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Three Reasons Why Working Mothers Feel Guilty and How to Deal with It

Written by Nurture Therapy

Mothers can feel guilty about all kinds of things—things within their control and things outside of their control. Guilt can be a common symptom of the postpartum period. Mothers often strive to meet unrealistic expectations of parenting. When they don’t reach these unattainable goals, intense feelings of guilt arise. In this post, I will explore some of the reasons why mothers feel guilty, specifically when returning to work.

Jill* came to see me for therapy at the end of her maternity leave. Jill, who had never experienced anxiety before, was suddenly suffering from shortness of breath, racing heart, difficulty breathing and intense feelings of guilt in anticipation of returning to work and leaving her newborn son.

Two-thirds of mothers return to work within one year of giving birth and the majority of these women return to the same jobs. While the experiences, conditions, and circumstances of working vary, many women, like Jill, experience guilt—feeling they are causing harm or doing something wrong.


“What’s the point of having a baby if I am going to leave him every day?” Jill asked. Often working mothers feel guilty leaving their babies in the care of others. However, most children under the age of 5 years old receive childcare from someone other than a parent, whether through day care centers, nurseries or with nannies.