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Guilt: A Full-Time Occupation?

The children are back at school now, and the house has just about returned to normal.  New black shoes have been purchased (some time ago if you were organised, last week if you weren't), and pencil cases have been filled with the essential tools needed for the classroom.  For many working parents it is now a case of dropping the children off at the school gate then dashing off to the workplace, or maybe leaving them at their grandparents' house so that they can be taken to the playground for the start of the school day.


In many families both parents now work to provide the luxuries of life (and sometimes the essentials), which otherwise would be unaffordable.  Some years ago, it would be more common for one parent to take care of the home and see to the many tasks involved in the running of an efficient household.  Now both partners in many couples are in employment, what does this mean in terms of our wellbeing and relationships with those we love?


While paid employment means trips to the cinema and annual holidays are within easier reach, one negative aspect of this new way of living out family life is commonly spoken of in the counselling room: the guilt of being a working parent.  With less time to spend with their children, mums and dads often speak in therapy about how they try to compress all the fun, guidance and love their sons and daughters need into the 'quality time' that they do have together.  Unfortunately, many work-weary parents also confess to being snappy and irritable during this time, owing to being tired out after a long day at work.  Result = guilt.


Because quality time is shorter than many parents would like, often planned activities are the order of the day.  Canoeing, amusement parks and trips to the zoo/farm/soft play area are all things I have heard parents say they intend to do with their loved ones in their precious time off work.  There is also the argument that as canoeing, amusement parks and the like cost a lot of money, going to work is essential to pay for these activities!  As they cost so much, shouldn't they be guaranteed to bring a smile to a child's face?


In my role as a professional counsellor, one thing I have observed some parents discovering is that to be a 'human being' and not a 'human doing' can reap rewards that money cannot buy.  To listen to a child - to their hopes, fears and made-up stories - can lay firm foundations on top of which a solid relationship can be built for now and for the future.  To be heard is a fundamental need that we all have, and to be listened to and heard by those we look up to and feel safe with - our parents - is truly a precious thing indeed.  For many working parents it seems that their guilt is a reminder that perhaps there are other things, more important than the project deadline or the promotion ladder.  While a healthy bank balance is welcome, what it can't buy is an evening snuggled up with a little one, who will not be little forever.


Although work is often an essential part of life, what small changes could you implement to make it number two on the list sometimes, behind those all-important relationships with the very children you are going to work for?



Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy


Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com


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Guilt: A Full-Time Occupation? | Ashwood Therapy Blog