I was super-excited to be featured on the wonderful blog Working Mums Collective today. I talk all about my mission to eliminate The Mummy-isms – Mummy Guilt, Mummy Wars and Mummy Shaming.
Check out the post here.
Are you a Mum who also works? How do you keep everything in balance and running smoothly? What’s your biggest pet peeve about how society. Jews and treats “working mums”? Share below!
My daughter is teething right now. At least I think she is. She’s insanely grouchy, chewing on everything she can find and then there’s the nappies! Don’t even get me started on those.
Basically she’s miserable.
And all she wants is me. Just to sit on my lap and cuddle. To be held and rocked. And soothed. All the time. From the minute she wakes up in the morning.
It’s a beautiful image right. The serene mother, placidly stroking her dozing toddlers fluffy head. (Yes, my 20 month old still barely has any hair).
But the reality is. It’s exhausting, and wearisome, and frustrating.
As much as I’d love to sit with my child and stroke her head for all the time she wanted. Today I simply can’t. I have work. I have a meeting. I have non-motherhood duties to attend to.
“But can’t you just take the day off, skip the meeting, surely your baby is more important.” I can hear society asking those questions of me.
Of course she’s more important. But here’s the thing. My husband is home. He’s on holidays. He’s willing and more than able to care for our daughter. To soothe and comfort her as she needs.
But she doesn’t want him. Not today. She just wants me. She just wants “Mamma”.
And it kills me. Any mother who’s been in this same situation before will understand the gamut of emotions you feel when your child just wants you, but you can’t be there. Even if it is just for a few hours.
Here’s what we feel:
Those cries don’t fall on deaf ears. Even though I’m walking out the door with my shoulders squared and my head held high, my heart is clenching inside my chest.
I should stay. I should cancel my meeting. I should be there to comfort her. Should. Should. Should.
Why today? Of all days. The one time I have meetings I can’t get out of.
Just go to Dad. “Why won’t she just go to her father?” Why is it always me she wants?
What if it’s not teething? What if it’s something worse. I should stay to keep an eye on her.
Pain. Guilt. Frustration. Resentment. Fear.
These aren’t the words we associate with the Hallmark card version of motherhood we’re served up in the mainstream media. All those baby books we read in our nine months of pregnancy? They never mentioned these words.
And very rarely do we hear them from other mothers. There’s a code of silence in motherhood circles. It seems we don’t mention these words, because to admit to these feelings is akin to publicly announcing your failure as a mother.
Because “good mothers” don’t feel this way. Right? “Good mothers” can take it all in their stride. Not matter what motherhood throws at them, “good mothers” can get through it, because our love for our child will see us through everything. Right? In my experience, not so much.
This is not a debate about working mothers. Because even though my example today is about me going to work, this very same situation occurs every day in thousands of households. Whether a Mum is leaving the house to get her hair cut for the first time in six months, heading out to her weekly pilates class, meeting her best friend for lunch, heading out to do the groceries. These particular emotions are not reserved purely for working mothers. This scenario happens all the time. And mums feel these thoughts ALL THE TIME.
I’m not here to offer solutions today. Because as there really any solutions? We just need to be able to manage the situation and our thoughts about the situation as best we can.
But what I would like to do is open up the code of silence. To encourage mums to speak openly and honestly about how they feel, about the thoughts they have. About their pain, guilt, frustration, resentment and fears.
Because if we can break this code of silence, we’ll soon realise we’re not alone in our situation. We can do away with the Hallmark images. We can realise that when we feel this way it doesn’t make us a bad mother.
It just makes us a mother.
Are you a working Mum? As in, are you a Mum who also has a paid job that you go to regularly? Yep. Me too. And I love it.
I love being a Mum, but I also love working. And if I’m perfectly honest – some days I love working more than I love being a Mum. Some days, when the girls are abso-freaking-lutely doing my head in, I’d much rather be at work. Why wouldn’t I prefer to be in my lovely quiet office, with a hot cup of tea and a caseload full of clients who probably aren’t going to pee, poo or vomit on me, nor call me an “old bogan”, cry incessantly for 6 hours for no apparent reason, slam doors in my face, or try to force-feed me their half chewed piece of cucumber?
Being a Mum is a tough gig, and some days, the payoffs just don’t seem to show up. I was talking to another lovely Mumma on Saturday night about how much we “give” of ourselves as Mums. Every single day – give. give. give. And kids are pretty amazing at take. take. take. It’s a rare day when the give:take ratio ends up in Mum’s favour. So here’s how I see parenting – it’s a long term investment really. The hard work you put into your kids every single day is like compound interest. That $0.05 per day doesn’t seem like much, but in 18 years you’re going to reap the rewards!
But back to working mums. Perhaps the reason I some days prefer work to “mummy duties” is because that give:take ratio is much more in my favour when I’m at work. I work just as hard at work as I do at home, but at work I get great feedback from my clients. I get a verbal confirmation that what I’m doing on that particular day is incredibly valuable and appreciated. I also get a great sense of pride that I’m using my brain and intellect and making the most of those several years of post-high school study. Plus I get paid real money, which is generally society’s way of evening out the give:take ratio.
Now please don’t get cranky, because I’m simply being honest here. Over my almost four years as a Mum one thing I know for certain is that there isn’t nearly enough brutal honesty amongst the general “Mama” community out there. So it’s my mission to #keepitrealmama
I’m writing this post for all of you amazing Mums out there who do go out to work, who love it and who are sick of being told that it makes them somehow less of a Mum, or that they’re doing their kids a disservice.
I think it’s about time we working Mums stopped apologising for everything we think and feel, and started being honest with ourselves about why we work and how we feel about it.
Just because you work, and love to work and are quite happy (ie, not guilty at all) about dropping your kids off to childcare – doesn’t make you a bad Mum. It doesn’t mean you love your child any less than a Mum who doesn’t work, or who does work but chooses not to use childcare, or whatever. It just means that your values are different to those people. It’s not better or worse. It’s just different. Embrace that. Be true to who you are. Be honest with yourself and with others. Because by living your truth, and releasing yourself from the “guilt” society says all working Mums have to face, you’ll be doing the best thing ever for your health and wellbeing.
I’m not a fan of “mummy guilt”. Never have been, never will be. It’s a particularly useless emotion. I understand that guilt, in its purest form, is essential in our society. If you maliciously hurt someone, then hell yeah, I want you to feel guilty. But don’t feel guilty for going back to the job that you love. For continuing in a career you’ve spent years and thousands of dollars studying, for doing work which makes a difference in the world, for earning an income to be able to feed your family, or to be able to buy yourself a new pair of designer sunnies without feeling like you have to ask “permission” from your husband. And most definitely don’t feel guilty for being an amazing female role model for your children (your daughters AND your sons) – for demonstrating the truth that women can do, be and have anything they want to be – including being a Mum who also works – or a worker who’s also a Mum. Don’t feel guilty about that.
Feel proud. Feel alive. Feel like you’re contributing to your family, to society, to your own personal fulfilment.
Feel happy and confident to be you. Because that’s all you need to be.
Cheers, Sarah xx