Guilt and the working parent

Every working parent’s worst nightmare is leaving their crying, clingy baby, toddler or child and going to work. The heart ache at seeing our child like this makes us sad and miserable. There is so much guilt about leaving the child, be it at a day care, with a nanny or a grandparent. We blame ourselves endlessly.

Now, based on our own conditioning, experiences, and societal expectations, we have many views and beliefs about parenting, our role as a mother or father, and our expectations of the child. This gives rise to conflicting thoughts, and adds to our stress. 

Some of the common beliefs are:


  1. I am a bad parent, and my child will not love me, if I don’t spend all my time with him/her. 

  2. I am not a good parent if I cannot provide all the material comforts for my child.

  3. I am not a good mother if I prioritize work along with being a parent.

  4. My child will not succeed or grow up to be a good human being if I am not around to teach him. 

  5. My child will be at a disadvantage if he is not provided with the best of schools, extra curricular activities, tuitions etc. 


Our beliefs lead us to act in ways that may not be the best. For example,

  1. To compensate for our absence, and to win the child’s affection, many times we may become permissive parents. We find it difficult to say ‘no’, and to set boundaries, be it for junk food, screen time or expensive toys and gadgets. 

  2. Every parent feels accomplished when their little one is well mannered, and does well academically. Hence, to reach these  goas, in the little time we have with them, we may be lecturing, nagging, scolding or punishing the child. 

  3. We overlook our needs and do not  take time for ourselves, for self-care. This makes us tired, angry and stressed. Then we loose it, and it is mostly with the child.


How then, can we constructively deal with these feelings of guilt?


Acknowledge ourselves

We choose to work for various reasons. it maybe ambition and passion, a dream, or maybe the income is a necessity. Most times our work adds to our self worth, boosts our confidence, and provides immense satisfaction. Considering these factors, it is important for us to acknowledge the importance of this work. When we are happy with ourselves, then we are able to manage our emotions better. This in turns helps us to be with our children joyfully.   


Pockets of time

 A child does want their parents. For healthy development, It is important for a child to feel loved, safe and needed. For this, the quality of time spent together is more important than the quantity. What we do when we are with our children also matters. So, the set free time we have with our children is best spent connecting and strengthening our bond with them. Now, in our desire to guide, instruct our children towards good behaviour, we may spend a lot of our time fighting, shaming, arguing, bribing or punishing a child, getting them to finish their chores, homework, or to learn good values and habits. But, we should be conscious of the fact that only when the relationship is strong will we be more effective in guiding them, as they are more open to listening to us.

Here are a few suggestions for what you can do to bond with your child and enrich the relationship, during the pockets of time you have together. 

  • Wake them up with a cuddle in the morning 

  • When we see our children after a long day at work, we can receive them with joy, show them how much we missed them. To make sure we can do this in the best way, we have to be aware and attend to our needs and self care first. For example, eating a snack so you are not hungry at that time, finishing that call before you enter the house, or breathing, calming down to relax and reduce stress.

  • Bedtime is a good time to listen to what happened during their day, or to read them stories and just be with the child, connect without any agenda.

  • During weekends, spend dedicated time together, doing what the child wants to do. In that time, be mindful not to get distracted by other things like the phone, work, doorbell etc.  


Prepare the child

 It is important to prepare the child before separation every day. Giving them information and a sense of how their day will go. This makes them feel safe. For a detailed look at how to prepare your child, you can read our article

Reflect - As the adult in the situation, it is good to reflect on our choices and decisions periodically. Every family is unique. So, it is good to look at both the parent’s and child’s needs, and decide on what would work best for all, at that point of time in life. 

It is always a tough decision, when we think of working after having a child. So many doubts and worries come up. Let us consider this sentiment that, happy parents nurture happy children, and choose to do what fulfils us and gives us joy.


Author: Sunita Ravi is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.