Editor’s letter: I’m a working mum, not a monster

Guilt: it has such immense power over our lives, doesn’t it? Especially women. I think it has a lot to do with why we end up in situations like our cover star Kirsty Gallacher. In the face of a painful, blindsiding divorce, the TV sports presenter threw herself on to an exhausting treadmill of trying to hold it all together for the children, while still plastering on that on-screen smile for her day job, then adding a gig on that little show called Strictly to the pile. That pursuit of perfection, of seamless plate-spinning and obliging all expectations, and not daring to show a hint of weakness or strain, caught up with her and took a hefty toll. 

It made me think of the countless times I’ve had the sense that whatever I’m doing, I’m doing it all wrong. And if you’re a woman reading this, I’ll bet my right arm you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s always there, isn’t it, in the pit of our guts: the sinking feeling that in some way, or in many ways, we’re falling short. 

In my case, I am a working mother, which for large swathes of society is an open and shut case on doing life all wrong. If I ever have a careless moment where I forget that, I only have to look at the overflowing laundry basket to know I’m really dropping the ball. But also, luckily (and please do sense the nuclear level sarcasm here) my job provides me with a daily glut of emails to put me straight. Seriously, every day, a PR firm emails me with a new survey detailing the anguish and guilt of working mothers across the country. (I suspect surveys about dad guilt must exist, but I am yet to be sent any.) 

I don’t feel guilty about being a working mother. Not one little bit. But this onslaught of information tells me I’m in the minority and so I end up feeling guilty about not feeling guilty! So I must be a monster. 

I tweeted about yet another of these surveys the other day and was soon chatting with hundreds of mothers – working mums, mums who run business and households simultaneously, stay-at-home mums who never get so much as a peaceful loo break – who all feel as though they’re doing something wrong. Plenty mentioned guilt about not returning to work. Some believed what they’ve read, that being a stay-at-home mum makes them an unambitious role model for their children. 

I know, I know – the child-free women reading this will think I’ve forgotten you. But whether you’re child-free by choice or otherwise, don’t you worry, we all know there’s plenty of judgment – of every woman’s personal situation – to go around. 

When guilt comes as standard conditioning, it renders us struggling silently – and inevitably failing – to be perfect. So I’m going to work extra hard to erase the guilt I feel about not feeling guilty and I urge you to do the same. 

Editor’s picks

A few things I’m coveting this week

 My new weekend uniform. Shirt, £29.90, JW Anderson x uniqlo.com

 Love the pop of green against the white. Bag, £305, bimbaylola.com

 Why don’t we wear more pink with red? Jacket, £290, and trousers, £270, Current/Elliott, harveynichols.com