These are the words that stab the heart of a parent when they are saying them to their children.

It’s fine when these are one-off situations. It’s when they become regular that they become harder to bear.

Sharon, is a client and a mum to three children and in her leadership role, regularly has out of hours work to attend to. She does her best to minimise the impact of her work on her time with her children and lately it has been becoming more and more of a challenge.

Sharon loves her work, she wouldn’t be who she is, if she didn’t do the work that she does. It’s a big part of her life, as are her children, and she loves that her children get to see her kicking goals and making a contribution.

Despite knowing all of this, Sharon still feels guilty and conflicted and she’s not alone. Research into the attitudes of 1,000 working parents (or expectant parents) carried out on behalf of the Work and Family Show, found that 81 per cent of mothers returning to work after having a child said they felt guilty about doing so.

Torn between two things that are important to her, what can Sharon do to resolve this conflict?

Guilt is a result of holding a set of rules in your mind and one or more of the rules are being broken. Basically, you are not doing what you are “supposed to do”. Usually these rules are buried deep down (likely from a young age) and you operate from them without knowing.

The real questions are “who says you are supposed to?” and “if you knew what the rule was in this context, would you keep wanting to apply it?”

When we delved into Sharon’s thinking and asked these questions we discovered that she held a belief about her role as a mum and that “mums should be at home”, as Sharon’s own mother was when she was young. When I asked Sharon if she wanted to keep applying this belief to her family today, she said no, because she knows that work makes her a better mum. The guilt lifted away.

The gift in releasing this guilt is when Sharon now says, “I can’t read to you tonight I have to work”, she is congruent with her decision. Congruency, as Sharon discovered, has allowed her to be more present with her children when she is with them. It is a win for them all.