Motherhood, Work and International Women's Day


Women born in the 80's and beyond are always told to make sure we have our sh!t together before we have kids. Get your education, a good job, work your way up and be financially independent, they say. Sure, we say, that sounds sensible, After all we don't want to find ourselves like our mother's generation and women before them, with small children, and no financial means of our own.

That could lead to being trapped in unhappy marriages, left high and dry if our partnerships don't work out and the working partner is not supportive, or at the very least, feeling unequal in the family home and with someone else holding the purse strings. Not appealing at all.

So off we go, with the promise that we can have it all, ringing in our ears. We work hard, make huge sacrifices in our personal lives, delay settling down in favour of building our careers and then somewhere between 30 and 40 it comes knocking, the biological clock, and many women find themselves wanting to start a family.

We may have spent the time preceding desperately trying not to get pregnant but simultaneously wondering if we will be able to if we leave it 'too late'. What a mind f*ck!

Some do experience fertility struggles, whilst trying to hold down their highly prized pressurized job, others experience job struggles with being written out of the picture after getting married or reaching a certain age. Constantly being asked by colleagues when they're going to 'get on with IT' as time is running out or secretly being judged, when you go for that promotion, by a wedding ring or lack thereof, or the year you sat your GCSE's on your CV.

If you have a supportive employer, you find yourself expecting or going down other channels to have that longed for child of your own, and you go off on maternity leave expecting everything to be the same when you go back. But of course, you are different, becoming a parent has changed you. That beautiful little bundle becomes more important than anything and leaving them is a terrifying prospect. You both desperately want to feel like you again - self assured, in control, respected and with a voice - but simultaneously you're changed forever and you know it.

If you have support, little by little, you find yourself back on the horse and flexing that work muscle again, but just with the added pressure of looking after little people and a home, on top of that job. You may have lived a whole day by the time you clock in, being up at the crack of dawn and scrambling to get out of the door to drop everyone off where they need to be. Even the most supportive partner may not take on half of the household chores, perhaps not even really knowing what they are, so you just keep on doing the lions share.

Some may find it hard to give the level of commitment and time they did before, having to accept a backwards step career wise to 'have everything' but still putting in more than their part time hours or live on the edge of sanity and exhaustion to stay at the top of their game.

If you don't have support from your bosses, you become overlooked, out of sight, out of mind, fighting for your position and trying to remain visible as avenues are closed down. You may find yourself made redundant during pregnancy, during maternity leave or having to go back to a different job because they've written you out. You want to shout that you're still good at your job and want to be recognised, but they've already sent you off to the place where some go after becoming a parent, with little to no voice - the hall of motherhood - the place where you are doing one of the most important jobs ever, but have such little respect, understanding or visibility.

To get yourself back out there, you might find yourself seeking a coveted work from home position - often seen as the answer to it all and working around the little ones schedule but even that comes with its own challenges and you find yourself never off duty, as your working day ends after looking after littles, you then have to sit down with your laptop to start your other job. The pressure of working during snippets of nap times or bedtimes, before the exhaustion of nightly wake ups and breastfeeding begins again.

You look for childcare to help you regain your independence and/ or career, but nurseries are expensive without a guaranteed income coming in and family and friends may not always be available or live close enough to help. But you shimmy and shake to get everything to align to allow you to work, but the threat of illness of your little one/s or childcare looms ever present as you know that it will be you who has to cancel meetings or rearrange your work commitments in that event.

See the thing is, no-one really talks about this stuff. Instead we're sold glamorous images of #mumboss taking on everything, being successful, looking glamorous and still being the perfect mother. It's an attractive image. Who doesn't want to be that? But anyone who remotely falls short beats themselves up for not achieving it all.

It may be possible to have everything, but maybe not all at once. Perhaps when people like Kirstie Allsop make statements about women not passing up the opportunity to have children in order to build their careers, shock horror, it's not anti feminist. Of course everyone should have the choice, but perhaps it's coming from a place of wisdom. Any job these days is unstable, ever changing and can be here today, gone tomorrow, but building your family is a solid, a constant, something you (very likely) will never regret. Ask yourself, would work take care of you above all else, will it be there through the hard times, or bring you the greatest joy. If not then maybe we shouldn't be prioritizing it with such vigor.

I suppose it depends how things play out and that is as idiosyncratic as we each are. There is no real message in these ramblings other than, I see you mama, I see how hard things can be sometimes and  I understand. One thing I do know is that women are the most amazing, resilient, incredible, resourceful, imaginative, creative, kind and loving people. With an amazing ability to be both firm and soft, caring but tough, hard working and patient.

I will never stop fighting for women's rights, or being the voice for change or saying how it really is. For long enough we have had to act like men in the workplace to get respect, but that shouldn't be the norm. There is a place for masculine and feminine traits and we need both.

I'm proud to be a woman and to be raising the next generation of strong women. Happy International Women's Day.

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