Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash
One of the subjects dear to my own experience is the struggle some women (and men to be fair), can feel when they become a parent. I found the early years very exhausting with both of my children, and I found it easier to pick them up and look after them if they’d hurt themselves (which is the nurturing bit of the process), than I did to problem solve each dilemma that beset them (which is the parenting side of the process). I still find this multiple juggling act difficult.
I am great at sympathy, empathy and listening, but seem to find it really hard to handle both of them asking me things at once, knowing the right thing to say, supporting them whilst trying to work myself, and cope when exhaustion is driving me to bed rather than to making supper!
What I discovered about myself, and have seen it many times in others since, is the difficulty that a woman can feel recognising whether she is a career woman who wants to have children, or a mum who wants to work. There is a massive difference and this isn’t simply whether we all congregate on the playground and can find common ground. I knowingly and wantonly seek to use my skills and talents to help other people fix their lives and I have worked out that I want that as well as to look after my children. I cannot use expressions such as “I have to work” without a modicum of realization that the truth is actually that I want to.
Why should this give me any difficulties? I guess because I am sometimes judged – harshly in my opinion, for wanting to work and enjoy my children. The juggling act it presents sometimes means I will miss a play they’re in or a morning assembly. I also travel a lot, internally in the U.K. and to the U.S. so sufficient childcare is a regular issue.
Other women feel a very strong drive to be a mum and if they work it might be because financially they have to, or to ‘give something back’, or to ‘keep their hand in’. We are different, as those of us whose drive demands an outlet for full-time or nearly full-time work are in reality fulfilling a career. We will always be conscious of the time it took us to be qualified, the need to use that knowledge, and feel the loss of it all if we cannot talk to adults rather than solely to our children.
In reality, the best compromise is to stop judging each other and be more understanding and tolerant. Accept who you are or you can find the guilt and the struggle can become an exhausting roller coaster where nobody wins and no-one is really happy. I remember a delegate attending a programme of mine on stress. She stood in a small group and described exactly this; how the guilt of what she wanted was tearing her apart. I very gently asked her to accept which she was: ‘a Career woman who happened to be a mum’ or a mum who worked. She looked at me as the light switch came on in her head and she finally understood who was creating the greatest stress for her – she was. Within that pivotal moment came an answer to her dilemma. If she could accept, then her children could accept her, because everything you say or do revolves around how you present it to them. I think I saw her smile, for the first time that day!