A working mum … getting to the other side.

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.

Source: Working Mother .com

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.

Young single women with the Freedom to work during the 1950s

I finished my HSC in 1984. It was the bold 80s. Wham was telling us to “Choose Life”. Tom Cruise was strutting in his living room in his boxer shorts while his parents were out of town or Top Gunning it across movie screens and walkmans were the rage. As was big hair, big earrings, bright layered flouro lacey skirts and tops thanks to Madonna’s Like a Virgin era. I got into Acting College, tried to make it as an actor while working in temporary jobs and working as a cocktail waitress. I am now hearing the dulcet sounds of Human League’s opening line “You were walking as a waitress in a cocktail bar” from their 1980s hit “Don’t You Want Me”. I actually just Spotified it and it’s playing as I type this Post. Ah! The 80s. The decade of my youth! Anyway, I digress. I gave acting up, travelled for months across Europe, went to University, met my husband and got married.

The 1980s – Big hair and Big skirts

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!

Source: Working Mother .com

Recently I listend to a Podcast on Mamamia. Mia Freedman was interviewing British author Christine Armstrong. She has written a book called The Mother of All Jobs. The subtitle is: How to have Children and a carer and Stay Sane(ish). This pretty much sums it up for working women who are mothers today. The Podcast was an eye-opener and a strong reminder of what it’s like and it’s not easy … ever. It made me think that as my daughter is now 18 I don’t have to worry about childcare, and school holidays, and getting her to dance classes or to the shops to pick up materials for a school project or to buy ingredients for cupcakes for so-and-sos birthday or to drive her to another birthday party, or attend a function at school … and the list just goes on and on! I have done my time. But I do have nostalgic and wonderful memories of those short years.

It’s time for a different conversation about working and parenting. As our working days get ever longer and our phones keep so many of us glued to work, the needs of our children and the world of school and childcare has not changed at all. School summer holidays are still longer than our annual leave. Working mothers everywhere are tearing themselves apart, trying to meet the needs of their children, their relationships and their careers and too often feeling like they are failing.

Christine Armstrong – Blurb from Her book The mother of all jobs (2018)

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

Photo credit: Image by Gisela Merkuur from Pixabay

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 responsibilties are at the time. I thought it was hard when they were at childcare. I soon discovered that the primary and high school years were the hardest. That’s when mine needed me the most. To help with homework, friends issues and the trials and tribulations of learning. Add puberty into the mix and … well … do I really need to say more? Before I had my daughter, I was involved in a lot of co-curricular activities at school, I helped with the musicals and went on camps. When I went back to work after having my daughter, I didn’t do any of those extra activities. Now, at this stage of the parenting cycle, with my daughter all grown up and “cooked” and going to university, having a part-time job and learning to drive, I can pick up more co-curricular work and go on camps. It all balances out in the end.

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

Photo credit: Image by Bhakti Kulmala from Pixabay

Let’s support each other as Urban Sisters 🌸

United we stand. United we thrive

Mia Bella

What changes would you like to see at work and/ or within society or, an attitude regarding working mothers?

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