“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” - Jill Churchill
As a busy PR professional working in a multinational company and a mother to a three-year-old, Mansi has a lot on her plate. She sometimes feels like she is in a race that never seems to end. She leaves early after preparing the meals for the day and drops her little daughter at her parent’s home. Her profession demands her to be available to clients most of the day; there are times when she has to work late and her heart aches to come home and see her daughter already asleep.
Mothers who are employed full-time always grapple with the guilt that they are not giving enough time to their children. Being a mother is one of the hardest yet fulfilling jobs and when coupled with a full-fledged professional life, a working mom has a daunting task to fulfil. Managing the kids, taking care of the family and juggling the responsibilities of the home along with a career, work commitments and deadlines put a lot of pressure on the working mom.
However, working mothers have the advantage of having a life outside the confines of their homes and families and a chance to build their dreams and careers. According to a study conducted by Kathleen L. McGinn at the Harvard Business School along with Mayra Ruiz Castro and Elizabeth Long Lingo, having a working mother improves children’s prospects. ‘Working both inside and outside the home gives your kids a signal that contributions at home and work are equally valuable,’ the study says.
Nonetheless, the struggles of a working mom are very real, and often a mix of the daily grind as well as a plethora of complex emotions. Here is taking a look.
1. Morning rush – Mornings can be extremely crazy for working moms. As a teacher who leaves behind her young kid at home, Shalini laments, “the hardest part of my day is to wake my daughter early so that I can stick to my schedule and am not late for work.” Getting ready for work while finishing breakfast and other household chores as well as getting the child ready for daycare/school is a formidable task.
2. Unwell child – There is nothing more heart-wrenching than to leave a sick child home and go to work. I remember a friend breaking down at work because she had left her son, who was down with fever, at home. The guilt is just unbearable, and very often mothers of sick children take leave from work so that they can care for the little one. What this does, is that it makes it difficult for the working mom to take an off when she is in need of rest.
3. How to bond – There are times when all you want to do is spend some quiet time bonding with your little one, maybe playing a board game or baking cookies together, or just listening while she describes how her day went. Unfortunately, for a working mother, this is a luxury that rarely happens -- even weekends get busy with sorting out of household chores and on weeknights, she is too tired or distracted to spend quality time with the child.
4. Make a choice – You put in extra effort and time into that presentation so that your meeting goes off well the next morning. And to your horror, your child’s school diary shows that there’s a PTA meeting scheduled at the same time. You cannot ask your spouse because he is travelling. Prioritising and choosing between work and child can be one of the unending dilemmas for mothers. Is attending the conference more important or helping the child learn for exams? This persistent, daily sorting of priorities can make life tough for even the most hardened time managers.
5. ‘Me’ time – In the pursuit to handle everything, working moms often neglect taking care of themselves. They skip breakfast, eat an unhealthy lunch, do not pay too much attention to grooming. They don’t take time out for themselves because of the guilt of leaving their child behind. An uninterrupted movie, a book finally finished or a quiet evening spent just relaxing on the beach are things she may just not be able to do. As Meenakshi, a working mom puts it, “Sometimes, the pressure is so much that I wish I could just run off to an island, but then I realise that is being just outright mean and selfish.”
6. The important milestones – “I missed seeing my little one take her first step. What I would have given to be there,” says an HR Manager and heartbroken mother of a 13-month- old. Missing out on the little joys of watching your baby grow and reach important milestones makes the working mom feel miserable. It’s worse when you have to hear it from others, while they describe the precise moment when your bundle of joy pulled herself up and started to wobble towards her first step.
7. Activity after a long day’s work – You come home from work and are totally stressed out. That’s when your children demand attention since they haven’t see you all day. They want to do something constructive with you, while you are still thinking what dinner you can cook up in a jiffy! Sound familiar ? It’s an eternal struggle for working moms. You could read them a story or play checkers before going to bed, but seriously, who has the energy?
8. Daycare dilemma – Leave in a daycare centre or get a nanny? Drop in grandma’s home or enrol in a crèche? For a mom with a small child, making the right decision is hard. While a nanny ensures the child is in familiar surroundings, a working mom will always be distracted about how the nanny is looking after her precious one. A crèche means worrying about how the quality of care is.
9. Never a playdate – That is a complaint that children of parents who are both working may put forward, and it is usually the mother who blames herself for not being available. It is worse when all your children’s friends keep going for play dates, and your little ones are irritated that they never get to go to one of those get-togethers. Between finishing deadlines, preparing meals for the family and helping with homework, where’s the time?
10. Mommy guilt – The biggest challenge is to deal with the guilt that every working mother has. The guilt of leaving the child behind, of spending less time with her and of missing out on many finer nuances and moments of rearing and mothering. This underlying guilt makes the working mother put herself always last in the scheme of things.
Working moms are role models for not only the other women but also for their children and the younger generation. It is important to understand that it may get tough trying to make all things work and there will be days when you may feel like a messed up underperformer. But in the long run, it will all work out.
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