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A simple tool to ease Working Mammy guilt

30/05/18
Reading Time: 5 minutes

As commutes go, mine feels on the cusp of epic. I travel 106km a day to work in a different county. Fortunately, my organisation honours workplace flexibility, so my hours are 07:30-16:30. This prevents me from driving into the belly of Rush Hour Beast on the M50. For the most part.

“It’s OK Mammy”

A few weeks back, I was cruising home listening to a podcast – my daily ritual to transition from work to home mode. BAM. Traffic halts. The Rush Hour Beast has raged-up and decided noone’s going home. I rubberneck to assess the scene to no avail. Stress bubbles. I call Big O. The next available train gets him home shortly after creche closes at 6PM. Balls!

Photo: dublinlive.ie

Cut scene to 6:01PM. I pick up tiny o 1 hour 40 minutes after I’ve left the office. He’s the last child there. As we drive away, I catch myself off-guard. Tears puddle my eyes followed by big gulps of raw woe. I’m sobbing. I hear a tiny voice behind me say, “It’s OK Mammy”. My heart breaks. Before I can stop myself, I’m in Dawson’s Creek territory.

When the sob swamp dries up aided by the lovely reasoning voice of Big O, I realise I’ve two choices: 1. Interrogate why I reacted so fervently to being late. Does ‘mammy guilt’ lay dormant in the back of my mind waiting menacingly for its next opportunity to hold me to ransom? Or choice 2. Hand in my notice. I chose the former.

My Working Mother Wellness Success Log

To provide a counter-argument to my guilt, I decided to journal how I’ve been a successful mammy despite having a career I love (God forbid). This gave me a kick-up the arse but a gentle one like with a peachy satin ballet pump. It reminded me that I’m a good mother! In fact, it was pure therapy. As a result, I’ve developed this Working Mother Wellness Success Log to use when mammy guilt rears her minging head.

It won’t eliminate guilt but it will provide you (if you’d like to try it) with a more balanced perspective. Here’s three successes I recorded in my first log and why:

Being Present

I am doing my best as a working mother because… 

In our kitchen is a ‘Be Present’ pot that I pop my phone in each eve when I arrive home with tiny o. My intention is to remove distraction so I can fully engage with my little man for the two-hours we have together before leaba. No phone calls, no work emails, no WhatsApp, no nose-dives down the social media rabbit hole.

The 'Be Present' phone pot in our kitchen

We have supper, we kick a football on the green, we throw stones on the beach, we play games, we read books, we hide in wardrobes and scare the bajaysus out of one another (he loves this!). Some days energy is low, we’re shattered so we hang on the couch and guffaw at that trippy little gremlin Makka Pakka on telly.

Yes, it’s only two-hours but I’m not convinced if I was at home all day, every day, we’d far exceed 2 hours of intent one-on-one time. For us, this is our special weekday time. It’s our success.

Breastfeeding

I am doing my best as a working mother because… 

‘Breastfeed’ is a loaded word. ‘Best’, ‘natural’, ‘nurture’, ‘enough’, ‘stigma’, ‘inadequate’, its list of connotations is endless. This filled me with anxiety when prego, I wanted to feed tiny o, but could I? I wasn’t breastfed myself and I turned out a pretty sound human (nice one Katherine and Tony). Still, I was determined to try. Tiny o arrived tongue-tied. I had to call a nurse to latch him on for every single feed. Despite my desperation to get home, I asked to stay in hospital an extra night until we could latch ourselves.

Nine months later, I began to wean in anticipation of my impending return to work. I recall feeling torn, guilt snapping at my conscience. Perhaps I’m not feeding for long enough? Other women feed for a year plus. Am I a bad mother for weaning? With the luxury of hindsight, I see now how instead of mulling over my imagined inadequacies, I should have celebrated our successful stint at breastfeeding. That’s why it’s in my success log.

Trying, Simply Trying

I am doing my best as a working mother because… 

In my two and a half years of motherdom, I’ve trekked a decent mile. There were the lonesome 4AM feeds with only the bluelight of Google’s engine for company. My six evenings in a free Early Years Parents Plus course listening with wide-eyed indulgence to veteran parents regale stories of their toddlers committing arson on their lives. And I green, with no anecdotes to offer from my four month old swaddled in his Moses basket.

Reward Chart designed by yours truly and Big O at the Parents Plus course. A tad ambitious for a 4 month old!

I’ve harnessed the collective brainpower of working mum comrades whose wisdom is a literal buoyancy aid as I descend the volatile rapids of motherhood. I’ve read books, all the books… The No-Cry Sleep Solution, Parenting the Sh*t out of Life, The Danish Way of Parenting, Dear Ijeawele or a feminist manifesto… I’ve tried. I’ve really fricking tried. I’ll continue to try for tiny o because progress consists of a single ingredient; effort.

There you have it, nothing elaborate just simple successes. My successes. Why not celebrate yours too? From toilet training to eating meals together to doing homework, all of these represent your success as a working mammy. Acknowledge this. And remember, taking care of yourself and creating space for who you are besides a mother is also your success. Give the success log a shot, it will remind you that you’re doing your best and that’s good enough.

Download your printable Working Mother Wellness Success Log

2 responses to “A simple tool to ease Working Mammy guilt”

  1. Fionnuala says:

    Great idea. I sometimes try to make a mental note of the things I am getting right when it feels like everything is going wrong.

  2. Jen Murphy says:

    Good on you Fionnuala! It’s not easy to focus on the positive when you feel everything is going wrong but I find it really helps ease my anxiety & remind myself that hey! I’m doing my best at this given moment 😊

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Hey Mama!

I’m Jen Murphy, award-winning blogger and wellness advocate for working mothers. I created Working Mother Wellness as a platform for mums to share our wellness experiences. Sign-up to build your own Working Mother Wellness toolkit. You will receive updates on Kundalini yoga practices, wellness tips, and info on upcoming workshops and programmes.