One of the biggest issues many working parents deal with these days is guilt. The guilt may come from many different sources: those “perfect” families on Facebook, traditional parents from a different generation, friends who have chosen to “stay home to raise their kids,” or even your own internal beliefs about what you “should” be doing.
Whether you work outside the home by choice because you love your career (and spent years working your way up the ladder), or by necessity because your family needs your income, guilt can be a major stressor for working parents.
To help you relieve a little of this pressure in your life, I wanted to outline the top 3 myths that I constantly hear about working parenthood, and bust those myths so you can let go of that guilt for good.
Myth #1: I’m a bad parent for working outside the home.
Reality: You’re a responsible and hardworking parent who loves your family. You provide and care for your children. Having interests separate and apart from your children is healthy and provides dimension to your life as well as to theirs. Engaging in activities that stimulate you sets a good example for your children – they see you taking care of yourself and doing something that fulfills you, which will teach them the value of self-development and independence. You’re demonstrating your strong work ethic everyday, which they will naturally take on as they get older. The quality of the time your child spends with you is much more important than the number of hours you are together. You are a dedicated and devoted parent, and that love translates to your children even if you’re not physically there.
Myth #2: My child is disadvantaged because he/she is being “raised by someone else.”
Reality: Children do need to be loved and nurtured, but they receive just as many benefits from a responsible and loving caregiver as they do from a parent. Contrary to popular belief, children who are raised with a nanny or grandparent, a friend, or in a daycare environment, are not delayed or disadvantaged in any way. As long as the environment they are in is safe, nurturing, and allows for natural growth and expression, your child will not be disadvantaged compared to children who stay home with their parents. In fact, they may even experience some added benefits. For example, here are some of the benefits your child may experience as a result of being cared for outside the home:
• The feel comfort in the routine and structure of their day;
• They learn how to trust, love, and interact with adults besides their parents (the transition into a traditional schooling environment will be much easier for them);
• They are usually more independent and experimental than their peers… they don’t have as much fear in venturing out on their own;
• If you have an only child, they will benefit from seeing how the “other kids” do things, and will likely learn new skills faster (crawling, walking, potty training, etc.);
• They are exposed to many different social situations, which enhances their problem-solving, relational, and conflict resolution skills.
• They learn how to communicate clearly to get what they need and want.
• You get a more dynamic view of your child when their teachers/caregivers tell you how they are developing, what they’re struggling with, what they like, what comforts them, and what they do well.
• There are so many caregivers out there who LOVE what they do, and they are GOOD at it.
Personally, I know my son is having WAY more fun at school during the day while I work than he ever would at home with me. Now at two years old, he comes home from school and shows me all of his artwork, he sings songs he learned that day, and he tells me about his adventures on the playground. He talks about his friends and teachers everyday, and sometimes he cries when I show up because he’s having such a good time playing. Once I decided on a safe, reliable, and loving daycare environment for our son, my sense of guilt about working outside the home vanished.
Myth #3: My relationship with my family is suffering because of my job.
Reality: Well, this one could actually be true. If your job is taking over your life and you never have time to connect with your family as a result, your relationship with your family may very well be suffering because of your job. But this doesn’t HAVE to be your reality.
As a working parent myself, I find that I am able to minimize guilt around being away from my family all day by doing one specific thing:
FOCUSING MY ATTENTION.
When I’m with my family, my attention is 100% focused on them. All of my devices are tucked away in my purse. My laptop is turned off. We (okay, mostly) leave the TV off and try to get outside. I’m talking, playing, goofing around, and generally spending QUALITY, focused time with my family – especially my son. I know when I’m at work I can’t be present for my son, so I committed early on to make the most of the time I did have with him.
I feel strongly that working parents are the last people who should feel guilty. Your working outside the home is NOT harming your child. Would we all love more time with our kids? Of course. But the quality of the time you spend with your child is what they’ll remember. Do your best to make that time engaged and connected, and they’ll be fine. Children do need love and comfort, but please let go of the belief that you need to be the only one to provide it. Find quality, reliable, loving childcare for your kids when you can’t be there, and they will do great. I promise.
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