Embracing being a Working Mother
A job and being a mother each comes with its own pressures and challenges.
Our primary responsibility should be the growth and development of our children to ensure they are prepared for what awaits them in our big, diverse and complex world. Along with loving, feeding, clothing, providing a secure environment, there is teaching them about moral values. Nothing prepares us for motherhood, then add in working full time, and it often makes me want to cry with exhaustion.
How is being an effective and good mom possible when you spend eight to ten hours a day at work? Personally, it has been incredibly hard. My state of being has more often than not been a combination of frustration, anger and guilt. This causes an immense amount of stress, and at times has led to depression.
I have had so little time with my children between coming home from work, and their bedtime, and yet I need to fit in the cooking, the feeding, the cleaning, the checking or doing of homework, etc., etc., etc. You know the drill!
Due to my state of being, I often found that I snapped at my children as a result of the littlest thing. This could be anything from incomplete or incorrect homework, lunch bags and water bottles not in the kitchen, a book left at school or simply accidentally spilling some juice. All this and more has sent me completely over the edge. To top it all, I dish out punishment when in fact my mood has made things between my children and me unpleasant. They get consequences such as no television or no technology time, which in my home is already limited to weekends or holidays. How is this teaching them anything, when the consequences either don’t fit the action or have no lesson of value to them? How are they to be motivated to do things differently if their mom’s reaction to all things is always the same? Most of all, what does this do to my relationship with my children?
We model to our children that anger by yelling and screaming is a way of being, and then they mirror this. Often toward their siblings, friends, and sometimes even to us. When this happens, I might think my child is rude. Then when this is done in front of other people, we fear others judging our children and us as moms.
Because you are so exhausted from work and you carry around your work challenges, you often don’t ever really ‘switch off’, and therefore can’t be the best ‘you’ to your children. In fact, these days, we come home and out comes the laptop or we sit down checking emails on our phone. We read about work and life balance, but this on its own is not what is needed. What we need to be with our children is present in what we are doing for and with them, and in so doing ensure that there are life teachings for them.
If you can relate to this, think about how your child might describe you if asked:
- What is your mom like when she gets home from work?
- How does your mom treat you when she is upset and frustrated?
- Does your mom snap at you, what for, and how does it make you feel?
Think about how your child may answer.
Ask yourself, is this the mother you want to be? Think about what you can do to manage yourself better.
A few things that work for me and my children are:
- Becoming more aware of how I feel, acknowledging my emotions, understanding why I feel a certain way, and how my behaviour might be perceived or interpreted by my children.
- Changing my hat from the professional focused on work all day, and stepping into being a loving, nurturing mother.
- Making them understand why there are consequences for certain actions, when necessary.
- Having regular chats with my children about their interests and feelings.
- At dinner, we go around the table asking about how each other’s day was. Depending on the level of engagement, and my children’s moods, I will ask what was good about their day or what was not.
- If I still have work to do, I will do this only after my children have gone to sleep.
- Having a family movie night with take-out on a Friday.
- Playing ‘old-fashioned’ games with my children, e.g., board games, charades, which animal am I, etc.
- Constantly reminding myself that I cannot be an effective parent if I am in a bad mood.
- Being confident to say ‘No’ at work for the sake of my children.
I am human, and sometimes I am so exhausted that the above doesn’t even happen. If so, I find my way back by accepting that I could have responded to my son or daughter differently, dealt with a situation differently, and apologise so that my children know I am human too, but that my behaviour was not acceptable. Then, I just let it go, and keep on working on myself, and do better next time. It also helps knowing that in the long run, this is a teaching from me to my children. Despite working fulltime and the other demands of life on us, and our children, they will always have the memories of what we did to make it work. And this is something nobody or nothing could ever take away from us.
Remember, nothing is more exhausting than being a parent, but more so than our exhaustion, nothing could ever be more rewarding and fulfilling. No other person will ever need us more and love us more than our children, while they are still young. When they are older, you can feel secure in knowing you did the best you could despite being a working mother. We all have good and bad days, but it’s what we want our children to see and feel that should matter most. We are not perfect, and that’s okay.
Until next week…
Yours in Adapting & Being