5 Simple Ways to Reduce Guilty Working Mother Syndrome this Holiday Season

I am reposting this again and will do every year at this time because we can all use a reminder in the rush up to Christmas.

At this time of year it seems that mothers are in a pressure cooker situation. Everything seems to be more intense in every area of life. The strain between work and family is more pronounced as work increases pressure to be at work for deadlines or parties, and family wants you at home - especially the kids who bombard you with demands for gifts, food, play dates and your time.​

The desire to please everyone and fulfill all the "should's" of the season is HUGE!

And as you try to balance everything whilst running around in high heels, it is no wonder that the “Guilty Working Mother Syndrome” appears and gives you that heavy feeling of "not good enough".

Here are 5 simple things you can do to reduce the “Guilty Working Mother Syndrome” and get back that sense of "I'm enough."

1. Take 15 minutes for yourself a day

As illogical as it sounds, taking this time for yourself will make you more productive and happier. You first need to acknowledge that you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others. In this 15 minutes, do something just for you. It can be meditation of course, but it can also be a walk, sitting on the beach, listening to music, laughing, exercise, go for lunch, calling a long lost friend, as long as you acknowledge that this is JUST FOR YOU.

2. Breathe deeply

Often as we rush from place to place, our breathing ends up being very shallow and so our blood doesn't get enough oxygen and we wind up feeling more tired than we have to.

Also shallow breathing perpetuates a state of anxiety in our minds and so we feel more stressed.

Take 3 deep breaths several times a day and think “This too shall pass.” or “Let’s do this!” depending on the situation. Put it as reminder on your phone so you dont forget.

3 deep breaths that fill up your lungs and abdomen - takes 30 seconds max. You can spare 30 seconds to reset yourself, calm yourself down and give your body more oxygen to tackle everything on your todo list.

3. Say NO to some things….politely

Please don’t become Scrooge or the Grinch, but sometimes you need to say “No”. Use your body as a barometer, if it doesn't light you up - then say “No Thanks.” If you need to use the + - + formula. e.g. “I can get you a second glass of milk,(+) when I finish my breakfast, not right now (-) but when I finish I will get you the milk (+).” I used this this morning with my son and it worked. It also showed a great role model to him of someone who values themselves whilst still caring for others.

This requires prioritisation of your life and you will find that people mostly will be ok because they are in the same boat! Remember the Dr. Suess quote “Those who mind, don’t matter and those that matter, don’t mind.” So stop being the “people pleaser” and “goodie girl of should’s” at the risk of losing yourself.

4. Put the phone down and give your presence not presents

During the holiday season, mothers (us) can find ourselves organising fabulous times for everyone else to have when all they really want is our time. A manager told me this story of how he was organising horse rides for his kids but the kids weren't excited and he was getting really frustrated because he had put all this effort in and yelled “…but I am doing all of this for you!” His son answered back in a quiet voice, “Yeah Dad, but could you do some of it WITH us.”

So give your presence and take the kids out to dinner, take your partner out to dinner and have conversations. (Please take the kids to a family friendly restaurant so you don’t have to stress about the shoulds with the kids.) Notice the smiles and enjoy the connections. They will beam in your presence.

5. Enjoy one 3 breath hug once a day

Hug yourself, hug your child, hug your partner, hug a loved one and hold on for 3 breaths. This is not the perfunctory hug, peck on the cheek drop you off at the curb hug, this is a hug that you hold onto for 3 breaths. That is important. Here is why.

This is practice of mindfulness. Quote by Zen master: Thich Nhat Hanh says

“When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings. Hugging with mindfulness and concentration can bring reconciliation, healing, understanding, and much happiness.”

In that time it is amazing what happens. Your awareness of the other person grows, your heartbeats start to sync and slow down, your blood pressure reduces and your cortisol is lowered which is great for reducing stress because hugs get oxytocin moving and you really appreciate the other person in your arms. Feel the guilt melt away in those 3 breaths because you are there and they know it.

How to do all this?

Not all at once! You have enough on your plate. Take these 5 things and start them one per day. These activities build on each other to allow you to do the next one more easily. Doesn't mean you have to get the one before perfect. Follow the logic and see how it works.

These 5 small things will help you overcome some of the guilt and strain of balancing work and family during the festive season so you can enjoy the season and what the season means to you as a wonderful mindful mum.

take caer, hugs! and namaste,


If you found this useful, please share to those who could also benefit from getting rid of this syndrome. I would love for all mums to be mindful and enjoy themselves fully during the festive season.

If you want to know more about putting this mindfulness fully into practice everyday, contact me or check out the retreats.

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