This article was submitted by Ayu Setiadewi, a Masters student in the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment.


Many women who want to work and continue their studies have to put aside their dreams because of their children. They often feeling guilty leaving their children at home, with their nanny or grandparents, while they are working or studying. This feeling is often called “mummy guilt”.

Not to mention that, in some communities, there is pressure or judgement for a working mum. They are considered a “bad mum” for prioritising their career over their children. And it is such a loss, because they are bright and intelligent women.

I am one of many mothers out there who try to break that norm. I used to be a full-time working mum, from 8 AM to 4 PM, who took my eldest (3 years) to the daycare in my office, and left my youngest (18 months) with a nanny at home. I worked for the government, so I also travelled a lot in Indonesia. And now I am studying my Masters in Australia for a year and a half, leaving them with my husband and the nanny. I didn’t bring my family here because he also works for the government, and so I can focus more on my studies.

Of course I’ve had that “mummy guilt” as well. In Indonesia, I always got home from work at 4 PM sharp, so I could pick my son up from daycare on time and can spend time with my little one. I felt bad for leaving them whenever I was out of town. The day I arrived in Australia, I was close to packing my luggage again, going back to the airport and flying home to Indonesia. I wanted to hug them, kiss them, bathe them, feed them – just spend time together.

But all I can do now is stare at the screen of my phone on a video call. And it’s heartbreaking whenever your children are sick, and all you can do is comfort them from afar.

So, how did I finally manage to get over my homesickness and start to get on with it?

  1. First, review why you wanted to pursue higher education in the first place. Think about what motivates you to follow your dream. For me, I remind myself that I am doing this to provide a better quality of life for my family in the long term.
  2. Remind yourself that, when you finish your study, you will become a better mother for your children, with all the experience you gained in Australia.
  3. Ensure that your children are in good hands, with good caretakers. It will ease your mind and your guilt. A child that is used to being taken care of by other people will grow up to be an independent person.
  4. Picture your family as the big goal, the finish line and the ultimate reward for all your hard work. Make them the motivation whenever you are feeling lost, so you will give your best effort to your study or work.
  5. Enjoy your free time without the children. Do whatever you like, continue that hobby of yours, explore the city. If you have an activity you’ve stopped because of your children, this is the time to start again.

So, mothers, your love and compassion towards your children does not necessarily mean being with them 24 hours straight. Sometimes, taking good care of yourself and pursuing that dream of yours – that is, being on hold for a while – is another language of love to your children. They will understand in time.

Don’t you worry, strong mummas. Go out there, live your life to the fullest and start following your dream!


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