Parenting

The Balance of Motherhood

“She is Just A Mum. I imagine she sits around all day in her PJs, drinking tea and eating chocolate biscuits”

“Oh, she is a working mother. Her children are in nursery all day, the poor things”

 

Is that it? Are these the only options?

How much do we give up of our lives, our hopes, our dreams when we become mothers?

And when is it ok to say, “Right. Enough. I am not Just A Mother”

 

PurpleMum, whose great blog you can read by clicking the pic

 

 

Today, I read a post on my favourite parenting blog FreeYourParenting about nurturing yourself. Clare talks about the every day stresses of family life, and how we can get away from it all, even if just for that one precious moment to prevent yourself screaming at your kids in frustration.

In a strange coincidence, MyMumdom today blogged about how playing the piano, inspired by ReopeningTheCase, who is currently documenting her return to playing the viola.

All this got me thinking about life, work, parenting, and finding the perfect balance.

When I read of parents who have not been out without the children in 3 or 4 years, or mothers who haven’t had a day away from their children, I wonder how they cope. Don’t you want a moment to yourself occasionally?

Obviously, this is only possible if you have the great fortune to have parents, family or friends who are willing and able to take your children or if you pay for a babysitter. I know it is nerve wracking leaving your child for the first time with a “stranger”, but try it out.

Don’t neglect your relationship because you are parents, and this goes for both mothers and fathers.

If your children are in nursery or school, meet for lunch without the kids. You may be able to do this in your lunch hour if you work close by your partner’s office. Go out for a meal with your husband/partner/friends or take an afternoon off and go to the cinema.

If you are happy to be a stay at home mum, and can financially swing it, that may be the right thing for you but don’t forget to look after yourself as well as your children.

If you are unable to stay at home, either for financial or other reasons then go for it. Get a job and put the children in childcare.

Some women are happy being SAHMs, some are miserable. If you are the latter, then don’t feel guilty about going back to work. And don’t let anyone make you feel less of a mother because your children are being cared for by someone else.

 

 

On a day when the MP Louise Mensch took a bashing for leaving an important hearing as she had to pick up her children from school, it is important to talk about how we as parents balance our daily lives. Gaby Hinsliff writes on her blog that attitudes to working parents need to change.

 

It’s the same in countless ordinary offices, where parents are quietly advised never to put anything down on paper about leaving early: just fabricate a client meeting every now and then and slip off early, like everyone else. It works. But it’s deeply dishonest, perpetuating the myth that it’s fine to work a 70 hour week or choose (as MPs do) between living several hundred miles from their children or dragging them up and down the motorway every weekend. And it’s an excuse for nothing to change.

 

I note that she writes that Ms Mensch was not picking up the children from their local school and driving home, she was going to her Northhamptonshire constituency – over 2 hour drive from London. Not really a “school run” as we would normally see it.

“Oh, but some of the men are fathers, they didn’t leave”, I have heard on Twitter – but this is not a reason for expecting Louise Mensch to stay. Why are they not being criticised for neglecting their children? Why do we hold Ms Mensch up as the baddie instead of applauding her commitment to her children. Which has likely been questioned often enough, since she is a working mother.

Why should we parents always have to justify ourselves?

As long as we do the work, why should others criticise the way in which we juggle our private and professional lives to get the job done?

The balance of motherhood. Tricky enough at the best of times, but even more difficult if society throws beanbags at us.

10 Comments

  • Robyn/Tee

    I know I am 100% tired of ‘if you work you’re a horrible mum’ ‘if you don’t work you’re a benefit scrounger *and* a horrible mum’. We can’t win.

    And yes, there were fathers there who didn’t leave. You know why? Because their wives left something else.

    Another expectation I am tired of; that mum will be the one to leave to take care of the kids.

    Granted in my house it’s true that I do most of the ‘school’ runs and the days off when my son is ill. But that’s because of a myriad of issues, the least of which is my physical limitations and what it would mean to me and my illness if I worked full time. Oh and the fact that day care costs would completely eat my salary.

    Let’s keep supporting each other, you mums out there, and stop criticizing!

  • Butterflyexperience

    I agree on so many levels with you.
    If we work we are damned and if we are Sahm we are damned too.
    Looking after yourself is so important but is so easy to neglect when little people need attention.
    I’m working on how to get the perfect balance…

  • Tracie

    That is a great post.

    I choose to a SAHM and do the lion-share of household tasks and childcare. Works for us, but I know not for everyone.

    Pretty much as women we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t and everyone will have an opinion without doing balls all to help out!

    This is a popular soapbox topic of mine when I want a rant.

  • Dilly Tante

    I’m really lucky. I work in a place where if you view someone’s calendar it is not uncommon to see time blocked off for ‘school run’ or ‘non-working day’, and that is both the men and women. It’s a great attitude. Apart from the occasional thoughtless “Enjoy your day OFF”, or people sometimes forgetting that you may work less but you GET PAID LESS, the majority of colleagues have a healthy attitude to work-life balance.

    There are even people I know who don’t have children, yet work part time. And why shouldn’t they, if they can afford to support themselves on a part time wage.

  • AklFoxy

    Great post. Hear hear!
    All us mums should back eachother up. We all have our reasons for the choices we have made (voluntary or involuntary). As long as we show our children our endless love and always have time for them one way or another we will have nothing to feel guilty about.What the rest of the world thinks is irrelevant. I know it doesn’t always work that way, but if we all started showing that children come first, whether we work outside of the home or stay at home, society might eventually open their eyes.
    And don’t forget the dad’s…they also often struggle with guilt of not being there for the children.

  • alex

    I don’t know a single mother who is completely ‘at peace’ with the balance she’s achieved. For me it’s a constant tweaking process – focus exclusively on home life and I start to feel frustrated and grumpy with the children, take on too much work and I obsess about whether I’m a bad mother. Feeling guilty just seems to go with the territory, and is obviously compounded by the widespread mother-bashing that you mention in your post.

  • Jo

    Brilliant post, loved it 🙂

    I have been a SAHM for 14 years now (have 6 children). I have no choice but to be a SAHM because i am both a Mum and carer to my eldest daughter who doesn’t attend school (never has).
    I have loved my time at home with the children but it has been draining on my self esteem. To help myself with this i have alway’s done voluntary work, which allows me to only do the hours that suits me and isn’t an over commitment. As it’s voluntary the organization’s alway’s understand that my family have to be my first priority and my voluntary work is secondary, so if i can’t make a meeting i won’t get sacked.
    I tire of having to justify my need to even do that. I get those that tell me i’ve enough on my plate and should be concentrating on being at home. Then other’s who say if i can do that then why am i not out at work earning a wage. I’m damned if i do, damned if i don’t. I get sick of explaining my daughter’s illness means i have to leave her with a trained carer..which i have to pay for, that earn more an hour than i would.
    A lot of my voluntary work i do from home but on the occasion’s it takes me out of the house it is a very welcome change of scene and nice to see other adults 🙂

    People are often to quick to judge other’s sadly.

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