How to Manage Working Parent Guilt

Written by Madison School of Healthcare On Wednesday, 01 June 2016. Posted in Healthcare Insights

How to Manage Working Parent Guilt

Part of being a good parent means paying the bills and financially supporting a family. And, doing that (almost always) means having a job. But, working can also bring guilty feelings for parents.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 89.3 percent of all families with children have at least one parent who works. In nursing specifically, about half of all registered nurses have kids (The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration). Add in going to school for a nurse who might want to earn her RN-BSN degree and the guilty feelings of trying to balance school, work and family will probably add up.

Only Working Mom Guilt?

With all the attention given to the “mommy wars” it’s easy to assume that job-related guilt is something only moms experience, but recent studies have shown it affects working dads too. When the Pew Research Center interviewed parents about the topic, it found that parents of both genders felt about the same levels of guilt in balancing work and family. Among working dads, about 50 percent said they feel it, and 56 percent of working moms said the same.

What is Working Parent Guilt?

Working parent guilt comes in all shapes and sizes. No two parents will experience it in the same way. To see how many forms guilt can take, here are a few ways working parents can feel guilty:

  • Having to depend on someone else for childcare
  • Missing a child’s sporting event or musical performance for work
  • Missing a work event to attend a child’s sporting event or musical performance
  • Asking for a flexible working schedule to pick up a child after school
  • Negotiating for maternity, paternity, or family sick leave
  • Feeling proud of career success

How to Deal with Working Parent Guilt

Working parent guilt often comes from an imagined version of what it means to be a perfect parent or a perfect employee. Getting over that feeling is often easier said than done, but here are a few things anyone can try.

  • Focus on the paycheck – While it may seem slightly wrong to focus on money, doing so can help. Thinking about all of the things a job is paying for, like school tuition, extra classes, dinners out, or family vacations, gives parents a silver lining for the time spent away from their kids.
  • Divide and conquer – Parents should find ways to hand things off. At work delegating to teammates or employees is a good option. At home, giving chores and responsibilities to a spouse, older children, or even aunts, uncles or grandparents will make everyday life seem more manageable. Using a family calendar or a chore wheel can do wonders to stay organized on who is helping with what
  • Let it go – Pressures on parents are at an all-time high, with everyone sharing their opinion in articles, on talk shows and on social media about what type of parent is best. The truth is there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Getting rid of working parent guilt is in part recognizing that, and then letting go of other people’s expectations. Parents who don’t let “shoulds” rule their life, parents who make time for themselves, and parents who keep in mind things don’t always work out, will have an easier time managing their guilt.
  • Ask the question at work – Too many parents never ask for the time they need or want for their kids. Work environments are different, so every parent will have to decide the approach that’s right for them. But, being as open and honest as possible can lead to new work arrangements that work out best for everyone.

There are lots of ways to manage working parent guilt. Some of the most important ways are to understand that feeling guilty does not mean that someone is guilty. For people who feel working parent guilt, it will probably always be part of them. The key is to manage those feelings and keep remembering that teaching kids that they are loved and lovable is what being a great parent is all about – and that can be done whether a parent works or not!

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Madison School of Healthcare

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