Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
8 Ways To Overcome ‘Working Parent' Guilt
Published Nov 17th, 2020 & updated on Mar 20th, 2021
Being a working parent can feel like a juggling act, and everyday you’re just trying to keep all your elements from crashing to the ground. You probably wish you could spend more time with your family. Maybe you worry constantly that you’re letting them down. You might feel like you’re missing out on important moments, or you’re not connecting with your kids enough.
Good news! Your kids still love you, no matter what. And chances are, they see how hard you’re working to provide for their needs. And while your feelings of guilt about being a working parent may never fully go away, they are manageable. Here are a few ways to dive thru ‘working parent’ guilt!
1. Check In With Your Feelings
First of all, you’ve got to address how you’re really feeling. When your day-to-day schedule keeps you constantly busy, it’s easy to push away your feelings of guilt and convince yourself that you’ll get to that later, when you have time…
But acknowledging these emotions will be better in the long-run for both your own wellbeing and your family’s. State them out loud to yourself, or try writing it down in a journal:
I feel guilty that I work because…
I worry my kids are upset with me because…
I feel that loving my job makes me a bad parent because…
Putting your thoughts into words will give you some much-needed clarity and allow you to face these emotions head-on.
2. Be Kind To Yourself
Self-compassion is one of those things that sounds easy on paper but then takes a lot of effort to actually develop as a habit. It’s important to remember that above all else, you. are. human. Not just your job title, or label as a parent. Even though you carry a ton of responsibility both in the workplace and at home, you’re doing your damn best!
Don’t fall into the trap of judging and criticizing yourself over every little thing. On days when it feels like you’re the worst parent in the world for being late (againnn) to your child’s parent teacher conference, give yourself a break. If you don’t expect your child to be perfect, why do you put those expectations on yourself? Learn how to practice self-compassion and be kinder to yourself.
3. Stop Comparing
Comparing yourself to other “perfect” parents in your life is a big no-no. Scrolling through social media might have you fooled that every other parent has their shit together, but that’s just not the case. Whether stay-at-home parents, working parents, or a mix of both are flooding your feeds with their smiling kids and fancy bento box lunches, keep in mind that everyone has their struggles. Just because you’re witnessing their highlight reels online, doesn’t mean you’re not measuring up as a parent. You love your family above everything, and that’s what matters – not just how it looks on the ‘gram.
If you need tips on how to stop comparing yourself to others, we’ve got those too.
4. Ask For Help
It’s okay to ask for help! It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to ask for help!
Even if it’s hard to admit when you’re struggling, your support systems are there for a reason. Reaching out to friends, family members, neighbours, school program coordinators, and other parents for help does not give you an F in Parenting 101.
Looking to set up a carpool system for your kid’s soccer practice? Just ask! Need someone to fill in for you as a field trip volunteer? Just! Ask! Nobody can do it all – so don’t expect the people in your life to hold it against you. Chances are, they’ll need to lean on you for support at some point, too!
5. Focus On The Positives
When you’re overwhelmed and feel like you’re doing everything wrong, it’s hard to see what’s going right. Maybe you had to miss your kid’s spelling bee because of an important meeting at work, but they ended up getting 1st place. The positive? They’re doing great in school!
Or maybe you had to cover a shift for your sick co-worker and couldn’t help out with the school bake sale, so your child baked cookies at their friend’s house instead. The positive? They still had fun and got to raise money for their class! Even when you miss out on things from time to time, try to identify the positives and you’ll be less likely to focus on what you see as shortcomings. And if you feel like you need to have a good cry? That’s okay too. Crying is part of self care.
6. Remember Your Values
Does it feel like work is getting in the way of you being the best parent you can be? Let’s unpack that.
First, remind yourself what your values and priorities are. This can be a huge help in refocusing where your time is going. Try writing a master list of all of the things you value most as a parent navigating work-life balance. Then, look for ways to achieve those values in your day-to-day schedule.
Maybe you want to prioritize going to more of your kids’ after-school extracurriculars, which means turning down other commitments. Or you value having dinners as a family, which means no phones (including answering work emails) at the table so that everyone can talk without interruptions. Figure out what works best for your and your family – and remember, nobody knows your family better than you.
7. Practice Self-Care
You might think that taking time for yourself is counterproductive to your feelings of guilt. Umm ya if I hardly have time to balance work and looking after my family, when exactly am I supposed to do things just for me?! But the reality is, if you aren’t looking after yourself, it’s gonna be pretty tough to look after anything else in your life.
It might take a little extra planning to fit it in, but practicing self-care is a must if you want to maintain your mental wellbeing. Even if it’s little things like an extra hour of sleep, or treating yourself to your favourite lunch spot – find ways to take care of yourself and recharge.
8. Accept That Your Best Is Enough
Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. You might miss a game here and there, or forget that it was pajama day at school. Guess what? It doesn’t mean your kids are unhappy, or that your family is going to fall apart because of your work schedule. The fact that you love your kids is enough. The fact that you are trying your best is enough. And despite the feelings of guilt or shame you might be facing, you – as a parent – are enough.
We know some moments are harder than others. Any parent who has ever dropped off their children at daycare is familiar with ugly crying – both their own and their kids’. These moments are bound to happen and there’s no escaping the working parent guilt that follows. But as you acknowledge it and dive thru those feelings, it should get a little easier!