Mom guilt is so real. I always thought I could be different and somehow felt I would be strong enough to avoid this guilt. Until I was booked for a half-day shoot and all I could think of was my daughter being away from me. I had to remind myself that my career is important not just for me but for my family as well, and in all honesty, I also had to remind myself how blessed I was to be my own boss as so many moms have to leave their kid with a nanny while they go off to work daily.
Regardless of all of this, the guilt is still so real, something I’m still working on myself.– Guest Editor Candice Manuel

Nothing could have ever prepared me for what motherhood came with. The last two years have been a journey, trying to navigate being a first-time mother as well as parenting with my husband.

Going back to work meant I had to leave my son in the hands of a stay-in nanny; someone who was a stranger we had to trust with our only child. Often, because I was away for most of the day, I would overwork myself when I got home because I felt I had missed out on so much. From waking up in the morning, preparing his milk and making sure his food was sorted until I came home, to working 8 hrs at the office while stressing about what to make for dinner, coming back, preparing and making dinner because I felt no one else could make dinner in my house but me alone.

I was always exhausted and by the time it was my son’s bath-time; I was finished. We would end up not spending that quality, healthy time together because ‘mom was tired’. And I honestly bent my back with all of these tasks, because I thought I would be failing my family if I was not doing all of this myself. Even when my husband offered to help, I would immediately block him, because again, society has made it almost impossible for mothers to not ‘have things together’.

This all took a terrible toll on me. I had to sit and think about what kind of mother I wanted to be for my son because I knew something had to give. And that was me! I realised I needed to delegate some responsibilities around the house. I acknowledged I could not do every single thing by myself. I listed things I knew I needed help with and split those between my helper and my husband. I had been drowning in this whole excitement and selfishness of being a first-time mom and believing I could do everything by myself and be a super mom and to my surprise; they were eager and keen to help. I was now happy as well because I could look forward to coming back home, spending time with my boy, going on walks with him and just having a great time as a family, with fewer complaints and grumpiness.

Then the pandemic hit and changed everything. Now we could not travel to see family and my son was going to be raised away from his grandparents and family. This was hard because, as a first-time mother, part of the tradition in my culture is to have family over with you during the first few months after the child is born. This was very challenging, but together with my husband and our helper, we made it through.

Later on, I registered for my postgraduate degree, adding another stress on top of my other responsibilities. Over and above being a mother, I was now a student and a corporate mom while also attending to my business, creating content, and working with brands. It could have been extremely tough, but now I had found a system that worked for me. Things became so much better and I was in such a better space that I passed with Cum Laude. My home remained under control; my husband was more loving being involved in our parenting journey and our helper was a blessing. The best thing I ever did for myself and for my sanity was to prioritise my mental health. Knowing my boundaries, saying no to some campaigns, and being intentional about not bringing work home and allowing my family to help me, made me a better mom.

My advice to mothers is to acknowledge when you can see or tell things are getting out of hand. Be careful not to burn yourself, as is so easy to. It’s okay to delegate work, it’s okay to get help, it’s okay to not do everything by yourself, and it’s okay to be a working mother and still be a good mom. Let go of the guilt!

By Massi Nokeri