It’s often hard being a working mum. Yes, we make the choice to have children – and I do not take it for granted that there are so many women who struggle to get pregnant despite every single effort – without which there would be no evolution.
It’s easy to feel like you’re in it alone, when you are surrounded by people who do not have children or when you are juggling it all. Obviously, we can pay for our children to be in full time care or, for those who can afford it, have multiple nannies.
THE JUGGLE IS REAL
A few years ago I was a member of a team where I was the only person who had children. Despite having wraparound care, it was often hard to stay back after work, I would miss out on the team chats and, although I could come into the office early (which was always very productive) I definitely did not feel like I was part of the team.
There were other days when my husband was away and I would have to do both ends of the day pick up and drop off to school or nursery and it meant I had already had a stressful morning – usually involving baby sick on my work clothes, multiple changes, screaming children, train delays (you get the drift). I would arrive at work and feel like absolute crap, ready to start the day. My then manager said to me, ‘you know, when you come in like that you really bring down the mood of the team’.
Inside I wanted to cry, scream, disappear. Anything to have the ability to be understood for the juggle of children, work and emotions.
Whilst I moved into another corporate role soon after these comments, it was another team of people who did not have children. Mostly women but I felt like I was the odd one out. It was the sort of place where you were ‘allowed’ to leave on time with an undertone of having a significant impact on your career progression – or lack thereof!
Ambitious working mums are often more productive because they know they have a finite period of time to do their paid job before rushing out the door to their unpaid jobs (not only childcare but also responsible for aging parents or other relatives). This is not something that should be ignored, in fact, we need to acknowledge more the impact of what these women are producing and having more time in the working day for improving team connection (think Fika time).
This is not a pity post, far from it. What I would like is for women to be better understood. We are more than capable, we have regular hormonal fluctuations that can have an intermittent impact on our performance, we juggle a lot. We are not perfect. We often wear our emotions on our sleeves. Understand that as women, we would like to be shown some compassion but not pity.
It doesn’t feel like this has changed much for a lot of women. There is emerging research into women’s brain health where we now know that the neuroplasticity of a woman’s brain changes with significant hormonal events – puberty, pregnancy and perimenopause. In the context of work, the latter two are far more crucial to be aware of than puberty.
Often, due to these hormonal changes, women start to lack confidence, feel more anxious and suffer with sleep issues – all things that have a significant impact to women in the workplace. The more we can understand what is going on for women, the more effective we can all be.
We also need to recognise when someone is struggling with the juggle or with their own hormone induced mental health issues and find better ways to support women during these times, not discount them. Understanding and compassion is just the first step.
As for me, I have left the corporate world and find the juggle even more demanding – I don’t know if that’s because of the age of my children or my own hormonal changes. Or, if we still have so much more to do as a society to support working mums?