Birth, Babies then Back to Work: The Working Mum. 

 

Today mothers` work. Not all mothers, but many mothers. Some work for financial reasons, others for meaning and identity, some for intellectual stimulation, others because of role / employment restriction, and many work due to a combination of these traits. Why did I go back to work? First time with my daughter and then again after having my son?

My journey was a combination of needing some financial support for the family and the other was a restriction to my job role. The challenge being that there was no option within the company’s business model for supervisors to job share or to fulfil the role part-time after returning from maternity leave. So I went full time…both times. So as I blog what may seem a first world problem to many, to others I hope that my journey helps like-minded mums to make some well-informed decisions about returning to work.

Let me take a step back. I reflect on the journey of motherhood going right back to the wave of women’s liberation movements that were working parallel or in line with some of the attachment theorist work from John Bowlby through to Mary Ainsworth (as a start anyway). So in layman’s terms our foremothers worked so hard to have the right to have a place in the workforce whilst ironically around the same time, theorists were discovering how essential mothers were in creating consistent secure bonds with their children in the hope that children did not live out a life of suffering from anxiety, aggression or addiction; or becoming burdensome on others in the world.

Essentially these competing ideals particularly developing around the 1970s seems to have not radically changed much by today’s standards. Some mothers need to work. All children need their mothers. Guilt much? So I went back to work. Full time. An avid promoter of attachment theory, counselling other parents and supervising counsellors to support families in creating secure familial connections and repairing attachment rupture. I promoted all of this, but I went back to work. 5 days a week, 9 am to 5 pm.

Pickups from grandmas a few days a week. Home by 7 pm. Idiocracy – I nailed it!

Every day I ran on all four cylinders as mum of 2 – the scheduler/rescheduler, kindy drop-offs, the medical researcher of natural eczema cures, ‘why did you wet your pants again’ mediator, the emotional regulator, the bedtime routine queen and the staying up late just for ‘me time’ mum. Every day I also ran on all four cylinders playing mummy to my non-biological kids – the ones I supervised; a team of 50- 60yr olds. I also managed crises, counselled clients, filled in where there were agency gaps, answered calls, facilitated meetings and was the go-to person responsible for other’s mistakes – being responsible for the untenable.

For the most part, I did the work part well, but that left me with nothing in the tank to be a present mum. I literally burnt out.

I went to work…but that didn’t work, because I didn’t work. My kids lacked in good nutrition (surprise-fruit bars are not a fruit), they were constantly being shifted from home to the hands of a non-parent caregiver, they were tired, I was tired
and poor hubby also kept chugging along with this meaningless existence. We were all burning out. Then there was this, the pinnacle full-time mother fail. Rocking up to Book Week having missed the memo that my child needed to dress up. Silently swearing, I rushed her back home, threw together a bride meets emo fairy princess costume so she could stand next to the all the awesome thoughtfully put together costumes of actual characters from a book.

My child, the 4-year-old child of a full-time working mother went to school as a pale teenage-married version of herself as we too had no energy to commit to book reading anyway. So that was when I questioned my values. To simply put it, I wanted for my children secure attachment, what I was providing them was an ambivalent attachment. Overcompensating due to guilt being at work on some days and on other days I was not being fully present when I was beyond the realms of exhaustion. Something shifted. I wanted more for me, more for my marriage and more for my kids.

Then began a journey of searching for part-time work. I applied, I interviewed and even was offered work with the competitors. The week I resigned from my full-time job and the agency, was the week the very same company made available a different role for me to go part time. I took the offer. It was a demotion. A good demotion from the unrealistic pressures not designed for working mothers. The new offer meant that I could work, I could concentrate on being a mum and I could work towards providing a secure base for my 1-year-old and 4 year old. Although sometimes I worry if I’ve made the right decision, I often think back to the values and the reality that I only get this chance once with my kids. Plus we had shut up shop with 2 kids so no more shortcut chances to fix up what we had stuffed up with the first 2 kids by having a third (the thought of more kids has my husband visualising slamming his certain baby making bits in between two heavy doors – his words not mine).

So although my writing is not about listing a bunch of helpful tips around being organised, self-care and staying positive as a working mother, I hope that the message is around doing what works for your family is based on your values as a person. If full time works for you, I hope you can share your formula. If not, go back to what legacy you want to leave for your children. How will they remember their childhood with their mum? Make a financial plan, study plan…make a mum plan. I simply want my children to walk away with a strong work ethic but more importantly an even stronger ethic around family connection, boundaries and values.

 

Claude is a wife and mother of two, she enjoys the regular household topics of farts, butt jokes and toddler chasey.
She is currently working as a Social Worker and is still searching for the right career fit where passion can pay the bills.

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