Overcoming Back-to-Work Anxieties for New Moms


Super working-mother syndrome

How to Prevent Super Working-Mother Syndrome
The "Super Working-Mother Syndrome" is a major trap that many working mothers fall into. In order to protect their families from the physical, mental, and social effects of their return to the workplace, many women feel compelled to "overload" their lives by doing too much in too little time. This trend for perfectionism is driven by guilt and anger. The maternal guilt basically comes from not living up to your own expectations of yourself, and the anger comes from having to self-sacrifice all day long, week in and week out.

It is important that you get past these destructive attitudes and projections. Try to dispel the notion that you can, and should, do everything perfectly: be a perfect mother, a perfect wife, and a perfect employee. It's not humanly possible. Until you acknowledge to yourself that it's okay to be less than perfect at everything, you'll carry a heavy burden of tension, a feeling of inadequacy,and disappointment. Being a balanced woman is an ongoing process—it is not a destination.

Here is a list to help you rid yourself of the symptoms before they lead to frustration, and eventually, depression:

  • Learn to recognize warning signs—Physical symptoms, irritability, yelling, tears, etc., may indicate you need (and deserve) emotional sustenance. Accept the validity of what you're feeling, of the fact that you have needs that must be met if you are to function as a working mom.
  • Alter your expectations—Ask yourself whether they are realistic and try to come to terms with them. Constantly remind yourself that you cant be all things to all people. Make a list of every last thing you feel bad about that you didn't do for your child. Feel really awful about all of them for a day, then ask forgiveness of yourself and sweep them away. Tomorrow is another day.
  • Understand that guilt comes with the territory—Use it as a motivating force to do something positive; for example, find the best child care available. Make sure you're not projecting your own feelings of guilt and frustration on your child or she will start believing that everything is her fault, and she is the cause of your grief. Let negative comments go in one ear and out the other.
  • Become a happy, fulfilled person—Somebody who is taking care of her own needs. This is the most important thing you can do to promote your child's future welfare. Engage in any worthwhile activity that brings you a sense of satisfaction.
  • Separate your feelings from your actions—Feeling like hitting your child is not something to feel guilty about; hitting your child is.
  • Set priorities—Decide which are most important to you and which you can live without. These can be tough choices, but not making them deprives you of the time you need to really enjoy your life. Once you've set your priorities, don't add a new activity unless you subtract one.
  • Slow down at work and at home—You don't have to be number one in your department or have the cleanest house on the block. Drop the fantasy that you can come home after an easy day's work and bake delicious cookies for the family. Give them store-bought ones. Your family will love you just the same, and you'll be more fun to be around. Learn to delegate chores you loathe or pay someone to do them. (see Working Mothers: Organizing Your Life)
  • Seek counseling—If you feel your life is unmanageable, a therapist can help you put things into the proper perspective and enable you to find balance in your life. If you're single, find a good support group. Your insurance company can be a good place to start. Many feature a variety of self-improvement programs at no cost to you. Your local library is another great place for info on support groups in your area as well as searching the Internet. Your local church or synagogue may also have a group that would be the right fit for you.


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© 2005 by Marla Schram Schwartz. Excerpted from The Working Woman's Baby Planner with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

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