No, working mothers do not have a monopoly on mummy-guilt. That’s a joy to be shared by all mums.
There is a little known frontier of Mummy-guilt that isn’t talked about.
We’re familiar with the lot of a working mother – endless newspaper articles, mummy forums, Facebook posts and book after book have pounded and prodded these poor working Mums – often judged for leaving their families to work.
But the lesser-discussed guilt is that of the mother at home.
What’s she got to feel guilty about? You ask.
After all surely being at home you are there for your kids – you are the ultimate mother that society holds above all others – nurturing, guiding, caring. Society LOVES you, right?
Read more: 25 ways you know you’re a stay-at-home mum.
A close friend alerted me to this just the other day, she said that now all her children were at school she was amazed at the expectation that she too would be getting out of the house.
“You won’t know yourself next year” people kept telling her. “Oh, how life will change.”
“How come people can’t just accept that I want to stay at home?” she asked me. “Where has this expectation come from?”
I did my on-the-ground research and found a lot of parents who felt the same. Not working outside the home does NOT preclude you from mother shame and guilt. Which is a little depressing.
So here they are, the six reasons Stay At Home Mothers feel bad…
1. Apparently, you’ve chosen to stay at home TOO LONG.
Society seems to rejoice in the mother who stays at home with their newborn, in fact, loves to shame any woman guilty of heading back to work “too soon”. But it seems that there is an acceptable time limit, and if you stay at home too long you are deemed indulgent and cavalier.
Apparently, once your kids are at school, it’s time for you, too, to get out of the house.
But even those with smaller kids, those who has passed the expected year of “maternity leave” are questioned about making this choice.
2. The pressure to be Uber-Mum.
Stay-at-home mums feel that working-mums can hide behind the justification that they just can’t be super-mum because they are too busy.
Stay-at-home Mums feel they have NO EXCUSES.
The washing sits in a pile – working mum has just been busy.
Stay at-home mum – bone lazy.
The kids are a bit ratty – must be the daycare hours for those kids of working mums. No excuse if you’re at home.
Baked goods out of a plastic packet – who has time to bake when you’ve been in the boardroom all day?
But if you’re at home, you should be hard at work behind your thermo churning out the banana bread.
No one cares to consider the fact that there is actually only five hours between drop-off and pick-up. There is an expectation that your kitchen will smell of cinnamon teacake and those footy socks will be ironed. And if they’re not? Hello, guilt.
3. Maybe you actually get some Me Time.
What? You are actually going to do something for yourself??
It’s difficult to allow yourself to relax after spending years with two or three small people as your priority 24/7.
4. How dare you use Daycare if you’re not working?
We all know that Stay At Home Mums who use daycare are slammed for it. But there are so many reasons why you should. Perhaps you have a sick relative to care for, perhaps you do charity work, perhaps you want to have some Me Time (see above), perhaps your child needs some socialisation.
The debate about who should get priority over daycare has been endless but the main feeling for stay-at-home mothers who use it is guilt.
Guilt that a working mother might miss out on the spot, guilt that they should be with their child. Guilt that it is bad for their child, guilt that their child doesn’t go often enough.
Read more: Are some women hard-wired to stay at home?
5. You don’t earn your own money.
One of the most-mentioned forms of shame is not contributing to the family budget. It’s tough for women who spent their 20s working towards a career to rely on someone else to support them.
The fact that they contribute to the household in many other ways is often overlooked in these discussions.
6. Sometimes, you wish you were working.
Oh the shame in wishing (just occasionally) that you were in the office.
There isn’t a woman out there whose feelings didn’t flip back and forth on this one.
Sure, you are happy to be at home, but on those days when tempers are frayed, feet are stamped and lunch ends up on the kitchen floor, it’s hard not to look at a working mother – who gets to leave the house alone and maybe, just maybe, enjoy a cup of coffee without 25 interruptions – with just a little bit of envy.
Are you at stay-at-home Mum? Have you ever felt ashamed of your role?