For more than five years I have been a working mum. For some of the period I worked part-time, for most of it full time.
Originally I worked for a company and now I work for myself. For several years my role included a lot of international business travel.
My roles and hours have varied, but one thing which has remained constant is the comments that people make to me about being a working mum.
Unfortunately they are directed at us as women who choose to work and never levelled at working fathers. There are so many examples that I could give, but I will stick to the six which I hear the most frequently:
1) Why did you have children if you don’t want to look after them?
Without sounding too defensive I often wonder who people assume look after my children.
Who makes multiple night trips to their rooms to give them a cuddle, cover them back up or ease them back to sleep after a bad dream? Who spends each evening doing their homework with them? Who shops and provides for all their needs – clothes, food, toys, books and much more? Who provides a safe and loving environment for them to live and grow in? Who knows their schedule off by heart so they are always in the right place at the right time with the right gear? Well almost always…..
2) Do you ever worry about the damage you are doing to your children by working?
Funnily enough, no. Instead I see that I am providing my children with a positive role model.
I am demonstrating that they have the freedom to make whatever choices they want with regard to their lives as they grow, and that there is no “right way” of doing things.
I am a firm believer in quality over quantity and am happy to be supported by recent research in this area.
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3) So, motherhood wasn’t for you then?
I am not sure what these people define as motherhood, but to me it is much more that the amount of time that you spend with your children.
I am a mother and love being a mother. My children are in no doubt as to who their mum is and we have a wonderful relationship and our bonds are as strong as any other family, working parents or not.
Being a good mother is certainly not measured by how many hours you put in.
4) It must be so hard for you to go to work. But you have to do what you have to do.
Some days it is hard for me to go to work, but that is usually after one of the kids has been up all night and I am tired.
In those cases, then it is also hard for their dad to go to work. But normally? No, it is not hard for me to go to work. I enjoy my job, I like working and appreciate that I have a varied life with lots of facets all of which make me happy.
5) Those early years will fly by. It is a shame you have to miss out on them.
I certainly don’t feel like I am missing out on anything. I am enjoying watching my youngest blossom into a lovely little girl and develop her own unique personality.
I spend hours helping my eldest to learn to read and to memorise her sight words and adjust to being a schoolgirl. Every night I cuddle both my children to sleep. Every morning I greet them both with a kiss and breakfast. I help out with literacy group at school. I make craft with them and play with them.
I agree that the years are flying by, but always thought it was because we were having so much fun and not because I was missing out.
6) I bet your kids miss you when you are at work/ away with work.
Yes, they probably do. But they also miss me when I go to another room. They miss me when I am in the shower. They miss me when I go to the supermarket. They also miss their dad when he goes to work and their friends when they go home to bed in the evenings.
If I didn’t do things because I was worried that my kids would miss me then I would be with them non-stop. Every single day.
I have heard all of the above many times over the years and am sad to say that the comments are as likely to come from young people as they are from the older generation and from women as they are from men.
I believe that we all have the power to make our own choices. To decide what is best and what will work well for our individual family units.
There is no one solution which will work across the board and there is certainly no decision which is superior to others.
As mothers, we are after all, simply trying to do the best we can.