Being a working mother can be delightful as well as stressful. In this post I will be describing the positives (and some of the negatives) of having to carry out both roles simultaneously.
As mentioned in my very first post, this blog provides tips and support for mothers who have chosen to carry out professional work alongside having to parent. So in no way is this piece trying to promote that working mums are better than stay at home mums or anything like that. This post is simply to ease any FOMO or mum guilt you may experience, and hopefully remind you of the positive sides to being a working mum.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. Granted this article is meant to reinstall confidence, I feel like it would be unfair to not mention the negatives, as they can come as part of this lifestyle.
1. You get used to the fact that you will probably spend a huge chunk of time away from your child(ren)
My little one goes to nursery full-time and spends 10 hours there, for others it will probably be 3-5 hours if they are doing half-days at nursery, but for some, it will be approximately 6-7 hours if they go to school. Because of this, some mothers can experience separation anxiety or may worry that their child will become more attached to the “new” adult. The good news is that many children see their mummy or daddy as their favourite person in the world, so if done right this fear of losing out should not be a problem.
2. Life admin and chores sometimes have to take a back seat
In the pursuit of building a career as well as a family, sometimes things at home can slip through the net. E.g. the car doesn’t get cleaned as planned or you’d skip your workout routine more times than you would like to, whatever it is, something is bound to get left behind, but luckily it’s usually something salvageable.
3. You may (and sometimes without realising) bring your work home with you, especially if you work from home
Whether it is checking emails or dumping the day’s stress onto your family, it can sometimes be hard to remove your “work hat” on cue. Sometimes without realising it, I talk to my partner in a formal way (which he absolutely hates), or the burdens of work can clout my vision when my daughter is trying to get my attention. I will be writing a blog post on this topic, so keep an eye out for my tips on how to avoid this habit.
4. You may miss out on important milestones
Ohhh this one can be tough! First words, school performances, meetings or projects. And honestly, you just have to be reasonable with yourself here. You can’t be in multiple places at the same time, and some milestones will appear unexpectedly. Try your best to plan around those that matter the most to you (e.g. first day at school) and take solace in knowing that you are doing your best for everyone.
5. You many find yourself having to deal with subtle discrimination at work
Whether it’s being overlooked for a good opportunity, a lack of support with flexibility, or finding yourself being ‘managed’, sadly these things can still come up (1,2,3). A recent example would be a study by the Working Families charity who recently released figures showing that 1/5 working parents has faced unfair treatment at work since COVID-19 onset (4).
Now let’s move on to the positives
1. Firstly, you actually get a break!
This can sound quite bad to someone who doesn’t understand this, but the ability to step away from parenting and take a breather is invaluable to some mothers. Not only do you get to have stimulating adult conversations, but you get the chance to pursue other interests without being interrupted, which can make for a very happy mummy.
2. Being a working mum is a great way of demonstrating to (and hopefully inspiring) the importance of a good work ethic
Unless you know that your little one will be living off a trust fund, chances are they will have to earn a living when they get older. Children learn from observation, and so witnessing certain behaviours and attitudes that can have a positive impact on their career prospects is another positive to being a working mum.
3. The absence of mummy is a good way of encouraging young children to be independent
Yes, it is brilliant to have a strong bond with your little ones, but I am sure we also want our young ones to develop other soft skills independent from their parents. Time away at nursery/school or any extracurricular activities can help foster such strengths which in turn can result in a socially independent child (5).
4. Being a working mum can help command a more structured life
Many working women have sworn to becoming a lot more productive since becoming mothers and that may be down to Parkinson’s Law - the idea that an activity will expand to fill in the amount of time allocated to complete it. I will admit, when I was on maternity leave, I was a bit sporadic with my chores as I didn’t really have time-limits for many of them. But once deadlines started being introduced i.e. having to catch a specific train or the nursery run, I became motivated to finding a rhythm for running through my everyday life.
5. Work provides the opportunity to feel self-fulfilled and challenged
For some mothers (including myself) there is value in going out there and contributing to the world (eishhh that did sound kinda cringe, but you get what I mean), which in turn can help boost self-esteem and self-assurance. Something we all need.
6. And of course, being a working mum means more income for the family, which can mean more sustenance and access to more of what life can offer
Whether this means a nice day out to a holiday resort or access to private schooling, as a working mum you can contribute to these privileges and share them with your loved ones.
Best of both worlds
Despite the ambivalence that may come with having to juggle being a mother and a worker, I believe that many women will agree that there is pleasure in this lifestyle. The ability to interact with adults and engage yourself in work, then go home to your bundle of joy and spend quality time mothering is a wonderful opportunity many are lucky to experience. A lot of mothers that I have spoken to have expressed that they are a better mother because of work, and vice versa, and this post is written to remind you of what is possible.