I was doing some research for a corporate presentation which I have just done. I was looking at the subject of work-life balance and discussing what it actually means and whether or not it is possible to achieve and maintain a perfect balance.
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Through my research I found many articles and posts which discuss the sacrifices that mothers have made, either in their family lives, professional lives of both.
Whilst it would be unrealistic to think that it is possible for anyone to have everything they want all of the time, I am a little disappointed that so many women talk of sacrifice.
Does being a stay at home mum mean that you have sacrificed your career? That you will never be able to reach the dizzy heights that you may have reached had you decided not to have children? And does being a full-time working mum mean that you have sacrificed precious time with your children and that you have missed out on many of their life defining moments whilst relentlessly climbing the career ladder?
Okay, so maybe that is looking at extremes and the reality is that most mums sit somewhere in-between the two. But does talking of sacrifices help us in anyway?
Would focussing on the benefits of our decisions not be more useful in stopping us loading ourselves up with another heavy dose of mother’s guilt?
Let us think about the stay at home mum. Someone who has decided to take time out of the workforce to raise her family herself. Surely this is an important job in itself. Building a secure and loving home for one’s children and allowing yourself the opportunity to learn the skills needs to be a great mum. As for your career, can we not even imagine that it can benefit from your time out of the workforce? Do the skills that you have learned as a stay at home mum not equip you well for your return. Do all your years of training, learning and experience just disappear because you have taken time out? I think not.
Believing that we have sacrificed our careers by taking time to be a stay at home mum can in fact become a self-perpetuating myth which we start to believe and then suffer from the resulting drop in confidence which can make us less employable.
And then we have the mum who returns to work full time. Think of the sacrifices she can be seen to be making. Not available to volunteer at school functions, missing milestones in her children’s lives through being at work, not being part of the mummy network. But how about we flip that and think about the positives. Can we consider those mums who struggle to stay at home? Their mental health will be boosted when they return to the workplace. What about the financial contribution that many mums make to their families, allowing them to travel the world and have many wonderful family experiences. What about the positive role models that these mums are to both their sons and daughters.
And rather than talking about sacrifice, we can celebrate the fact that we are all different and because of this we all make different decisions.
These different decisions are reached by working through the best choices and course of action for our families and the situations that we are in.
I haven’t even touched on part time working mothers, because if we take the negative approach and talk about what they have sacrificed, then it is surely a bit of everything. Instead I prefer to imagine that perhaps they have the best of both worlds.
Conversations about parental sacrifices unfortunately only seem to be applied to women, and very rarely do we hear the same discussions refer to fathers. How often do we hear of the sacrifice that a dad has made to work and earn a living for his family? And if a man takes parental leave then we often hear about what a wonderful dad and man he must be, rather than talking of the sacrifices he has made.
As with anything in life, focusing on the negatives when there are so very many positives of being a mum whether you work, stay home or do a bit of both, can be destructive and can easily detract from the amazing job that so many women are doing in working, raising a family and/or running a business.
We are all doing the best we can.
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