Motherguilt no more.

By Emma Dunwoody | Sep 12, 12 08:23 AM

“There are too many mothers out there feeling guilty. It’s ok to be a good mother and not a perfect mother.” Ita Buttrose

This quote from Ita Buttrose struck a real cord with me late last week, as a mother I often feel guilty for spending time on my business instead of with the children yet if I write down all the things I do for them in a day I can’t understand how I come to feeling so guilty.  It’s like when I look in a mirror and all I see is butt and thighs, but seriously I wear a size 10 how big can they really be?!

If you’re anything like me your children have nice clothes, enjoy a full timetable of sports and play dates, attend a good school and have no want for anything, except of course the latest Star Wars Lego ship, we spend the weekend as a family and come Monday we get them up and off to school, we feed them good healthy food and the occasional treat and just love and adore them, so why the guilt?  Is it because we feel that we should be at home with them all the time?  Or is it that we believe that they’re missing out on something from us not being around 24/7?

My mother was a career mother and I have always been proud of the way she followed her career as well as being an amazing mother to me; it's certainly had no long term effect on me other that the desire to follow my own fulfilling career path.  I never felt I missed out on anything with my mother at work and not at home with me.

I’m not sure how much of it is real and how much is perceived, but I do feel there is still a negative undertone to working mothers. I feel that some employers think we are not committed to our careers as we have to rush off after the kids and from some mothers I get the vibe that they believe we’re not committed to being a mother – I know I shouldn’t care what other people think of me but I do, and as we need great support as women in business we also need great support from other mothers for the same reason.

As I struggled to decide between career or children after having my first before my second child I temped in the media industry, the woman who ran the Temp Agency I worked for used to say that she never had enough mothers to fill the demand from the Media Agencies. The Agencies would actually request mothers for the temp contracts even though they worked less hours they got through twice as much work as the other temps they hired, their attention to detail was often better and their ability to take on a number of different tasks at once and manage them was exceptional.

So here’s my opinion for what it’s worth, the guilt is a ridiculous waste of time, but sometimes it just won’t shift. Maybe it’s what keeps us on our toes, as for being the perfect mother, if you can show me one then maybe I’ll aspire to be one. Until then, I strongly believe that for those of us that want to follow our individual career path it in fact makes us better at our job and in my case a better mother, maybe even a great mother.


After 16 years in the media industry Emma now owns her own business, Emma's Angels, that provides knowledge and services for career mothers. After years of deliberation, she's chosen the best of both worlds; career and family and works hard every day to provide her clients the opportunity to have the same lifestyle.  She's a proud mother of two amazing boys and a devoted wife and friend.

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1.
Belinda Lowrey
By Belinda Lowrey ACT | Dec 06, 2016, 09:51 AM

This really resonated with me. Well written and I am glad that you have found balance for yourself. I wonder whether the pressure we put on ourselves is some leftover part of the amygdala part of our brain, that is no longer useful, that we try and protect our children and conform to others. My point of view is that we are all wonderful mothers and the perfect mother for our families and it does not matter what combination of study or no study, volunteer or no volunteer, or paid work or no paid work, we are all full time mothers.Reply

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Leanne Faraday-Brash
By Leanne Faraday-Brash VIC | Sep 20, 2012, 11:33 PM

Every now and then I remind myself that we would not have survived as a species if mothers hadn't been blessed (or cursed!) with a healthy dose of maternal instinct and guilt when we're not attentive to our kids. But while anger and frustration have some useful functions (indignation about injustice or the realisation of unmet needs for example), guilt is pretty much a waste of time and energy. I have come to accept that the struggle with juggle is perpetual and while our lives overall may be in reasonable balance, some particular days are not. On those days our kids will complain there's no food in the house (there wasn't during the Great Depression either) or that we don't pull our weight on the soccer roster or that we're too busy in the office when they want to talk. But I also know I can be home for dinner 4 nights in a row and our kids are self-actualising elsewhere with no guilt whatsoever. My mum didn't work outside the home for most of our childhood and while she's enormously proud of me, the biggest guilt I've witnessed for many friends and clients is any lack of acceptance from our own mothers, not our kids. My daughters are proud, independent feministic Gen Y women. Both of them recently and separately have talked about their passion to have vibrant careers independent of anything their partners may do. In a rare judgmental moment for her, my eldest scoffed the other day about friends who are obsessed with the wedding and the dress and have seemingly no further aspirations in life beyond getting married. My sons are passionate about equal rights and treat all women with utmost respect. I believe they hold these respective views in part because I work outside the home, am nourished by the chance to make a difference to others in teh equity adn conflict resolution space. So I would like to think they have all benefited beyond the financial from my attempt to balance parenthood and a career. Whilst on the subject, a couple more things I feel must be said. Some women really want to stay home and have to work outside the home out of acute financial necessity. There may be nothing nourishing in their work at all and they ache to be home full time with their kids. I feel for them deeply as they're not just guilty. They feel trapped. I also see a number of men in my coaching practice who feel extremely guilty about their time away from family and can pay a high price in high- flying jobs because of outrageous expectations and the estrangement from family such demands can create. And finally, I think we can be dismissive these days of women who are full time stay-at-home mums. Every day I hear someone make a remark about women who "don't work". They do, just not for money. Ita says we can have it all, just not all at once. I would probably say we can have it most but let's own our choices and rejoice in those moments when we achieve real flow at home and at work because they are the moments that make life worth living. Reply

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