I am part of the X Generation of women. We are the ones that started the whole “you can have it all – be a wife, a mum and a career” Superwoman Syndrome. We have a lot to answer for. They say that our daughters will look at our frenetic, frantic lives as we multitask and juggle schedules and write our long to do lists and develop a strong desire to not have lives like ours.
Unfortunately, we opened the flood gates to what I call the Working Mother Heartache. I am now watching young women who are in their 30s, some even in their 40s, put their children in childcare as they head off to work feeling guilty, coming home exhausted and spending all weekends making up for the time they feel they have lost with their children. I have so many friends who live this emotional rollercoaster of guilt and yet push forward to strive to be individuals in their own right. It really is a double-edged sword. Men in general just don’t have the same anguish.
I totally understand why they do it. They want careers. And why shouldn’t they? I did. I wanted to have a purpose in my life and feel I was making a creative and intellectual contribution to my life. To be challenged, and learn new skills, to socialise with other adults and have intelligent conversations. My mother never got to have a career. She would have loved it. Being a migrant from Italy in the early 1960s made it even more impossible for her. She is a talented and intelligent woman who never got to have a chance to shine professionally. It’s quite heartbreaking.
Women of her generation in the 1960s lost their jobs when they were pregnant. Up to and including the early 1950s women even lost their jobs when they got married. It was known as the “Marriage Bar”. A lot of professions and companies believed that a married woman’s place was at home looking after the home and her husband, including the children. No wonder there was low unemployment levels. There were no women taking up positions because they were shown the door when hubby put a ring on it and when they heard the words “congratulations you are expecting a baby”, from their doctors.
I finished my HSC in 1984. It was the bold 80s.
When I had been married for 18 months, I started to think about which Postgraduate degree to do to turn my BA into a specific qualification. I narrowed it down to two choices based on my love of literature and writing. Journalism or English Teacher. I choose pragmatically. I chose a career that would be a safe option for when I had children. I was born at a time when I was only just on the cusp of being an X generationer. At the same time, my peers where still girls who left school in year 10, were married by 18 -20 and had started their families by their mid-20s if not earlier. Some of my school friends are already grandmothers in their early 50s. And so I chose a teaching career. It was a safe option for someone planning to have a family. The hours were kid friendly and I had the school holidays. I do want to make this very clear that teachers don’t stop working because it’s the holidays or 3pm. But we can still take our work home and be there with our children. Thank goodness I ended up, and still, do, love teaching. I have from the very beginning. I felt I was able to have the best of both worlds.
I was able to take time away from teaching to raise my daughter for the first three and a half years of her life and return to school with no issue. In fact, I did this again when she was seven to be there for her when my husband was travelling a lot for work. During this period it was easy to find job-share positions, temporary part-time or casual work with no issue when returning to full-time work. Teachers are always needed.
I did sometimes wonder what it would have been like to be a Journalist. I do mourn that the role of the traditional journalist is becoming obsolete due to the internet and online publications, blogs and journals. I just found out that Australian Cleo and Cosmopolitan are no longer in print publication! Everything is moving online and into Podcasts. It’s a Brave New World. role of the Journalist is changing rapidly. The upside is that as everything is going online, this makes working from home much easier and accessible. I believe that today Journalism is even easier than teaching when you are raising children. Isn’t it funny how things just evolve? In reality, I just missed that window to work as a journalist on an online publication where you can be connected by technology. It all came a little too late for me. Which proves I choose the right path for me. My daughter has started her university studies and can pretty much fend for herself. Most of the time. Once a mum always a mum! I now go to work like I use to pre-children. There’s no guilt, but the stress is still there. I think retirement might solve that little issue!
I am now on the other side. And do you know what? It all does come to an end … eventually. I know this won’t make it any easier if you are still in the middle of all this juggling and, of being constantly worried about the needs of your children and, dealing with bosses who just don’t get it. I and my friends have all been there and the memory is still very fresh and raw. I still get shudders. And I choose a career that was a little more child-friendly. We did encounter, at times throughout this period, that, for some reason, and there are probably many books written on the subject, that the female boss tended to be the worse in understanding our lives. The worse were women who did not have children or those who did, but their children were now adults. The latter group had truly forgotten what it was like having children.
“I believe the choice to become a mother is the choice to become one of the greatest spiritual teachers there is.” Oprah
I am still parenting and guiding this new adult into her next stage of life. That’s what she is – an adult. We have been encouraging her to develop skills and attitude as an adult so she can be a strong, independent, resilient and capable, woman
But things do need to change and change drastically. Our working lives have changed and we need to evolve with them. Fast. We can’t have anywhere between 18 and plus years (and this depends on how many children you have) where working mothers spend their time and sanity feeling guilty, worried, anxious or tired. Workplaces need to change and redistribute the balance of work.
I do believe that your commitment and involvement at work ebbs and flows according to what your parenting
Any mother could perform the jobs of several air traffic controllers with ease. Lisa Alther
My closing comment? Cherish the years with your children. Fight and push for better working conditions as mothers (and for dads) and most importantly, find time to do something for yourself. A cup of tea, read a book or just sit outside and breath in the fresh air, a walk, a bath, a coffee with friends. The housework can wait … always. My husband says a happy wife and mother is a happy home. I so hi-five that!
“Having kids—the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings—is the biggest job anyone can embark on.” Maria Shriver
Let’s support each other as Urban Sisters 🌸
What changes would you like to see at work and/ or within society or, an attitude regarding working mothers?
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