Resisting the pressure to be all things to all people

A survey out this week from McDonald’s has got a lot of press coverage, mainly due to the finding that just 6% of people say they now work 9 to 5. However, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily working flexibly or doing the hours they wanted to.

woman stressed at desk


The survey found 42% said they were working flexibly, such as job sharing or doing compressed hours. Over half of full-time workers wanted to start and end work earlier.

More control

The results suggest that what workers want is more control over when they work and more choice over how they work so they can fit work around their different personal circumstances.

Personal context is everything. I’ve noticed of late women I talk to apologising for working less than full time. They seem to feel they are somehow letting the side down.

Yet there may be specific reasons they don’t work full time – they may not earn enough to pay for childcare, they may be single parents, they may not have family nearby, their partner may work long hours or travel a lot for work, they may also be carers or they may simply not want to work full time. There are so many different permutations.

The feeling of failure

Why do women feel they are somehow failing if they don’t work full time and have a top job? Making it more possible for women to be able to make it to the top does not mean it is right for everyone. This pressure to be all things to all people can be a recipe for misery. The thing is to get to a place where you know what is right for you now – because circumstances change.

Sometimes it feels as if it is no longer enough just to get through the day, even if getting through the day can feel like climbing a mountain. Success is relative. Being a mum is like entering a cyclone. Your brain is highly active at all times. So many thoughts swirl around – one minute you are reliving the past, the next thinking about the future while being catapulted through the present. Past, present and future all come together, sometimes simultaneously. It’s a highly emotional and creative time, but also highly stressful and exhausting. People tell you that if your kids survive their childhood intact that is enough. The same goes for parents.  It helps sometimes to take some time out to look back at how far you have come.

There’s a lot of talk about resilience these days. Where does it come from? I’m not sure there is any simple formula: it’s basically survival instinct – both mental and physical – the daily putting of one foot in front of the other.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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