In 2020, I’m telling guilt to get lost

by Emily Rankin @TeachRankin #PledgeForChange20

Two massive things happened for me in the second half of the 2016-17 academic year: my husband and I found out we’d been matched with our daughter and would begin temporary custody in June. I got my first Deputy Headship, to begin in August.


Not exactly congruous, but doable, my uber supportive husband Ben and I decided. Given we are expats in a foreign country with no family support system around, we opted for Ben to be a stay-at-home dad, something we probably couldn’t have afforded back in the United States thanks to the wretched parental leave policy there.

Suffice to say, the last two years have been a wildly joyful and completely exhausting blur. I can regale you with tales of walking into a meeting with the governors whilst simultaneously realising there’s a splotch of baby sick on my blazer. Or having to hand back papers to students with juice stains (I promise you it is not urine!). Or delivering staff inset on three hours of sleep because our daughter and our dog were ill all night. I was ready for scant sleep and changes to my social life as a working parent. I’d read books and blogs about developmental milestones and attachment theory, etc. I had asked my mom and parent friends every question I could think of before we brought our little love home.

What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was the hefty “mom guilt” (“working parent guilt”?) that would gnaw away in my heart much of the time. Ben is a fantastic father; our daughter wants for nothing, but it doesn’t make attending yet another school evening event any easier.

Two and a half years into parenting, the guilt hasn’t really dissipated. When I’m at work, I feel guilty about not doing more at home, and when I’m at home, I feel guilty about not being able to spend the many extra hours I used to doing my job. Everything in both areas is getting done (as did an online class I needed to take this Fall), but it’s meant sacrificing sleep, eating unwholesome lunches at my desk, and not taking the time I should to be present and connect with colleagues, students and friends… it’s just that any precious 5 minutes available can be filled with finishing a task when time is so tight right now.

This year, I pledge to be 10% braver in just letting myself off the hook a bit. I’ll be telling the guilt goon to get lost, and I have some ideas for how to do this:

  • Write down the things I’m doing well so I can look at the list and not feel guilty when I choose sleep over cleaning or responding to emails
  • Schedule time into my Google calendar for getting into the school halls and staff room. This might sound anal, but if it’s my calendar I’ll do it
  • Remind myself my daughter is thriving and that having a working mom is actually good for her
  • Try to get the gym twice a week for my own health and sanity. My local gym has a supervised play room until 6pm that my daughter loves
  • Ask my colleagues whether they think I’m delegating enough. If not, then delegate better

I know many of us struggle with being working parents. It’s been immensely helpful to connect through the #WomenEd community, support each other and hear how others manage this balancing act. Moreover, in the past I would have avoided writing this blog post for fear an employer would see it and judge me as someone unfit for leadership. Now I can confidently point to my ability to multitask and to my care for my family, colleagues and students; if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t feel guilty!

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