Managing the conflicting relationship that exists between work and family has become a prominent theme in the lives of many working parents in present times. I am writing this blog to explore two popular ideas around the guilt that working parents may experience- Do parents only feel guilty because work commitments interfere with family commitments, or do parents also feel guilty because family life interferes with working commitments? Secondly, do only mothers experience guilt because of this?
Many parents can probably relate to the nagging thought of “I am not being a good enough parent to my children if I commit myself to my work”, or that “I am not a good enough employee if I decide to make the needs of my family central to my life”. I notice that we generally speak more about the guilt that a parent might experience when the demands of work interfere with how available the parent is to fulfill parental commitments (for instance having to be away from home in order to attend a late meeting). However, a parent can also experience negative feelings when the demands at home, such as having a sick child, could interfere with the ability to focus at work. Surrounded by the many shoulds and oughts of what makes a perfect parent and a perfect employee, it is understandable how working parents often struggle with the experience of what is now termed as ‘work-family guilt’ (Borelli, Nelson-Coffey, River & Birken; 2016).
The common trend is for us to think of working mothers as the parent that experiences work-family guilt. This is generally based on the idea that since traditionally women hold the role of child care, and fathers hold the role of breadwinners, it is the women that have made a shift. While research does suggest that mothers, in general, do experience more work-family guilt due to the conflict between work and family commitments (Borelli, Nelson-Coffey, River & Birken; 2016), fathers also struggle with finding a comfortable balance between family and work. In a research study carried out by the PEW research center (2015), fathers also shared that they fear that they might not be spending enough time with their child due to working commitments.
Rebecca Cassar is a Family Therapist practicing the Systemic Approach. She specializes in offering therapy to families, couples and individuals who are experiencing distress in their relationships. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.