Wednesday 23 October 2019

I've got 'guilty mummy syndrome', but I know I'm doing right thing

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

LIKE many working mothers, businesswoman and 'Dragons Den' star Ramona Nicholas suffers from 'guilty mummy syndrome'.

As soon as she returned home from hospital after giving birth to son Alex, now four, she was answering work emails. Six weeks later, she was back in the office three days a week.

It was May 2009, at the height of the pharmacy crisis, and as joint managing director of Cara Pharmacy with her husband Canice, she found herself pulled back into the world of work.

Since then, she feels pangs of guilt at spending time away from Alex and has come to the realisation that no one can be supermum.

"Like any other mother, I suffer from guilty mummy syndrome," she says.

"It's not a matter of balancing my career – it's balancing missing him but knowing I'm doing the right thing and if I wasn't achieving my goals then I wouldn't be the woman I want to be.

"I've learned that I can't be a perfectionist. I wanted to be the best mummy, the best wife, the best friend, the best daughter. . . Now I've realised you can only do your best. You can only give what your body can give."

Initially sceptical about having children – having grown up the eldest in a large family, she already knew the great responsibilities of bringing up a child – she admits that motherhood is a much bigger struggle than she initially imagined.

"Different people my age were growing very interested in setting up a family, but it wasn't something that appealed to me. I felt my maternal instinct wasn't there – even though people say today I've very strong maternal instincts at work."

However, at the age of 31, she and her husband Canice decided to take the plunge.

"We were married four years at that stage and we had a very nice lifestyle and were just very settled in our way. I made the decision that I wasn't going to change that, everything was going to be perfect and rosy – but of course it was far from it."

Alex developed a serious kidney infection and it was initially thought his hours of crying were due to colic or a lactose intolerance. It was several months before the infection was diagnosed.

Ramona felt guilty Alex wasn't diagnosed sooner.

"I blamed myself," she says. "It took me a long time to get over that and realise it wasn't my fault. As an educated person and a qualified pharmacist, I thought I should have known."

She said those early days were a real struggle; however, once he got better Alex became a wonderful happy child, which he has continued to be to this day.

Both she and Canice still struggle with feelings of guilt at not spending more time with Alex. However, Ramona believes they are instilling a strong work ethic in their son as they explain to him what they are doing.

"He knows he wouldn't be able to go to the pool or get taken on nice holidays if we didn't work," she says.

Irish Independent

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