When I was pregnant with my first son, so often I was told “nothing can prepare you for motherhood”. I thought that these people obviously didn’t know me very well! I was a senior manager in a large corporate company, I loved my career and I planned everything about my return to work, full time, before I left on maternity leave. I had no plans at all to let becoming a mum change that!
Fast forward 12 months, my original plans took a major U turn. I had successfully agreed a part–time working contract in a role that kept me close to home and where my son would be at nursery. In the 12 months I had become a mum my world had been turned upside down (and probably inside out and upside down too!). I immediately felt the guilt of leaving my son at nursery but also felt the pressure of needing to provide financial support for my family. This feeling of guilt so often talked about between mums, does it come from within us, our DNA? Is it our maternal instinct that gives us that pull to want to be with our children? Or is it social pressure and history continually repeating itself?
Fast forward a further 6 years, I’ve had son number two and a coaching career dedicated solely to working mums. Mums and the way we do business is revolutionising the economy, with more mums than ever using the internet to work from home, stay close to their children and have the flexi working they need to successfully run a family household and a career. Working with other mums, the many discussions I have had with working mums and my own experience, why do mums feel such guilt? Where is it coming from but more importantly how can we be kinder to ourselves and give ourselves a break!
As a mum, do you feel it’s expected of you to be the primary carer to your children? Go back just a generation or two, my mum was able to take years away from working to bring up my brother and I, my grandmother did not work at all. Only just over a century ago girls did not even have to go to school and were taught by the females in their family to look after the children and household.
These lifestyles and ways of bringing up children were very typical in the past, but what has changed? Women are now educated equally to men and the generation bringing up children now often need to work to support paying the families bills. Women simply cannot afford not to work; therefore we are trying to fulfil the role of bringing up our children whilst also being successful in a career.
I believe it is time we turn the tide on these social and archaic pressures, with both mum and dad (or partner) working together and taking more equal roles in raising our children, just as they do in earning an income.
I have put together five tips to help mums alleviate the pressures we feel when juggling our careers and family.
It’s time to start turning the tides on parenting and bringing it into the 21st century.
Tip 1: Stop trying to do it all yourself
So often we are our own saboteurs! The past, the present, how our parents did it, how our grandparents did it… often determines how we parent our children.
I remember I used to prep all the meals for when I was at work and my husband was looking after the kids. I also used to lay the kids clothes out and write things down that needed remembering e.g. pick up times! I don’t do any of that anymore!
If you do all the school runs, prepping for school, organising the clubs, making the dinners, doing the washing….. I feel tired just thinking about it! What baby steps can YOU take today to start alleviating the pressure off yourself and asking your partner to help?
- Can your partner iron the school uniform at the same time as their work clothes?
- Can your partner do a school pick up this week?
- Can your partner go to that school meeting?
- Can your partner cook tea tonight?
See what happens when you step away and give them a chance to have an input in parenting. Yes, it might not be the way you would do it BUT if it gives you less to do and shares the responsibility it’s surely got to be a step in the right direction?
Tip 2: Be confident in your abilities
I read a report that said men are often promoted on their potential whereas women are promoted based on their past achievements.
Often as women we give ourselves a whole load of negative messages...and we tell ourselves it’s not ok to be outspoken or confident or more powerful than men.
Be kind to yourself and tell yourself about all the things you do amazingly well.... you'll then be able to outwardly tell your boss or potential employer how amazing you are and why THEY are lucky to have YOU!
Tip 3: The stereotype of working women is not attractive
Successful women and especially those who are mums can get a lot of criticism... funnily enough often from other women! Many mums have experienced it or know someone who has, or have seen it in the media.
Working mums, especially those in senior roles are often called:
Self consumed... bossy... on a power trip....selfish.....
Do you hear successful men described as this because of their career aspiration?
Let’s support and celebrate our own and each-other’s successes both at home and in work.
Tip 4: If you want to make a change, stop trying to please everyone
If you try and please everyone, the chances are you will please no one and you most certainly will not please yourself.
So step out of your comfort zone, make a change and go for it!
If you are pleasing everyone, then you're not making enough progress.
Tip 5: Support dads/ partners/ significant others to co-parent along with you
What can you do in the home to help your partner do more with the kids or do more around the home to share out the responsibilities equally?
- Positively encourage your hubby/ partner to do something they don’t usually do?
- Encourage the kids to go to dad when they normally run to mummy.
- Allow ‘your ways’ to be flexible... others will never do it like you... because they are not you!
- Sit down and talk... do they even know what you want to achieve at home and in your career?
What else can we do at work?
- Be supportive of men you work with and encourage them when parental responsibilities are discussed.
- Support flexible working for both men and women.
As mums of the 21st century, I believe it is our responsibility to carve the way for future generations. Help them and us to release the guilt and pressure that can come from trying to do it all. As the world around us is evolving so quickly, so must our roles at home and work continue to change, allowing for the opportunity for mums to have it all……….. We mums can be the amazing mums we want to be to our children whilst also thriving in our careers.
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