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Learn how to balance work and parenting, shed societal judgments, and embrace a guilt-free life as a working mum. IMAGE: PEXELS

Conquering 'Mum Guilt': Balancing Career And Motherhood

Singapore is expensive, and earning two incomes is often a necessity. However, being a working mum often means being judged harshly for “choosing your career over your child”. Work freelance like me, and you're labelled lazy for not working full-time; work full-time, and you're labelled self-absorbed and selfish.

But isn’t it better for your family if you keep your brain active and engaged, and earn an extra income for a better life? It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? I chose freelance work after having my twins because it was the best choice for our family lifestyle, even though freelancing often means hustling harder than full-time employees since freelancers are usually the first to be cut when budgets dry up.

Becoming a mother shouldn’t mean giving up your career or suffering from guilt. You can excel both as a mum and a career woman and let go of working mum guilt! It’s your family, so you know what works best, and no one should make you feel guilty about your choices.

This is what helped me adopt an “I don’t do guilt” mindset:

1. Remember the bigger picture

Remind yourself why you chose to return to work after having children. You’ve probably worked hard to attain your position before taking maternity leave, so it would be a shame to let that go to waste. It’s 2024, and you shouldn’t have to become just “mum” if you don’t want to.

I gave up my full-time career in hospitality when my twins arrived and started freelancing six years later. Even today, I won’t go back to full-time work because of the flexibility freelancing offers. Whatever you choose to do, accept that there will be sacrifices and trade-offs. Be kind to yourself and ignore the “good parents should do this and not do that” noise. Remember the reasons behind your choices, and whenever you feel bad about not being home with your child, remind yourself of those reasons and push through.

In my experience, many people are just jealous that you’re able to “have it all” while they are stuck at home, so they’d rather bring you down than support you.

2. Be present

There’s nothing worse than feeling like a failure as a mum and at work, especially when you’re trying your best at both. Avoid feeling like it’s a no-win situation and getting burnt out with guilt and being overwhelmed.

The key is to be 100% mindful and present in the moment. When you’re at work, remember that your child is safe and cared for by someone trustworthy, so focus on work. When you’re at home, be selfish about those precious moments and be fully present for quality time with your child.

Also, be mindful of your values and what is most important to you. If family time is a top priority, don’t feel guilty for declining after-work drinks or for not committing to weekend activities you don’t want to do (including unwanted extended family commitments). Set clear boundaries and use your time at home intentionally, not just for errands and chores.


3. Quality, not quantity

Real mother-child bonding doesn’t come from hours of mere presence. It comes from truly being present when you’re with your child, even if it’s only for a short time at the beginning and end of the day.

You’re the mum, not a sideline presence in your child’s day. You don’t have to be perfect to cultivate a healthy and secure bond.

Babies settle into a routine quickly, so they’ll cry less in the morning when you leave for work and be excited to see you when you return, knowing it's mummy time. Show up and be present!

4. Being a perfect mum doesn’t exist

Perfection doesn’t exist, especially when it comes to being a working mum. You’re going to make mistakes, and there will be days when no one seems happy! But that’s ok, bad days happen to everyone. If you can honestly say you’re doing your best, that’s all you can do. Get comfortable with the idea of things being “good enough” so that everything gels together like a well-oiled machine.

Don’t use every negative thing to be your toughest critic! For example, I once missed a school performance due to a work commitment and felt awful. But the kids survived, learned to move forward after disappointment, and the next time I made it on time, no one remembered when I missed.

5. Think long term

Children learn what they see, and it’s beneficial if your child sees you as a happy, successful working mum who excels both at home and at work. This can help ensure your son grows up to be a loving, supportive husband who helps with chores, and your daughter grows up without a glass ceiling, capable of juggling both home and work successfully. 

Your child will also become more independent from a young age and learn how to balance work (or school) commitments with home life better. Instead of worrying about mum guilt and imperfection, remember that you can be independent and happy, contributing to your family and your children’s wellbeing with these long-term benefits.

It’s a win-win in my book!

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