The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #EachForEqual. In the context of work, we typically think about equal pay and career progression. However one thing that’s often left out of the conversation is the equal opportunity to pursue a career in the first place. For working mothers, the journey often feels like a rollercoaster ride.
“The reality of life as a working mother is that you have two full time jobs!” says Robyn, a Senior Content Writer at MarketFinance. “You love both of them of course and you want to do your best but a lot of the time it feels like you can only give 100% to one or the other…or only 50% to both.”
For Nadia, a Portfolio Risk Manager, “being a mum is busy and there is rarely time to relax”. For working mothers, the work day doesn’t finish at 6pm – as one shift ends another one is just beginning. “Finding the balance is the biggest challenge. You want to spend time with your kid: listen to them, play, teach, give guidance. On the other hand you also want to give 100% to your job,” Nadia continues.
The most challenging part being a working mother is definitely finding the balance! Embracing all the responsibilities of being a parent while also being a dedicated employee is something that both Nadia and Robyn are constantly juggling.
Flexible working is not just a buzz word of this generation but is an important enabler to support the lives of people who really need it most. Robyn says “flexible working is about mutual respect between working parents and employers. They respect your responsibilities at home and your ability to get the job done by letting you find a schedule that allows you to do both.”
Flexible working also gives mothers and other working parents the opportunity to be there for the important things in their child’s life; be it a school play or concert, or having the opportunity to engage with teachers. This is very important to Nadia who finds having the option to work from home very helpful in supporting the connection and relationship with her child.
What are these working mothers’ secrets to a healthy work life balance? While Robyn jokes that she’s still figuring this out, Nadia suggests working mothers should value their time and shift their priorities according to the circumstances.
However we can’t speak about working mothers (although they are superheroes) without shouting out working fathers also. Robyn says, “ I’m really lucky to have a husband who shares 50% of the parenting with me and an employer who totally respects my responsibilities outside the office. That makes a huge difference.”
Returning to work after maternity leave can seem like starting a new job all over again because the realities of life have changed. Career development and progression may feel hindered due to the time constraints mothers may face in regards to their ability to upskill through training and taking courses. But women shouldn’t have to choose between motherhood and a career!
Working mothers bring valuable skills to businesses and the community. Their ability to prioritise, find balance and take the helm as role models is amazing!
In becoming a mother, there is an element of transcending into a new person who has to think in a completely different way. For Robyn, becoming a mother has made her more confident, proactive and ambitious. She says, “If you can grow a human from scratch, there’s nothing you can’t do at the office if you put your mind to it!”
For Nadia, being a working mother is about being a role model. “It teaches you to prioritise, to find a balance. To prove to yourself that you can do both. Also, I do believe that in being a mum you are a role model (even if you don’t think so), as you are showing your children that women can have many different interests, life paths and are good at a variety of things.”
Robyn describes being a working mother as an opportunity to live the best of both worlds: “I get to add value in two very different contexts every day and that’s really fulfilling. Plus my daughter is convinced I’m some kind of famous author – despite the fact that I’m actually just a content writer”.
A final piece of advice for women returning to work after their maternity leave or career break? “Prepare for it not to be ideal,” says Nadia. “Don’t put a great amount of stress on yourself!”
Robyn agrees, saying “Be kind to yourself. Know that it will be hard and that you’ll often feel guilty about letting things slip either at work or at home but actually you’re doing great.”