99FM – Your Inspiration Station

Goodbye to Working Mommy Guilt


Guilt is an emotional response that serves as a warning sign and emotional regulator.  It signals the need for behavioural modification in order to prevent repeating what we personally regard as wrong more than once.  Guilt should serve a helpful purpose in teaching us about our own behaviour instead of being an emotional and irrational response to encounters.

New mothers, leaving their infants in the care of others, when returning to work, often experience guilt.  Similar to other situations, their guilt responses can be irrational and emotional. Their guilt may be purposeless and therefore without productivity serve as contributing factors to their overall negative affectivity and general moods.
For those mothers struggling to come to terms with their rapidly approaching first day of work after maternity leave, considering the below benefits may make the process slightly less guilt provoking.

Working instils a sense of purpose outside motherhood. It allows for financial independence of the mother. In many instances heading back to the office enables a woman to reconnect social ties and engage in social interaction outside her home and family. It allows women to have a break from nappy and breastfeeding duty and also motivates greater involvement from their partners. Older children often experience their working mothers as role models, especially female children. Working mothers, allow space for their children to develop an early sense of independence. Engaging in occupational activities reduces their chances of developing depression. Numerous studies have proven that the babies of working moms tend to grow up as children with well-adjusted personalities and fewer behavioural problems than predicted by most guilt ridden beginner mothers.

The above may result from work schedules compelling boundary setting, routine procedures and rule guided home life to ensure household activities run smoothly.

While the benefits of an infants mother working may needless to say put her guilty conscious to rest, these pointers may further help ease that little g-voice in her head. One must understand your guilt and its purpose. Guilt serves to  help us re-examine our behavior and make changes.  In this case guilt is healthy and appropriate. When guilt serves no purpose as it does not signal the need to re-examine behavior, it becomes irrational and in appropriate.

New mothers can benefit from identifying which behaviors they have engaged in and which of these have to be re-examined. Feeling guilty about not having taken necessary care to ensure the safety and welfare of your child may be appropriate. Feeling guilty because you fear that your baby’s development will be negatively affected by your absence (despite knowledge that many children have grown up in the same manner), however will be inappropriate.
Secondly, one should make changes as soon as required. If there are behaviors that need to be re-examined and you find that guilt feelings were not inappropriate, make amends as soon as possible. The sooner changes in behavior are made, the sooner the need for the warning signal of guilt disappears.
Finally, learn to accept that no one is perfect.  Accept that everyone makes mistakes.  Take lessons, change your behaviors, and move on.


This article was prepared and written by Leandre Kurz of Lets Talk Psychologists. You can get in touch with the team of Let’s Talk Psychologists, who have branches in Eros, Katutura, Rehoboth and Okahandja through their website here : Let’s Talk Psychologists


The Research :

A 2010 meta-analysis of 69 studies over 50 years found that in general, children whose mothers worked when they were young had no major learning, behavior or social problems, and tended to be high achievers in school and have less depression and anxiety. The positive effects were particularly strong for children from low-income or single-parent families; some studies showed negative effects in middle-class or two-income families.

In a new study of 50,000 adults in 25 countries, daughters of working mothers completed more years of education, were more likely to be employed and in supervisory roles and earned higher incomes. Having a working mother didn’t influence the careers of sons, which researchers said was unsurprising because men were generally expected to work — but sons of working mothers did spend more time on child care and housework.