Can Working Mothers Really Have It All?
*Beware this post is a bit ranty*
We have been told that because it’s the 21st Century, combining a career and motherhood should be a piece of cake! Yeah right! Apparently working mothers can have it all, or so we are told.
Apparently it is so easy to simultaneously manage and organise a busy family and then back it up and perform flawlessly in the office day after day.
However the reality of the situation is somewhat different.
In this day and age many workplaces are adjusting their thinking and becoming more family friendly. Now it’s not just up to the mother to look after and raise the children. In most households this is very much a shared responsibility between both parents. Bosses are finding that they not only do they have to be flexible with working mums, but working dads too.
I applaud work places which cater to the needs of working families.
There are some workplaces that are complete dinosaurs. They still think it’s the 1980’s and flexibility in the workplace isn’t even discussed, let alone practiced.
The government has decided to make it difficult for a stay at home mum, to stay at home once her children reached school age. I understand the thinking behind this, encouraging mums to get back out into the workforce and utilise or refresh their skills is a good and positive thing. Where this policy falls down is with employers who think a mothers place is still at home.
Many are hesitant to hire mothers of young children. They know that this may mean more days taken as sick leave than the average employee, they know that any children are always going to come first. She might have to leave for the day at a moments notice, or maybe not come in at all.
Workplaces need to understand that when these situations arise, the guilt we feel is all too real. I for one feel like I am letting down my employer, then on the other hand, I feel like I am letting down my family, it’s a no win situation.
Employers need to be brought up to speed and made to understand that juggling a family and a full time job isn’t as easy as it looks, especially for single parents. We want to contribute to society, many of us want to work. We also want our families to be happy and live harmoniously.
These days you hear of people telecommuting, being able to choose their hours to fit around family. This allows the flexibility to be able to juggle both and that sounds terrific! This is indeed rare occurrence and you should count yourself very lucky if you find yourself with this arrangement.
Some of the toughest obstacles I have had to overcome as a working mum and doing it on my own are:-
- Juggling sick days. My sick days have to cover those of my girls and myself. Sometimes I actually run out of leave and then it’s “leave without pay” (which almost defeats the purpose of working). I also find I’m literally dragging my own butt to work when I should be at home in bed, just to conserve any sick leave entitlement I have. I know that I will inevitably need to use it for the kids at some stage.
- Juggling the daily home chores and being out of the house for 9 hours a day can have it’s challenges. Inevitably sometimes things will fall through the cracks. You wake up one morning to discover that you have forgotten to wash a work uniform or a sports uniform that is needed for that day. Perhaps you forget to buy bread for the daily lunches. It happens, especially if you are premenopausal and your mind is like a sieve.
- Working full time can put pressure on your older children. It’s very hard and to be honest sometimes very unfair. My 18 and 16 year olds are often on babysitting duty. They are responsible for getting my younger two off the school bus, making afternoon tea and helping with the homework and ensuring that the afternoon chores are completed. I know that sometimes they have had to cancel outings with friends or perhaps shopping trips after school because of this. They do often coordinate together so at least there is some level of fairness and it’s not the same person having to do it all the time.
- Juggling working and school holidays. Most schools offer vacation care programs. However the fight to secure places (which rapidly fill) is a nightmare. Often these places are filled by non working parents who just want their kids to go on organised activities during the break, leaving working parents struggling to figure out what to do with their kids during the day. Most of the time we have to take holidays ourselves to cover the school holidays, however the discrepancy between the holidays children get and the holidays an employee gets is vastly different. Just ask any parent who is struggling to figure out what to do with their kids for 6 weeks over summer when an employee is only entitled to 4 weeks annually… And that’s not counting the April/July and September school holidays either!
- School concerts, assemblies and presentation days sometimes have to be missed. The inevitable look of sorrow when I tell my girls that Mum can’t make it to see them receive their award, or watch their dance or performance in assembly is heartbreaking. The pressure and disappointment you feel when you know that you can’t be there for them is terribly difficult and I’m sure many working parents can relate to feelings of helplessness and failure knowing that at times you just can’t be there for your children. It is what it is…..
- Coordinating everyone’s schedules is difficult, It’s so hard to remember where everyone has to be at various times of the day and sometimes they inevitably clash. For this reason I have linked the Apple calendar between all our phones and devices. Anytime someone has a new event, work shift, play date, sporting commitment, work shift, they are supposed to put in into the family calendar where everyone can see it. So far it’s working well. Organisation is the key.
- The work day doesn’t finish at 5. Once you leave one job, you arrive home and immediately launch yourself into the next. There is washing to do, the evening meal to prepare, notes to sign and general cleaning and tidying to do. If you are lucky you might sit down around 9pm and half an hour later flop into bed, ready to start it all again tomorrow.
- Running this blog can be a bit of a challenge. Ultimately my goal would be to perhaps run this full time to the point, whereby I can earn a comparable living from it or perhaps until my budding career as a novelist takes off (pffft). I can’t see my situation changing any time soon. My ultimate goal would be to work from home and then everyone would be happy.
I do worry that perhaps the strain of me working and my older girls being responsible for so much, does put them under a lot of unnecessary pressure. I also know that I am not alone. Many working parents finding the juggle exceedingly difficult.
Employers please take into consideration the needs of your employees. Yes we may ask for a bit more time off than your childless workers, but I assure you if you are flexible with us, then we will be flexible with you. We will make up for any lost time, we are very conscious of the fact sometimes doing both doesn’t work out in everyones interests. We will do our best to make up any lost hours and give you 100%.
This is however not 1950 where women are expected to stay at home and purely just look after the kids, cook and clean. Now we are expected to do this AND put in an 8 hour work day AND somehow please the family and the boss at the same time.
If someone has magical way of successfully combining the two, I’m all ears, because right now I’m drowning.
I feel so helpless that I’m letting the most important people in my life down and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.