I am in the privileged position of hearing stories every day from amazing women like you who juggle (and often struggle) with the dual demands of being a mum and a successful working woman.
Many feel the guilt of playing down their children’s lives whilst they are at work; choosing not to speak about them unless asked, going without family photos on their desk, and gliding into the office as if the whole working mother thing was a total cinch.
I see many others trying to overcompensate for being a mum, by making themselves forever on-call and never, ever dropping the ball. As if to show that motherhood hasn’t changed them, that they are still the same person as before.
Many women say that returning from maternity leave isn’t the joyous homecoming they’d hoped for. They feel a weighty obligation to payback for any flexible working they may have been given; it’s heads down, no time for office chat, grab a bit of lunch and just plough through the day without causing any more fuss. Some tell me they feel brandished with the ‘lucky to still have a job’ stamp, and feel unvalued, unheard and unhappy. Too many resign soon after returning from maternity because it all feels overwhelming.
My belief is that working mothers – and in fact working parents in general – need far more support in the short term in order to fully prosper in the long term. It’s time for it to become normal for businesses to provide this support. When a woman leaves a business for a year to have a baby, yes it can disrupt ‘the flow’ of the team temporarily. But when a women leaves a business for good because she can’t see any other option – that can cost a business much, much more.
What we need are more role models, and I’m not just talking about the Sheryl Sandbergs of this world. So I call on you, if, like me, you’re neither a ‘perfect’ professional nor a ‘perfect’ mother, but a real, doing-the-best-you-can-with-what-you’ve-got, ‘good enough’ working mother. I call on you to speak openly about your childcare arrangements, to display that family photo on your desk, to hide your phone and give your child your full attention when you get home, and to leave the office proudly at the time you have decided to – even if that means walking out on others still hard at it. I call on you not to just tell your child to be kind, but to show them what kindness looks like, by being kind to yourself first.
This Mother’s Day, let’s make a commitment – to be kinder to ourselves when it comes to finding that elusive work-life balance. To surround ourselves only with people that want to see us succeed. Only then will there be no need to pretend to be anyone else but you.
Wishing every mother a very Happy and well–deserved Mother’s Day!