As a man, I've obviously never experienced 'mum guilt'.
As a son, a husband and a photographer however, I've seen firsthand working-mums working tirelessly, giving themselves a hard time and thinking that they can't 'do it all' or be a 'perfect mum'.
You are an amazing mum.
My mum was an incredibly supportive, hard working and loving mum, wife, daughter, sister, teaching assistant, volunteer and, above all, an amazing woman. Whilst I was at university, we lost mum after a long battle with cancer and I've often reflected on what it means to be a good mum. I know it's a cliche but it's true - you don't know what you've got until it's gone.
As a mum, your kids will always love you and will always appreciate how much you give them, regardless of whether you see yourself as the 'perfect mum'.
To get a mum's perspective, I spoke to several mums about 'mum guilt', some tips for working mums and what it means to be a 'perfect mum'. So, what is to be perfect:
Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.
As busy as life is, how can you be 'as good as it is possible'? There will always be more that can be done. Claire Nicogossian, a clinical psychologist and mum of four, who runs Moms Being Well, says "When we strive to be 'perfect,' we let our children down.
"Why? Because we begin to show our children, model through our beliefs and behaviours, that anything less than perfect is a failure. Our children need to learn through our example. Part of the process of growing up means making mistakes through trial and error. As a child grows up, so too does a mother, gaining wisdom and experience along the way, including making mistakes and failing."
More mums than ever are returning to the workforce. A recent survey published by the Office for National Statistics found 65% of mums with kids aged 3 or 4 years old work full-time. With an ever growing number of new mums choosing to go back to work, the question of how to balance work-life and family-life continues to be a huge struggle for many mums.
So we spoke to some working mums to find their top tips on allowing your family and career to flourish. Here are our Top 5!
1) "Make them independent."
Sandrine, a mum of three, talked to us about the importance of independence. "I feel it's important, for the long run, to raise your children to make them independent.
"It definitely takes a lot of stress out of your life... If you don't, you're only creating a rod for your own back. I have seen many examples of that - there's the mums who go to work full-time and is running another full-time job at home because she's wasting time tidying after them. Only thing is that whilst they put the house right they don't spend the little time they have with their children. When my daughter started secondary school, I could trust her to get home, make her own dinner if she's too hungry to wait for us to get back home from work and do her homework."
She says it's crucial "to be organised, to work a good partnership with your husband to split the chores, and help your children tidy their own mess, but do not do it for them." Thus making them more independent and allowing you to enjoy your time with them.
2) Take care of YOU.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your family is to look after yourself; your body, mind and emotions. It's so easy to put yourself last on the to-do list. If you focus on everything without ever considering yourself, you will find yourself either becoming sick, resentful or just forgetting what it is you enjoy and love.
By taking care of yourself, you'll be stronger and healthier and therefore able to care for your kids fully and enjoy doing so.
3) "Don't aim for perfection..."
Beth, a mum of two who works as a dietitian, said "Don't aim for perfection...okay is fine and anything more is a bonus! The house is never going to be tidy if the kids are playing, so embrace the mess!" Although she did go on to say "To be fair, I've always been pretty accepting of mess...even before kids!"
Embracing imperfection is so hard, especially when you've been used to a tidy, clean house. When you only have a few hours in an evening with your kids raises a tricky dilemma. Do you focus on the chores and other jobs around the house or do you focus and give your kids the attention they want? The truth is, if you can embrace the imperfection and dedicate this time with your kids you'll be able to give them your full attention and therefore a more patience and more meaningful interactions with them.
4) Preparation, preparation, preparation.
Make the mornings easier
Prepare as much as you can the night before. In a morning, you’ve already got enough on your plate running around trying to convince the kids to “Wake up,” (or maybe “Go back to bed it’s too early!”), “Eat your breakfast,” “Clean your teeth,” “Put your socks on,” “Put your shoes on,” “Pick up that toy,” “...and that toy,” “...and that toy!”, “Put your socks on!”, “Put your shoes on, we’re going to be late!”
So, pack the lunches, lay out their clothes, lay out your clothes, decide what your making for breakfast, pack your work bag and place it by the door right next to your keys - knowing a lot of the mundane tasks are done may even allow you to spend a few minutes eating breakfast and preparing yourself for the day ahead.
Create a weekly family timetable for meals and family activities
A great practical tip is to create a weekly timetable of all the clubs, kids activities and the meals you're planning to cook. As a mum, you make thousands of decisions a day, this mental load can add extra stress, by planning out meals and activities you can plan ahead and arrange yourself in advance, allowing you to concentrate on the other day to day decisions that you have to make then and there.
5) "Leave work at work and embrace your time at home..."
Teacher and mum of two in Nottingham, Louise, said to "Leave work at work and embrace your time at home." In any career this can be a huge challenge.
Whilst modern technology was meant to liberate us from the daily slog in fact it has enabled, and even encouraged, a non-stop work habit. In a world of email, smartphones and social media we are just a click, or the "Ping!" of a notification, away from work at any time. And it has become all to easy to check-in even when we have a day off or during the evening. We now have the capacity to work anywhere - in the car, on the bus, on the sofa, in coffee shops, or even on the beach during your holiday. In 2002, 10% of people admitted to checking their work email at home, in 2018 this figure has risen to 50%, often this is even before we get out of bed. Amy, my wife, will tell you I'm as guilty of this as anybody!
So how do you leave work at work?
- Enjoy your commute home. Look around you, take in the scene - you may have seen it many times before but try to notice something new or different each day. You could even get completely lost in your commute with an audio-book or podcast. This will allow you to emphasise the separation between work and family life.
- Don't have your work emails on your phone. Okay, this might no be possible depending on what you do but if you can’t do it it then snooze them once you're home. You can schedule your phone to silence emails with apps like Quiet for Gmail or Outlook.
- Phone a friend. Often we forget our friends will be experiencing similar things, or if not will at least be good people to unload with. No doubt a good chat, and maybe even a vent(!), will help relieve stress and will provide relief to both you and your friend.
When we force ourselves into striving for perfection, we run the risk of thinking anything less than that is failure. If we get stuck into that mindset we are in danger of telling our kids, with our actions, that making mistakes or failing is not okay. As a former teacher, I was constantly telling kids it's okay to make mistakes as this is the single BEST way to learn and improve. If you're not making mistakes, you're unlikely to learn and getting better. It's no different as a grown up, a mum, a parent or even a photographer. The biggest danger though of striving for perfection, is that you risk putting yourself at the bottom of the priorities list.
Remember, your kids need you - a healthy, happy mum - not a perfect mum.
When I think back to when I was a kid. I'll always remember mum like this - smiling and enjoying spending time with us. I remember the fun times, the holidays, the days out and above all the smiles.
She used to hate having her picture taken and would often try to get out of it. In some ways that makes images like this even more special. Stunning family images will help you remember the good times, the times you spent with your kids having fun, enjoying yourselves and having a good giggle!
Since you're here...
Have you been putting off getting a family portrait or updated photographs of your children? Autumn is now firmly setting in and with it's vibrant colours and soft lighting, it is certainly the best time of year for photography.
We've just released our Autumn Family Photo shoots - there are twelve slots available during the half-term holidays and each one includes £100 of FREE printing credit to spend on your beautiful images afterwards.
Don't let another year go by and miss that special opportunity to get a beautiful family photograph (not to mention you'll have a Christmas gift for the grandparents in the bag!)