New School Year Guilt


When you’re a mother, the default mode seems to be GUILT. I thought this was just me until I started talking to my mum friends and realised this guilt phenomenon is universal. From what I can tell, save a few books by G Ford or your parenting practitioner of choice, we’re all pretty clueless when it comes to this parenting journey. Which means you’re always second guessing your choices, wondering if you make the best decisions when it comes to your children.

For example, in the last 48 hours I have felt guilty over the following things (and more, but I only have around 800 words here): giving rice cakes to the kids for a snack instead of blueberries, making Elfie go to nursery for the day when she was clinging onto my leg crying, sending her to bed early because she was mean to Hux (and tired), not giving them a bath because we were all too knackered for the nightly splish splash, not fastening Hux’s nighttime nappy properly meaning it leaked in bed and he was sad, leaving the school uniform purchase til August and therefore not being able to find navy P.E. shorts…

It doesn’t end. I feel guilty because I work too much, but when I’m not working I don’t think it’s enough. I feel guilty because Elfie got to the age of almost-four before going to nursery yet Hux is there at two. I feel guilty that I enjoy my work but I’m doing it at the expense of missing the final throes of his babyhood (when I’m home I sniff his head A LOT).

I’m digressing here, because my current mode of guilt is all about school. Elfie starts school tomorrow and I literally haven’t spent any time feeling sad about it. My Facebook timeline is full of mums waxing lyrical about the beginning of the school year but to be honest I’m feeling… well, I’m not sure how I’m feeling.

I know that Elfie doesn’t like nursery; they make her try fruit every day and she likes only blueberries, bananas and strawberries which is uber stressful on the orange and apple days. Yet she’s hugely excited about the prospect of big school and can’t wait to get there, so I guess I’m excited about that. I’m stressed about the aforementioned school uniform (buy it in JULY, people, JULY!), the last bits of which I’m picking up tonight, 12 hours before she starts. I’m proud of how cute she looks in her school uniform and I’m kind of relieved that I won’t be paying £60 a day for her to be in childcare any more.

I’m also starting a new job on the day she starts school, so much of my mind is on that. I’m saying goodbye to my four day weeks at the lovely London IKEA office and starting my first full-time permanent job since 2010 at a big London agency’s satellite base in Milton Keynes. I’m very excited about so much of it – running a team, using my knowledge, managing accounts, working for a big name in the industry – but mostly I’m excited that it’s precisely a seven minute commute in the car. No more leaving work at 5.30 and getting home at 8pm! No more delayed trains! No more feeling so tired that I dribble on a stranger’s shoulder during the morning commute! I’m going to miss my colleagues so much though. And the MeatMission burgers.

But then I realise I’m thinking too much about my new job instead of the start of school and I’m slapped with the working mum guilt again. I read a Nora Ephron quote this morning and it made me feel dreadful:

“I have a theory that children remember two things — when you weren’t there and when they threw up”

It was posted by a working mum on a blog… hashtag solidarity, hey sister?

Luckily I was there when Hux threw up last week (all over the car, thanks buddy) but I can’t believe their childhood memories will be made up of time I wasn’t there. Instead I believe they’ll grow up proud of their mum who worked as hard as she could to build a future for them. The holidays we took, the precious evenings reading books on the sofa.

And the burgers, they’ll definitely remember the burgers.

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  1. Emma wrote:

    THAT is a ridiculous quote. RIDICULOUS. Ignore it. You’re a brilliant Mum and your new job sounds PERFECT – well done! So, Milton Keynes IS the centre of the universe??! Who knew!

    mmm burgers.

    Posted 9.3.14 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      I know, right? MK is where it’s at! ;) x

      Posted 9.7.14 Reply
  2. That quote is tosh – children remember the strangest things and for them (as it is for mine) the normality is that Mummy works and that’s the normal for them

    Congrats on the new job (and the lovely new commute) – and on sorting out uniform and all the other little things

    You know you’re doing a brilliant job right?

    Posted 9.3.14 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Welcome back from your hols! It has become the normal for them and I hope the fact I work gives them the drive that I have :)

      Thank you so much for your lovely words xx

      Posted 9.7.14 Reply
  3. Emma wrote:

    Hey Alice, I have followed you for some time, i enjoy your blog, i love your tweets, i love burgers. I recently had a baby, the head smelling thing i never understood till i realised i do it too, all the time, extending sniffs to get as much scent as possible. freak mum ;) anyway, to say: you were a child once…what did you remember? did your memories shape you or did your personality that you inherited , the experiences, the fun and the bad times shape you? No matter how much you do, or don’t do, it doesn’t always matter, only love does. We are in a world of unhealthy expectation, competition, to be perfect at everything, but the flaws, these are what make us human and showing them to your children will also make them experience a more genuine mummy. I hope to have half the balance you have found one day too. good luck in your new job. xEmma

    Posted 9.3.14 Reply
  4. Heather wrote:

    I a first time (and single) mom to an 8 month old, and the guilt has been the biggest shock to me. I had no idea it would be so all consuming.

    Posted 9.3.14 Reply
  5. Betty and the Bumps wrote:

    Gwenn is 16/17 months and she is going for a settling in session at nursery on Friday. One part of me thinks WHO ABANDONS A BABY WITH STRANGERS?!?! whereas the rational part of me thinks “She left your uterus for a reason” and the guilt subsides slightly.

    I have to admit, I barely leave her side other than the three days I work; I never socialise. I’m not saying this is for everyone but for me it’s a good way of assuaging guilt.


    PS I totally fancy your blog

    Posted 9.3.14 Reply
  6. E will be fine because you have raised her as a confident happy little girl. That’s Mum points for you. You shouldn’t feel guilty. And congrats on the new job. You will be amazing. xx

    Posted 9.3.14 Reply
  7. Steph wrote:

    Oh bloody hell, what a horrible quote! If you’re anything like me the alternative to being a frantically busy, working mum, would be being a miserable non-working mum. I’m convinced it’s all about the love – that’s what our kids will remember most. And weird stuff, because they’re kids. The guilt is consuming & I think most of it comes from the ridiculous notion that mothers shouldn’t feel passionate about anything but their kids. Push the guilt to one side and remember it’s a brilliant thing to teach children that women are multi faceted and that we’re allowed to find joy in different things. X

    Posted 9.4.14 Reply
  8. How about this quote: the only thing I feel guilty about is not feeling guilty enough.

    Women work, someone enjoy to, most women HAVE to. You are being interesting and productive and earning money and using your skills. And you are letting both your son and daughter know that mummies work. What an amazing role model you are for them. In the US, they think Europe is lazy for taking more than a year out for maternity leave! Not my ideal, but they take a couple of months then back to grindstone. Not saying I agree with that, but just saying that we shoul be positive about all the options

    Enough of all this handwringing! One day they will be adults and you will wish you hadn’t wasted time feeling guilty! Enjoy them, enjoy your job, have a ball! Your brilliance is obvious to all

    Posted 9.4.14 Reply
  9. I am so relieved for you that you are starting a new job closer to home. Your old routine sounded crazy when I read about it! As for having so much going on in your own life that you don’t worry to much about the trivialities of your kids life, this is GOOD! Your kids will grow up to understand the world doesn’t revolve around them all the time, which far too many people these days fail to grasp!

    Posted 9.4.14 Reply
  10. Perfect. I sometimes let the guilt catch up on me, but I try to avoid it as much as possible. That quote is nonsense. You’re doing what you have to do, just as I do. Keep on keeping on, and thanks for writing this :) x

    Posted 9.4.14 Reply
  11. Steph @ Sisterhood (and all that) wrote:

    Last week my son crapped and said it looked ‘like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon’. This is all he’s remembered of the last few weeks! It sounds like you’re v normal to worry, BUT doing an awesome job and also doing something that makes you feel good and proud – which will make you a happy mum? Sounds all very sensible to me. Ps loving the solidarity of the comments you’ve received – who gives a shit what someone else chooses to do, as long as everyone involved is happy and healthy? THAT’S Sisterhood x

    Posted 9.4.14 Reply
  12. Jem wrote:

    Not a smidgen of sadness about #1 starting school here. In fact I’m relieved, because it’s going to save me nearly £400 in bloody childcare bills.

    Posted 9.4.14 Reply
  13. Grenglish wrote:

    Oh the GUILT. THE GUILT. Honestly, I quit my job last year because of THE GUILT and although I might be around more, it has not make me a better mother. I now just feel guilty about different things.
    You are a wonderful mother. Your kids will be proud of you, are already proud of you. Good luck in your new job lovely, sounds perfect for you and a shorter commute will be a blessing, once you stop missing the burgers that is :-)

    Posted 9.4.14 Reply
  14. Colette wrote:

    Love this post! I’m on maternity leave at the moment and have already started to feel guilty about going back to work. I actually asked my eldest son (6) about it the other day. What would he prefer, Mummy to be around more like she is now, able to do the school runs and be around during the hols, but not having as much money to do nice things. OR, back at work so he would go back to the childminder after school but we would have money to go on holiday etc. He thought about it very carefully and then said, ‘I think I’d prefer you to be at work. I have fun at the childminder and I’d still get to see you in the evening and at weekends but then in the Summer, we can go to Legoland!’ Xxx

    Posted 9.4.14 Reply
  15. Sian wrote:

    Ignore that quote! Ignore it! Your kids will simply know what they know, that is what is normal for them. We’re all just muddling along, doing what we think is best for our own xx

    Posted 9.4.14 Reply
  16. Tonia Gemmell wrote:

    Reading this on the bus this morning after leaving Rudie at school to go college and just about breaking my heart! I also hope he will be proud of achievments, how I gave up my favulous job to retrain and hopefully provide a better life.
    the things us mothers must do x

    Posted 9.5.14 Reply
  17. Karen wrote:

    Childhood is full of memories of lots of different things and thats what it should be. Many magical times spent at nursery, with mum, with dad, with family, with friends, alone with toys and imagination, holidays and trips (that you can afford because you working). The more variety the better. What a silly comment!

    Posted 9.5.14 Reply
  18. I’m a stay at home mum to twins and I feel guilty for them not going to nursery yet to make pasta pictures and play games with fun kids! I sometimes worry about them stuck with boring me all day watching me do housework! Guilt as a parent is normal. But, you sound like a fantastic mum and you’re children are lucky to have you. What a role model you are. Hard working and devoted to them. Hope the job is going well x x

    Posted 9.5.14 Reply
  19. Yep, we all feel guilty in one way or another. Some of us feel guilty for being at work and not spending enough time with the kids, others feel bad for not missing their kids whilst being away. I actually feel both at different times. As for the kids them selves, 90% of the time they don’t even think about it, its just their normality. All the best.x

    Posted 9.6.14 Reply
  20. lajules wrote:

    Love Nora Ephron!!! But I have another quote for you, which I want you to apply to mommy’s guilt:

    “You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, ‘And are the men doing this, as well?’ If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as ‘some total fucking bullshit’.”
    Caitlin Moran – How to be a Woman

    Are men feeling guilty when they can’t provide the absolute best for their children? That’s the question I try to ask myself everyday, when I try to do my best (i.e. what I can) for my family and for myself, despite the fact that according to the world, a mom is always at fault for something.

    It sounds to me you’re a great mom and a clever woman. ENJOY IT!!!!!


    Posted 9.7.14 Reply
  21. Lindsay wrote:

    Congratulations! Think I know where you’re off to, if I’m right you’ll love it, they were my ad agency for last 3 years and are what I miss most in my new role. Good luck and enjoy it x

    Posted 9.9.14 Reply
  22. Heidi ASBURY wrote:

    I really believe that guilt is such a useless emotion. I am trying VERY hard to ditch it. At the end of the day, you do the best for yourself, your family and your kids – I’m a better mum because I go to work full time (yes its hard to balance everthing at times, but you can’t fault me for trying). My son is more balanced because other people look after him. Sometimes I work too hard and then I notice and then ease off a bit and focus more on the family. Every mother should give themselves a break from guilt – you’re all doing a great job!

    Posted 9.10.14 Reply
  23. Ah, babe – You are enough. You do enough. You are there enough.

    Just repeat that to yourself every freaking day :)

    Seriously. I’m never sad when my kids start school, either for the first time ever or after the summer. I love them but they exhaust me too and I need to do my own thing too. I never cry over clothes that have become too small – the older they get the more fun they are!

    Have fun at your new job! You are a fabulous mother AND a fabulous woman – you do your best and your best is enough :) Trust me!

    Posted 9.17.14 Reply
  24. Honest Mum wrote:

    Oh hun you are a bloody amazing mum and although we are all perpetually guilty and it it’s silly, your kids are happy and healthy and you are an amazing role model for them x

    Posted 9.27.14 Reply