Woes of a Working Mum

Apparently women are unhappy at work. According to Harvard Business Review writer Sylvia Ann Hewlett high-powered women were more than twice as likely as men — 84 percent compared with 40 percent — to be seriously thinking jumping ship. Hewlett’s research is interesting but she never really goes into the reasons for this unhappiness. Sean Silverthorne writing on the BNET blog suggests it’s “something about the nature of work in the modern company“. The comments made on his blog seem to back up his theory and unsurprisingly the need for more flexible working practices comes high up the list as one possible salvation.

As one person says:

It would almost be forgiveable that the jobs themselves are pretty boring. It’s the political BS and stigma attached to females who want a work/life balance that makes a corporate job difficult. The flexibility to work from home often isn’t there, the understanding that a sick kid almost always wants his/her Mommy is lacking, and most women don’t want to put in 70-80 hours/week to prove they’re ‘worthy’ of being in the corporate job.

Or maybe we just want the days back where weren’t expected to do everything to keep a household running, clean, raise kids, cook, etc. AND work. Maybe we’d be just happy with cooking :o). And before the self-indignant males start lambasting me, there has been a serious decline in chivalry since women started taking a bigger role in the workplace. And there is still a double standard that women should be doing the domestic duties listed above.

Strong stuff but for working mothers most of it will ring true.

As a working mother I find it seriously tricky keeping all the balls in the air, and I work for an enlightened organisation. Heaven knows what it must be like to work for a more traditional organisation.

The problem is clear enough:

About 100 years ago male and female roles were defined. The world wars left things a little fudged and now nobody’s position is clear any more. I now find myself with 3 jobs: 1) looking after my kids (house and husband!) 2) working and 3) juggling the two. My husband is a good dad, a great dad, but his purpose is clear: he goes out in the morning and returns at night having earnt money for us to live off. If life is any different from normal he has a list to follow! My purpose often feels like the spaces inbetween, and there are many! So I find myself torn between my work and my home life. I feel like I’m never able to give my all to either. The media kindly reminds me of this at every opportunity (Working mothers have unhealthiest children, study finds) and the government tries to throw hurdles in my way (Mothers are banned from looking after each other’s children) while claiming it has my best interests at heart. Yet I know I am a hardworking and loyal member of staff and a good mum too. So my high-flying tendencies, although not completely gone, now sit in a small place constrained by the boundaries my three jobs impose.

Who knows what the future will bring? The government and the media will continue to wrestle with what percentage they think a woman should give to her two lives, but there is no easy answer. For the time being women will continue to be the bearers of children and yet they also have a great deal to offer the work place.

I know that I am not alone in my woes. Two-thirds of mums are now in employment. We don’t expect sympathy or praise but sometimes initiatives like flexible working can make life just that little bit easier.