“The obligation that evolves for working mothers, in particular, is a very precise one; the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.”
~ Annabel Crabb
I read the above quote from The Wife Drought by Annabel Crabb recently and remember thinking how very fortunate I am to be in the position I am, able to fit my life as a working mum so beautifully around my family life. Sure I have busy and stressful periods when the balance feels impossible but generally I feel like I do have it all.
And this week I found myself in an unpleasant situation which forced me to question whether I really could balance a successful business with a child and do it on my terms. It didn’t take me long to realise that the journey I am on is one that means so much to me and I can’t relinquish it for anybody.
But at the same time I recognise that being a working mum isn’t easy. We are constantly pulled between two (or more) competing priorities and must make decisions all the time as to which priority we need to attend to. We can’t please everyone all of the time and in fact there will be disappointment along the way.
If you are a boss
I’ve been a boss and worked for many years as an HR Manager so I know that the challenges are real. But the qualities that I always employed when managing people, and advising others on managing people, are trust, empathy and support for my people. I would do this with a firm but fair approach.
I had many amazing bosses who mentored me over my career and I always valued that they would treat me as a person before I was an employee. Don’t ignore the fact that one of your people has children but also don’t make a big deal out of it. Be prepared to be flexible and know that with flexibility and support often comes higher engagement and effort.
And while I have you, don’t just be open to flexibility for parents. Non-parents have lives too and while kids are more visible and may have a greater day to day impact, those without kids can also really benefit from flexible options. Pre-kids I worked from home once a week and it made me so more engaged and productive. I was fortunate to have managers who were open to it. (Note: I am in no way saying to afford flexibility to everyone who asks for it, this is built on trust and openness. Lay the groundwork first).
If you are a colleague
I know how frustrating it can seem when your colleague leaves early every day to pick the kids up from school or calls in sick regularly to look after the kids or gets first dibs on leave to fit in around school holidays. But maybe rather than resenting that person or thinking how unfair it is maybe ask yourself a few questions. Are they getting in hours before the rest of the team to work adjusted hours? Do they log on at night when the kids have gone to bed? Are they working part-time hours but really taking on a full-time workload?
If you are working mum
Firstly, you are doing an AMAZING job mama. It’s not easy to raise kids and work while you are doing it. One day you will look back at your hard work and know that it was all worth it. If you feel like you don’t have support from your manager/employer, have a think about what you can do within the bounds of your comfort zone. You might be able to have a chat with your boss or apply for jobs closer to home or look at bringing in some help at home to free up your time more. Look at options as you are the only one who can change your world. Do what you feel comfortable with, without compromising the security of your job or income. But also make sure you seek advice or support from friends or mentors in your network. You don’t have to do it alone!
If you are a mum in business
Again, you are AMAZING. You are working hard, living the dream and bringing your kids along for the ride. I really believe that we can push so many boundaries and bring the rest of the world along on our enlightened path of support for working parents. I believe that it can only be a good thing for everybody, not just parents, if flexibility and the recognition that we are people before we are employees or business owners, becomes mainstream in society. It can be isolating to be working solo as an entrepreneur so make sure you have a good support network around you. I am a member of the Ausmumpreneur Network^ and the Dream Big Community^ and rely on both of them for advice and support on the days when I think it’s all too much.
Have you been discriminated against because you are a mum? Are you a working dad trying to break down barriers for flexibility? What do you think on the whole subject?
^ indicates an affiliate link. This means that at no extra cost to you I earn a small commission on sales. I am an active member to both of these groups and would recommend them regardless of being an affiliate or not.
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