04/08/2015 8:08 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Why Working Parents Shouldn't Feel Guilty

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Recently I happened to speak to a friend who was all set to embrace motherhood in all its glory. The person is someone that I've known for a long time, and she loves what she does for a living. And mind you, she's pretty darn good at it. But the more we discussed parenting and how life changes after kids, the more it became evident that there was something she wasn't telling me. So, I dug a little more and coaxed her to reveal the source of her worry.

As it turned out, while she was ecstatic about motherhood and everything associated with it, she was also concerned about a few things. One of these things was "returning to work". To quote her exact words, she said, "I love what I do, and if I'm not able to put in the same effort post-motherhood, it'll probably kill me!" Her statement sort of took me by surprise. I asked her why she felt motherhood would affect the way she worked. After all, people successfully do both. She looked at me and said "Guilt."

"Regardless of what the 'parenting police' say, remember that there is no perfect parent award. So just be a real one."

Her one word answer got me thinking. I've heard the phrase "parental guilt" being thrown around quite a lot. Perhaps one of the reasons that I wasn't too affected by it, was because, well, I rarely feel guilty about anything. If I did, I wouldn't eat so much cake and be such a rotund person. Perhaps, it is also because I don't think I've done anything that wasn't justifiable in my book. But I couldn't let go of what she'd said; so I pondered over it for a few days wondering if others felt the same way.

I started to ask other working parents in my group -- friends, fellow bloggers and ex-colleagues. And I was surprised to hear that at times, a lot of them felt guilty in some way or the other.

Some felt guilty about not being able to spend as much time as they would have liked to with their kids.

Others felt guilty about actually enjoying their work, despite having a little one at home.

Yet some others, felt guilty because society made them feel like they weren't doing enough.

And some others felt guilty about the fact that sometimes they felt the urge to have some "me-time".

And that's when I realised that I had someone who might be going through these feelings right at home -- my wife, who is both a career woman as well as a doting mother. So for her and every parent who may have at times, felt guilty about not being there 24x7 for their kids, here's a tiny acknowledgement from the rest of us:

Not everyone can juggle all the different roles that you manage to somehow do.

So relax, you are doing a splendid job. Yes, at times you may feel like you're not doing enough for your kids or sometimes regret the special moments that you may have missed. It's only human to feel so. And of course society will lay down their rules of what's the right way to bring up a child and what isn't. But pay no heed. You're all superstars.

And since we're on the subject, remember that while your kids are a pivotal part of your life, there is no need for your world to revolve around them all the time. The presence of your kids should augment the sweetness of your life, like how a spoon of sugar can do for a cuppa, not shackle your conscience.

"[I]n the time you do have with your kids, show them a happy, good-humoured role model, teaching them that it is perfectly possible to balance priorities in life."

You deserve to take some time off for yourself. So the next time, if you feel you're not doing enough or being there enough or giving enough, remember that it is okay to go out for a meal or a movie or even a mini-vacation, just by yourself or with your better-half while leaving the kids with grandparents or extended family. Or to take time off to do things you like -- be it writing, reading, painting, or even just lazing on your couch, watching your favourite TV show. Or even just enjoying the work you do. And most of all, it is okay to ignore what others may think of you as a parent. Your parenting style needs to be shaped by your situation and the environment that your family is in, not by some social expectation, external pressures and unwritten rules of how to bring up your child.

Regardless of what the "parenting police" say, remember that there is no perfect parent award. So just be a real one. You are a human being, not superwoman (or man). It won't do you any good to be riddled by a guilt born of expectations or to be anxious or exhausted. Instead, in the time you do have with your kids, show them a happy, good-humoured role model, teaching them that it is perfectly possible to balance priorities in life.

And as for the kids, they'll turn out just fine. After all, you are amazing parents.

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