me from University.

    Business goal – to generate sales in excess of 300k in the next 12 months. Promoting and educating businesses in electronic forms (eForms). Creating cash releasing efficiencies and better administrative processes when communicating b2b or b2c.

    My tool box is ready !

  3. Imogen Woodford says:

    Hi Jane, Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom on this subject. Guilt often seems synonymous with parenting but never more so than in the work arena. I think your advice is spot on.

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