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The Returners’ A-Z: Absent Parent Guilt

Parental guilt. I’m sure we’ve all experienced it at some point. The ‘how is this going to affect/not affect my child if does, or does not, do this?’

Usually reinforced by some ‘perfect parent’ in the playground or on social media who portrays the idea that little Jimmy or Jane is amazing because of everything they, as a parent, provide.

Insert your own ‘get lost’ or similar here.

Add to this to the worry of how your child or children will react when you Return to Work, or what they will miss out on whilst you are working, and you’ve now got Absent Parent Guilt.

Dad crying with head in hands.

The very thought of dropping your child off at pre-school for the first time as you head to work. Leaving them (inevitably) crying on the doorstep as you get back in the car, only for you to arrive at work and have a cry in the carpark/toilet/new boss’s office.

I’ve drawn a pretty grim picture, but this can be the reality. The good news is that are ways to cope with it, and things you need to know that will help.

1. Children love routine. They cry on the doorstep of the pre-school because it’s a different routine with different people, not because you are going to work. You can get prepared for this by starting your child a week or two before you start your new job. Your

child will be settled into the new routine by the time you start work and instead of leaving them crying, they are through the door and gone without even saying goodbye!

2. It is 100% ok for you to have a cry. You are going to miss your child, and it is natural to shed a tear or 2. Let it all out, dry your eyes and focus on learning your new job. The quicker you feel in control, the sooner you’ll feel settled, and that will help you, family and colleagues alike.

3. Talk about it. With other parents in the playground, your partner, us, and your new colleagues - there will be parents there who will know what you’re going through. Understand that you are not alone, and that they may offer tips and advice to help you get through this.

4. Remind yourself why you wanted to Return to Work in the first place. If you’re anything like 95% of the people we work with, it will be a combination of money, career, wanting adult conversations, being an inspiration to your children, and finding a space that doesn’t revolve around children. In other words, you are doing this for you. Assuming you have found the right opportunity, you will be a happier version of yourself, and a happier parent is a better parent.

5. Quantity does not always equal quality. You might have less time with your children, but if you can make it quality time, then your child might be richer because of it.

Mum with 2 children, making lunch

6. Go in with your eyes open. Being a working parent is hard, a consistent juggle of priorities. Sometimes you’ll have to prioritise work, but that’s ok as at other times you will prioritise family. Especially if you’ve put the work into finding the right opportunity for you.

7. Lastly, focus on the positives. Think about the opportunities you have created for your children by Returning to Work. New friends, new skills, more holidays, more inspiration, a happier home life, a broader understanding of the world. To me, that looks like a fair trade.

You cannot make Absent Parent Guilt disappear. I don’t think there is anything you can do that will stop you wishing you had more time with your children, but you can accept that being a parent means more than just simply being with them.

It is about showing them there are no limits to what they can do. It is helping them to be happy and healthy, and inspiring them to achieve their potential. And, I think, being a working parent is a key part of this.

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