Career & Finance

How a Toxic Work Relationship Can Affect Motherhood

an expert and readers weigh in
toxic work relationship"
toxic work relationship
Source: Anete Lusina / Pexels
Source: Anete Lusina / Pexels

When I was younger, I found myself in a lot of toxic relationships with people. I had toxic platonic relationships, romantic relationships, and working relationships.

A toxic person is someone who adds negativity or stress to your life. Ironically enough, most toxic people are usually dealing with their own drama or stress, and their way of responding is by being toxic to someone else. Usually, a toxic person will not be supportive of you, and the relationship you may have with this person (platonic, romantic, or working) can be borderline abusive. Essentially, a toxic person will find ways to bring you down emotionally and can make you doubt yourself.

When I think of my younger years and all the toxic situations I found myself in, I remembered how drastically they affected me—both mentally and physically. I found myself extremely anxious and stressed out. Many of these situations also led to gastrointestinal issues.

Today, I’m a full-time stay-at-home mom as well as a working writer, and I’m very lucky to have not dealt with any toxic relationships in quite some time. But when I think back to my younger years and how terribly toxic relationships affected me, I know these relationships still exist, and many parents are dealing with them on top of everything else. This made me wonder how toxic relationships at work can have a negative impact on parenting.


How a Toxic Work Environment Can Affect Parenting

“A negative work environment can be very stressful, especially on top of everything else a mother is juggling,” said Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, D.O., psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer at LifeStance Health. “Ideally, you want work to be another solace, so to speak. A stressful work environment can almost work against a working mom because they are already dealing with so much.”

“We are in a youth mental health crisis, and as a parent myself, it can be scary to think about missing something with your child,” said Dr. Patel-Dunn. “Kids are more anxious and stressed right now, and it’s even more difficult to navigate this and support your child if work is adding to your own stress.”

Below readers share common ways toxic work relationships have affected their parenting, plus suggestions to find a better balance between work and home.



Ashley Chubin, a Chief Operating Officer, described herself as enthusiastic and full of excitement upon entering the corporate world while raising her child. She said that all changed when she met her colleague and ex-best friend.

“She was a free spirit who was selfish in ways that I just saw as positive and inspiring back then,” said Chubin. “My relationship with her soon turned into a close friendship as I looked up to her. She started gaslighting me about my early motherhood and made me feel like I was wasting my joyful years in life—so much so that it started affecting my parenting. I became more self-indulgent and was often at a crossroads that I heavily regret now. After a few months, I finally realized how my colleague and supposed friend was just projecting her insecurities on me.”



Trouble Finding a Balance Between Work and Home

Plenty of moms out there can relate to the difficulty of finding a balance between their work and home life. For some, it can begin to severely affect their parenting.

Alexa Justine Callada, a Marketing Specialist, said she suffered from a toxic work relationship that began to make things worse for her child, which led her to resign. “I struggled to maintain a healthy balance in both aspects of my life,” said Callada. “I couldn’t focus because I have big responsibilities in my career and in my subordinates. When I would come home, I sometimes mistreated [my son] because I was stressed and tired from workloads. It caused him trauma, and it breaks my heart knowing that my only son was afraid to come near me.”

Emma Gordon also struggled to find a balance between being a boss and maintaining her staff, while being a single mom to two teen boys. She found difficulty working with a staff who weren’t great at their jobs—which led to her losing time with her boys. “There was a particular time I overworked myself and took a long nap, forgetting I was to drop the boys at their Lacrosse game, hence they missed it. This act made my kids upset, causing a strain between us. I feel bad and angry about the situation. Bad because my kids believed I’d rather choose my job over them. Angry because I wanted to be fully present in my boys’ life. But I didn’t have capable hands to keep the business running at the time.”


Fighting Against the Stigma of Working Moms

Jacqueline Snyder, cofounder of The Product Boss, was pregnant with her first child when she owned her fashion consulting company. “When I started this company, I did so with the commitment that this would be a collaborative community with teammates that supported each other through and through,” said Snyder. “But somehow a stigma still existed that if an employee were to get pregnant, she would fall behind professionally. So, I hid the fact that I was pregnant from my clients out of fear of their reactions.”


…somehow a stigma still existed that if an employee were to get pregnant, she would fall behind professionally. So, I hid the fact that I was pregnant from my clients out of fear of their reactions.


Jaqueline said that this feeling of both personal and professional inadequacy haunted her for the first few years of her son’s life. “I was somehow too embarrassed to use my son or responsibilities as a mother as reasons for not giving my career the attention it demanded. I was stretched too thin, and it sent ripples throughout my life. My relationship with my husband suffered. I missed family dinners and saying goodnight to my son too many times. In terms of client work, I constantly struggled with feelings of incompetency and unhealthy comparison thinking I wasn’t living up to my true potential for them as I promised I would. I wanted to balance it all, and every time I fell flat.”


Having a Toxic Relationship with Yourself

Dana Olson of We The Mamas, has an interesting take on toxic relationships affecting motherhood.

“The most toxic work relationship a mother can have is the one she has with herself. If your voice and your boundaries feel weak, yet work feels all-consuming, it’s because you no longer prioritize your peace or your joy. And much as that might sting, it only takes a choice followed by an action to start changing what you prioritize and the way you feel about it.”



How to Find Better Balance Between Work and Home

All mothers work, whether they stay at home or work outside the home, and it’s hard to balance working and raising kids. Here are some suggestions for how to find a better balance.


Seeking Outside Help

Snyder said the key for her was choosing peace and stepping away from the insurmountable expectation society has placed on working mothers. “I sought professional help to manage my mental health and let go of the idea that you can “do it all.” I’ve found it incredibly helpful, both personally and professionally, to prioritize what needs your specific attention and then to delegate or let go of the rest.”


Putting Technology Away During Family Time

Dr. Patel-Dunn says a helpful tactic can be carving out a break from electronics. “You can even take this literally and put all your household’s electronics (phones, tablets, etc.) into a basket when your family is at home. Cutting down on screen time and recognizing that you don’t have to be “on” all the time takes some self-discipline, but this can be very helpful if you struggle to carve out distraction-free family time. I think this can be supportive of overall mental well-being and ensure you have time for yourself and time with your family uninterrupted.”


Advocate for Yourself as a Working Mom

Most of all, learn what is worth your energy. Take pride in yourself as a working mother and know that you are doing what is best for you and your family. Be proud and confident in who you are, and know when to let something go.

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