Part 1 – Where it starts
So many mums expect themselves to parent as if they don’t have a paid job. Then they expect to work in their paid job like they don’t have a parenting role. We’ve fought so hard to ‘have it all’ there’s a drive to constantly ‘prove’ yourself in both areas. Unfortunately, the consequences of this mental and physical load can be overwhelming and working mum guilt starts to creep in.
I’ve been back in the workforce (between maternity leave) for the past 12 years now so I’ve learnt a lot. These insights have helped me face the working mum guilt and say “ENOUGH!”
Clearly define your ‘why’
If part-time or full-time employment is what will help you and your family thrive, that decision is perfect for you. Likely, this will be met with self-doubt, fear, second-guessing, or well-intentioned comments by others to further confuse the issue. Ignore what anyone else says (including that little judgemental voice inside you) or implies to make you feel ‘less than’. Go with your gut. You know what you need to do right now, for your family, to make things work.
Ohhh what would I have done without my support network in the early days of school? As a self-proclaimed discombobulated mum, I struggled to keep on top of the school notes. The special occasions and out of uniform days were a killer. Luckily, during the first week of kindergarten I met some very combobulated mums. “Spellcheck says that word doesn’t exist – well it does NOW spellcheck!”
My support network helped so much through the years. Then I discovered that my youngest child is an ORGANISER! I felt blessed that she happily took over the reins, keeping me on top of everything.
- Positive and nurturing self-talk is so important. Remember your ‘why’.
- Build your support network.
- If possible, invest in time to build support networks early on, as we know, it really does take a village to raise a child.
Re-define your expectations
We’re pretty good at wanting to do everything ‘just right’. I have strong memories of mum asking dad to do something. However she would usually push him aside and say ‘don’t worry, I’ll do it!’ It was pretty much the same with us kids. I learned early on that if I made a shoddy attempt at something mum would do it for me. Now that my mum should be enjoying retirement when she comes to my house I revert to that hopeless child. Mum is back to doing all the jobs again!
While I appreciate my mum and all that she does for me I can’t help but ponder better options. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to coach our nearest and dearest into sharing the load? There’s just not the time or the physical and emotional energy to do it all ourselves.
Housework or health?
A near-breakdown and the realisation that keeping on top of the house, plus work and emotional/mental load for the family wasn’t possible in my situation. It was at this point that I had to prioritise the wellbeing of myself and my family. Household jobs became my ‘let it go’ and are shared amongst us all.
What does this look like?
- I have to get over the fact that my husband washes towels, blacks and whites together.
- If the kids do the dishes they may need to be washed again before we serve up the next dinner.
- My friends will make comments such as ‘I never feel bad about inviting you to my place because I know yours is just as messy’.
What I also see is my girls experimenting with cooking and surprising me with yummy dinners when I’m just too tired to cook.
- Work out what really matters and compromise on the less important things – lower those expectations.
Part 2 – back in full swing
Racing in the door just in time for the 9 am stand-up. Flushed face, unprepared, trying to quickly switch from mental image of my crying child at drop-off to ‘I’ve got it all together’ professional.
In the early days, I remember the childcare drop-offs were emotionally very hard so my husband took over this job. A doctor once told me that perhaps my daughter was one of those children who needed a full-time mum. Another professional (me) told me that if I didn’t work, I would be no good to my child. I felt like I was at risk of stifling my beautiful girl with my anxiety as a full-time mum.
I knew what this mummy needed in order to be the best mum I could be, so I worked 20 hours a week in a role that interested and challenged me, helping maintain my version of ‘me’ for a time when my little birds have flown the nest.
(BC) before children and (AC) after children
BC, I would spend a fair bit of my day having great idea-generating conversations and then work back late to actually do the work. For many of us in this new world of working AC, our working style changes, along with our priorities.
Time becomes very precious – often our days and weeks are shorter and there are still high expectations on us (some of which are self-imposed). There is an element of guilt at having to leave the office earlier than others, racing out the door to not miss school pick-up.
Returning to work from maternity leave
Soon after I returned from maternity leave number two, one of the leaders at my organisation sang the praises of working mums. In his experience, working mums had their priorities straight. They used time effectively and delivered exactly what was required without the padding.
Whether he intended it or not, the conversation that day left a lasting positive impression. I embrace that belief wholeheartedly and now have confidence that my best will be good enough!
- Do what is right for you – a happy mum will be reflected as a shining beacon in the eyes of her children.
- Share the drop-offs and pick-ups with family or friends if you can.
- Be proud of the value you bring to the workplace – work effectively and never feel the need to apologise for your priorities.
Audir | people
Nicci Richman – Owner
Description: Audir is a People Development consultancy that supports workplaces to create environments in which all their people can thrive. Nicci founded Audir to highlight and facilitate the richness and strengths that neuro-diverse individuals bring to the workplace. “I believe everyone deserves to belong, to have a meaningful career and work life, to be valued for their strengths and have the freedom to be who they really are.”
Phone: 0417 373 351