When I am out with other mummy friends I sometimes feel like a misfit. At an average Mothers Group dinner there are two kinds of mothers, the working mothers and the stay-at-home mothers. The night will be lovely, as much as we try not to talk about our kids inevitably we will be hearing what Archie* did to his little brother or how Jasmine* is still not walking and we’ll supportably discuss if it’s time to see a physio. But as the children have grown from babies to toddlers, conversations unavoidably end up turning to work. It used to be all about breast feeding versus bottle feeding or puree versus baby led weaning, but now, like the babies, the the conversations have grown up and are now often about working or staying at home. There is a lot that is often unsaid both positive and negative. But to be honest, generally I sit quietly not really sure where to put myself.
It is kind of dejuva really, this is how I felt with the breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding conversations. I was a breast feeder by day and a bottle feeder by night so felt like I could relate with both “sides”, and also felt like I was totally alone in my situation. Now, these working conversations invoke the same feelings of being able to associate with both and with neither.
I do work, really hard. I absolutely love what I do. I love working with mothers and their wonderful children but I work my own hours and so that I suppose makes me less hard-core than those that get dressed in a suit and have to be in the city by 8:30 every day. But it is also what I love most about my job. My peers would see me stroll in to drop off at day-care, casually do the activities with my daughters, I’m in gym clothes (even if I have no intention of going to gym) and I clearly don’t look like I am rushing off to an important meeting. A big long, cough-evoking spray of dry shampoo in my hair is obvious next to the well blown out hair of other mothers that are dressed beautifully and ready to take on the world. I look at them and admire them for looking this fabulous this early in the morning and I’m pretty sure that they must look at me a little confused about what exactly I do. I have given a lot of them sleep advice whilst making rockets out of recyclables or rolling play dough into cupcakes, and they also often congratulate me on my blogs so they know roughly what I do but my laid back approach definitely would baffle them about my working hours.
Mothers are amazing. Whatever they do. Harvard Business School recently did a study about working mothers and revealed “children of working mothers do better”. I have also read studies about children of stay at home mothers and the benefits on those kids. Truthfully I haven’t read anything that impressed me on part time workers and what “happens” to those kids. But this is what I will tell you.
My girls are dropped off and picked up every day by a happy mum. My husband is not around to help out much because of his long working hours so I try to compensate for that and really get as much work done in their day care hours. This is what works for my family and me. I am very rarely so committed that if my child is sick, I cannot stay home with them. This is the beauty of working with mothers. They are generally quite understanding because they have all been there and done it themselves. I count myself blessed that I have made this career for myself because I’m not sure that I could be content with either of the other categories. Being a stay at home mum would be difficult for me financially as well as well as mentally. I admire those mothers that can do it. Working full time wouldn’t work for me either; my husband can go up to a week without really seeing my daughters so I feel my presence is almost mandatory. However, I admire these mothers too. They are making the right choice for their family and I respect that.
Sometimes I feel that there is a silent battle between all the different kinds of mothers. It is ridiculous when we have so much in common. We are all just trying to get by, we are doing what we feel is right for our families, we are all trying (and probably failing) to get on top of the washing load and we are all trying to feed our kids nutritious food or at least food that is a food group and that will not be thrown onto the floor in disgust. I hear conversations around the colouring-in table at day-care “She has one kid who’s in day-care three days a week, what the hell does she do with all her time”. Or “did you hear X just got a promotion, those poor kids”. Sometimes mothers will even comment to other mothers “how nice that you get to spend all that time at home with your kids, oh how I wish I could do that”. From time to time, its genuine but other times it can be condescending.
Mothers need to start patting each other on the back more, admiring each other for what we all do for ourselves and for our families. It is all equally hard and we are truly doing the best we possibly can whether our hair is slicked back effortlessly or if it is in magnificent waves.