Once a mother, always a mother

From the archives of Mama Knows Best, written in June 2014 by Jenny Neville, founder of Mama Knows.

Being a mother is a full time job. When you have a child, you become a mother and going back to work doesn’t change that; you are and will still be a full time mother even if you also go to work. So when I hear people refer to working mums as ‘part time’ mums I think to myself, “No way, there’s no such thing as a part time mum!!”.  And I truly can’t grasp one mum judging another for her choices; we are all mamas and should be united. We should be supporting and empowering each other, we’re all in this together and we all continue to be mothers whether we work, stay at home or do a bit of both.

Perhaps it’s because the grass always seems greener on the other side, but there really is no ‘easier’ option. I speak as a mama who has been both a Working Mum (WM) and a Stay At Home Mum (SAHM) and now I find myself to be a Working At Home Mum (WAHM) and what I can tell you that there are advantages and disadvantages to each of these options. Nothing is perfect but making your circumstances work for you and your family is what it’s all about.

For example, the day of a WM may start in a hectic flurry of getting the family organised for the day – washing, dressing, bag packing, teeth brushing, getting out of the door, childcare drop offs and into the workplace on time. However, once this is done the WM may get the chance to grab a coffee, kick back, read the paper or listen to the radio during her commute. Her day may be spent engaged in adult conversation and brain-stimulating work tasks, perhaps even with a chance to pop out at lunchtime, take a look around the shops and eat lunch in peace. The homeward commute be her chance to read a few pages of a book or even just enjoy some quiet time for reflection.

Whilst this may sound quite appealing to some, the flipside is that the WM has just done a full day’s work. But dinner isn’t cooked, the breakfast dishes are still in the sink, the dishwasher hasn’t been emptied, the fridge is half empty and the laundry pile is rising. Unless the housekeeping fairies really do exist, WM and her other half still has work to do before it all starts again tomorrow.

The SAHM on the other hand may be more likely be found putting her feet up in the evening, perhaps with a glass of wine in hand. It’s likely she’s already made (or at least planned) the dinner, the washing pile will have been seen to during the day, and the kid’s toys put away for the day. This too may sound idyllic to some. But this might be the first time SAHM has had the chance to sit down all day, to use the bathroom alone, or to eat a meal without any interruptions or little fingers in it.  It might be the first time she’s had a moment to put her own needs in front of anyone else’s and asking her husband about his day might be the first adult conversation she’s had all day.  SAHM will do it all over again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. There are no holidays, no sick days and, importantly, there’s no pay.

As with the others, the WAHM is also a real juggling act. The WAHM starts the day much like all mothers by meeting the needs of the children in the frenzy of feeding, dressing etc. WAHM’s day is likely to be a mixture of time with the children, getting on with some work, and general running of the house. There may some time away from the children for meetings, there may be some phone calls in which WAHM is able to discuss work matters. These may be interspersed with jigsaws, play dough, tantrums, school runs and after school activities. At the end of the day, when the children are in bed WAHM is already home, and with a bit of organisational skill you might’ve already popped something in the oven for dinner leaving an evening to enjoy. But, WAHM can never leave work behind. There is no ‘close of business’ or ‘end of the day’. The temptation to reply to that email or complete those notes that for tomorrow’s client is always there. It’s not easy to stop when your work life and home life are so closely intertwined.

Circumstance will dictate the role of some mothers, whilst others will make choices. Whichever path you choose remember; you are a mother and you will always be a mother, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.