April 20, 2022

8 Tips To Deal With Working Mom Guilt As a Nurse

8 Tips To Deal With Working Mom Guilt As a Nurse

Like many American women, I was back to work sooner than I wanted to be. I dropped my son off at daycare on my way to my first shift back after maternity leave, of course making sure to allow myself time to sob in the Starbucks parking lot before heading off to work. I felt sad. Sad that I didn’t have more time for us to bond but also sad that I didn’t have more time for me to heal. 

I had struggled after my son was born with healing from a traumatic birth, postpartum anxiety, and difficulty breastfeeding. I remember heading into my shift, unhealed emotionally, vulnerable, anxious, feeling exhausted, dreading pumping at work, and feeling like a failure. I felt guilty for dropping my son off to a stranger, but also guilty for all the people that had covered my work for months. Oddly enough, I was also feeling guilty for feeling guilty and was being incredibly hard on myself. 

If that resonates, please know you aren’t alone (and spoiler alert, it does get easier). 

Listen to this episode on the Ask Nurse Alice Podcast

>>How To Deal With Working Mom Guilt As a Nurse: tips for parents to set boundaries and overcome it (with burnout expert, Diana Page MSN,RN, APRN)

For many new moms this transition isn’t as much of a struggle, but it’s still hard regardless. This was the case with my second. Maybe your birth was actually a breeze, you had great support, and you were actually excited to go back to work and talk to adults for a change. Believe me I understand that reality too.  However, regardless of your reality, there is still plenty of mom guilt regardless of how “easy” it is.

Whatever your journey is in parenthood, one thing is the same for all of us. We work hard, we feel torn between our two worlds, and at times that triggers an emotional response in us.  And, oof, it can be hard! Whether it be guilt, frustration, apathy, or confusion. That emotional response is ok, but move through it. Name it, accept it, and do so without passing judgment on yourself. But let’s be real, we are our harshest critics!

At the end of the day nurse moms (and dads!) are in the unique position of caring for others at work AND at home. One world morphs into the other and we feel like we are constantly in giver-mode. We struggle with boundaries and we tend to put ourselves and our own needs at the bottom of the to do list. But the reality is boundaries are KEY for survival and ensure that survival mode isn’t our default way of being. 

But when burnout hits either at work or home (or a combination of both), it can truly be a treading water type of existence. And as achievers (I see you achiever!) we may feel like we are subpar in all of the roles we are juggling. Then something oh so familiar hits you…

GUILT. Every new parent’s bestie.

Mom guilt…it’s the worst right?! Not really a bestie but more like that so-called friend who is actually not really that nice to you. I’m sure some of the things we say to ourselves are literally worse than the thoughts of some criminals! It’s that feeling that you aren’t doing enough, aren’t doing it right, or like you will somehow ruin your kids by acting a certain way. Then there is shame which takes that guilt and spirals it into making you feel like a terrible person. 

Maybe this guilt stems from pressure from others, or a perception based on what others tell you, or the highlight reel that your friends post on social media. But where the heck is that nurse mom balance? Between the mom guilt, the T-ball games, the grocery runs, the tantrums…there never seems to be any balance. 

But this may shock you or upset you, but there is no balance per se.

It’s about work life integration. It’s about self-forgiveness. It’s knowing in your heart that even if your kid eats chicken nuggets with a side of pop tarts while watching reruns of Blippi just so you can have a moment of silence…you are enough. You are still a fantastic parent. 

But what do you do if you don’t quite feel that way? 

Here are 8 tips for letting go of the mom guilt and stepping into your nurse mom boss power:

  1. Have realistic expectations! No one is perfect. 
  2. Check in with yourself on the regular, look at the evidence in your life that shows you that you are an incredible parent and celebrate those wins! 
  3. Stop saying “sorry” constantly! When we say sorry all the time it invalidates it. Try reframing “I’m sorry” into “thank you.”  (i.e., instead of “I’m so sorry we are late”….try “thank you so much for being patient”)
  4. Set (and enforce) boundaries! Protect your time, energy, and peace. 
  5. Give yourself the same compassion you would give a friend, keep an eye on your self-talk. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend don’t say it to yourself!
  6. Ask for help and ask for what you need. And no, it’s not selfish. 
  7. Take care of you!  Self-care for the win! By taking care of you, you are far better equipped to care for others. And I can hear you through the computer…“but I don’t have time, Diana!” Yes, you do! Even 5-10 minutes can be needle moving!
  8. Support other moms! We need each other. Find your tribe and be each other’s rock. Cheer each other on, be honest with each other, share the real mom moments and it will help you through the hard days. We are stronger together, always, and on the hard days those friendships come in handy.

To all your nurse parents out there. You’re doing a great job.  

You are truly doing the best with the resources that you have. 

For more on how to navigate life as a parent while working in healthcare and discussion about burnout, boundaries, and resources to help go check out this Ask Nurse Alice podcast episode 

As always, we aren’t meant to do life or nursing alone. I am here to support you on your nursing journey away from burnout- always. Check out my Instagram @catalystforselfcare for more nurse wellbeing resources and my website www.selfcarecatalyst.com for all things Selfcare in healthcare.

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