Managing Feelings of Mother Guilt

Published on Monday, 05 December 2016
Last updated on Monday, 26 October 2020

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Making the decision to put your child into care can be an emotionally challenging experience and as you approach the date you return to work, it is natural to feel anxious about the change.

You may feel concern about whether the service you have chosen is the best possible option for your child, you may be worried about being separated from them for such long periods and you will undoubtedly feel guilt.

It is completely normal to feel a little concerned and guilty when you first put your child into care. Feelings of guilt signal the deep emotional attachment and sense of responsibility you feel towards your child.

Managing that guilt is what will help you and your child make a successful transition to child care. The first step in learning how to successfully manage guilt is to learn to be happy with the decisions and choices you make.

By focusing on the outcomes of the decisions you have made and not feeling guilty about the opportunity costs of those decisions you will significantly lessen your feelings of guilt.

Finding high quality child care that both you and your child are comfortable with will go a long way towards helping you deal with your feelings of guilt. By making the time to visit a range of high quality child care services, talking to the carers and viewing the premises you will get a great sense of what you want in a service and whether a particular service will work for you.

Good child care services pride themselves on creating an environment which nurtures a child's emotional, physical and intellectual development. Leaving them in a service like this should be viewed as a positive outcome not as a source of guilt or anxiety.

Even when you do feel guilty or anxious about putting your child into care, try not to reveal these feelings. Children are very perceptive and if they sense there is something negative about child care it may increase anxiety levels.

Treating your return to work as something positive and exciting for the family will give your child a sense of anticipation and you will feel a lot less guilty about saying goodbye to your child if you leave them with a big smile on their face!

This rule is equally as important for young babies as it is for older children as babies rely on their primary caregiver for all their emotional cues.

Even if you continue to feel guilt after successfully settling them into child care and returning to work, try and focus on the positive things you could do to deal with the guilt.

You could try:

  • Spending a whole day with your child at the weekend doing nothing but fun things, ignore the household chores and spend the time doing things you all love.
  • Negotiating to work more flexibly, for example ask whether you can start work earlier and finish earlier so you can pick your child up in time to spend a few hours with him or her in the evening.
  • Finding a child care service near you or your partner's workplace so one of you can pop in during the day.
  • Creating special family routines around your work schedule to give you some firm personal commitments and some events to look forward to in the working week.

Although, it may sometimes feel like guilt and parenting go hand-in-hand try and remember that guilt is simply a negative manifestation of the deep emotional bond you have with your child.

By finding high quality and reliable child care, whether this is a nanny, a long day care centre or a home based care provider, you are giving your child a fertile environment in which they can thrive and grow. 

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