All mothers are working mothers
“Mothers Are Drowning in Stress: New research suggests saving U.S. mothers should be a national priority.”
The researcher Caitylin Collins in her 5 year study on managing career and caregiving discovered more work-life conflict than work-life balance.
Michelle Obama describes a similar sentiment in her famous book. She strived to be successful in her professional career and as a mother and wife. Her story highlights the universal struggle mothers go through when they need to make the choice: pursuing a career or raising children full time. There is no easy answer and no right way of doing it.
When I was still in my previous career I could not imagine quitting my job to be a stay-at-home mom. No way! My job was fun and it was my identity. After my children were born this identity no longer described me, but being suddenly stripped of it was confusing.
As I read “Becoming” I felt Michelle Obama’s pain. She was an accomplished professional when her second daughter was born. She started pondering the idea of staying at home with her children and then a job offer came from the University of Chicago Medical Center. She says: “I debated whether to even send in my resume. It sounded like a great opportunity, but I’d just basically talked myself into the idea that I was—that we all were—better off with my staying home. In any event, this was not a moment of high glamour for me, not a time I could really imagine blow-drying my hair and putting on a business suit. I was up several times a night to nurse Sasha, which put me behind on sleep and therefore sanity.” Raise your hand if you’ve been there!
Whether you are a mom with a professional career or a stay-at-home mom, this phase of motherhood is exhausting. Parenting young children is easily more than a full-time job. It not only is physically tiring but also challenging emotionally and it doesn’t leave much space for mothers to attend to their own needs.
If you return to your career, you never quit your job as a mother. As Catherine Reitman, the creator of the Netflix sitcom “Workin’ Moms” says: “There’s a repression against mothers where we’re expected to be full-time workers and pretend we’re not mothers, and then expected to be full-time mothers who pretend we’re not working. Simultaneously, within the hours of the week that exist.” If you decide to stay at home, you will have a lot on your plate. There is always plenty of work in a household with young children and the societal myth of “not working” as a stay-at-home mom makes this job even less satisfying.
I was a working mom for about 18 months and a “not working mom” for several years. I found myself exhausted most of the time in both situations. As a career-mom I experienced the added stress of deadlines and performance pressure while my baby was always on my mind. As a stay-at-home mom I missed regular grown-up time and the validation coming from the paycheck and interactions with my team. Plus, I thought “I am not working” and I took way too much upon myself. At the same time I was frustrated and disappointed with myself that I was not the mother and partner I wanted to be. I often see my clients going through the same struggle.
It is sad that the work around creating a home and caring for children is not paid and therefore not valued in our society. In fact it should be re-defined: instead of “not working”, we should call it “not having a paid job”. Both groups of mothers with and without a professional career would benefit from it.
While going through this phase myself and working with my clients I developed a strategy to help mothers in this exciting but tiring time. To start you can use my Mother’s Guide To Sanity. It’s FREE for you to download.
And just hang in there, mama, and start now with the guide I prepared for you. Parenting young kids can be really tough and it is important to acknowledge it and take care of ourselves. Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.