Last year in Britain, just over 66% of mothers worked. This could be due to policy changes that have helped women return to work over the past 15 years as well as employment laws that have introduced much improved parental leave, pay and the right to flexible working arrangements.
currently, I am a bi-product of such flexible work arrangements and whilst I would prefer to be a work-at-home-mum, my circumstances, at the moment, don’t allow for that. I was intrigued therefore when I read about a Working Mother’s seminar being held in my local area. With Cherry Blair slamming stay at home mum’s recently claiming that “yummy mummies” hinder the child’s independence, I wanted to hear what other women thought of their work/family ethic.
I just got home from the seminar which by and large concentrated on the women of today and how we can have it all! What I came away with was a confused understanding of what “all” actually means. After thinking about it for a millisecond I came to the conclusion that my interpretation of “all” suits me just fine.
Having watched Sarah Jessica Parker run herself into the ground as city slicker Kate Reddy I Don’t Know How She Does It, I felt half sane for having felt a few times like I can’t cope. There are times when the “W” word gets too much, when the washing pile is so huge that it doesn’t fit in the basket anymore, when I don’t have time (or money) to go food shopping and for that last week of the month we are eating all the not so yummy things in the cupboards.
The truth is, I’m a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend and an employee. I often feel the pressure to be all things at once and end up feeling that I haven’t delivered on any of them. This is because sometimes I forget to dedicate time to being ME. Which, if I did, would make all of the above so much easier to balance.
Not wanting to dwell too much on my job other than the fact that I have one and I do it full-time, I do it more out of necessity than choice. My choice , if it were that easy, would be to work for myself part-time and work as a mother the rest if the time. That would be my choice. However, my current circumstances don’t allow me that benefit. Does this mean that I don’t have it all? Is my cup half empty?
At the seminar I was surrounded by women who think that they do “have it all“; nannies, tutors, home helps, gardeners, cooks. One lady referred to it being difficult to organize the “staff” let alone the children! Her and others meaning of “all” is having everyone else to manage the daily living whilst they climb the professional ladder. This is fine, for them. I’m sure that if/when my circumstances are different, I too could afford “help” and may find myself falling into that trap. I honestly think that life is not for me but still, there is some kind of competitiveness to send your child/ren to the ‘right’ school, shop in the ‘right’ shops, work hard and play harder. I’m not convinced that women, other than Kate Reddy (and that’s debatable) manage it. Surely we all buckle under the pressure of balancing work and family responsibilities? The seminar led me to believe it was just me, everyone else seemed to cope and balance perfectly fine!
However, as I sat there I listened to the humdrum of not there for homework, “had” to hire a tutor for Benedict, the nanny didn’t have the dinner ready, I mean, ugh. I felt gifted. Simply gifted.
I am there to play with my daughter when she wakes up in the morning. I am there to play with her in the evening. I am there to bathe her, read her a story, every night, and kiss her tiny lips before settling her to bed. I am there. I don’t work late, I don’t work weekends and I appear to have managed a good balance without the help of nannies or housekeepers (oh to afford them!). What I do have is an amazing husband who juggles just as much as I do and although the stress of it all takes its toll on him sometimes, we manage. Together.
I cook all of Bambina’s food, a shop bought ready-made meal has never passed her lips. I iron the clothes that require it. I sing to her. I teach her animal noises. I make her laugh.
I cook. I clean. I shop. I’m a wife. I’m a daughter. I don’t see my mother or my friends half as much as I would like to. Sometimes that’s lack of effort or money on my part, sometimes theirs; life happens and before you know it, it got in the way.
Sometimes I feel a bit frayed at the edges, grumpy, over tired and suffering from a serious case of CBA (Can’t Be Arsed, to coin my mothers phrase!). The reality is that instead of complaining about it, I get on with it. I don’t blame the nanny or housekeeper, I don’t ‘get someone in’ to fix the problem. I get on with it.
These women today live in a totally different world to me and I’m not sure that world suits my requirements. I want to be home for my daughter, to take her to school, pick her up, drop her off at ballet lessons.
My mum had three jobs when I was growing up and she has beaten herself up ever since because she feels like she wasn’t there for me enough. She was! I always remember her there to do homework with me, studying for exams, having mother and daughter time. We spent a lot of time shopping together, going out for lunch to china town and to the movies. Other children where I grew up had never tasted Chinese food let alone went to lunch in restaurants. My mum was amazing to me, she is still amazing to me. She did the best job she could with what we had.
I am university educated to Master level. I had one parent. I didn’t have a nanny, or a home help, or a cook. My mother held all of those jobs, brilliantly.
She is my role model. A mother who affords time with her child/ren. Time is the one thing we claim not to have, that we can’t buy, but it’s the most precious gift we can give. I want to make time for my child. In doing that, I can have it “all”.
What do you consider to be your “all”? How do you juggle the fine art of work and family?
I’m glad I went to the seminar. I didn’t agree with a lot of what was said but it got me thinking. Thinking about how lucky I am to have a supportive employer, how lucky I am to have time with my daughter and how lucky I am that I can afford to be a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend – I just need to remind myself to be a bit more often to remember to be ME!
Do you have it “all“? I’d love to know.
The Guardian: Working Mothers
Forbes: Working Mother Magazine