Growing up I was always asked what I wanted to be. The answer was never expected to be “a mother” … that was a given. No, the women in my life wanted to know what “career ambitions” I had.
It was instilled in me that I would work from an early age.
My grandmothers – both career women – worked all their lives, one in health and the other in education. My mother and my mother-in-law also worked – one in health and the other in education. And while they still work in their 60s and 70s, they also manage to juggle children – not just their own but also their grandchildren. To them, that’s life, no complaints or “poor me” … it’s what they’ve always done.
Today, as a working woman I know I’ve never had it so good.
Unlike my forbears, everything around me is made to make my life easier.
From the washing machine and dryer to the dishwasher, heat pump and microwave, cleaning, heating, cooking and feeding the household almost take care of themselves. I can complete these basic tasks within about an hour before I leave for work or after I arrive home.
At the end of the day, if nothing is out for dinner, I can whip to the supermarket, pick up everything we need – spend another hour cooking, bathing and feeding the children and they are ready for bed.
When things go pear shape, it has nothing to do with children, or work or the man of the house, it has to do with me and being slack. That could easily be fixed if I gave myself an hour before the household woke to get myself sorted.
Today, childcare is a breeze. Having gone back to work after each of the girls was six weeks old, I have used the in-home model, finding wonderful grandmothers to care for my babies in their own houses. Perfect. No little feet racing around all day causing havoc at home … they do it somewhere else!
At work, I enjoy flexible hours, which means that as long as I do my time and my job, I can, within reason, do all the things a mum has to do during “normal working hours”.
There are sacrifices – no tennis mornings, coffee groups or days out shopping, and spending someone else’s money.
So what have I missed? Nothing. My children don’t call anyone else “mum”. No one has taken my place because I haven’t been there during their day.
What have I gained? An exceptionally busy household full of strong-willed, independent and determined girls who are now more organised than their mother. Post-it notes and text messages are very popular for reminding me what’s on and where I have to be.
What have I lost? My ability to stay up late during the working week, as my eyes literally begin to close at 9pm as my battery runs flat. Even when we have guests for dinner I’ll fall asleep on the couch!
What do I wish for? That my generation stopped complaining about how hard it is to juggle work and children … that we lack sleep and have no time to ourselves.
That we acknowledge and show more appreciation for what our mothers and grandmothers really do … how exceptionally hard they worked and still work. Because, when we need help, who comes to our rescue?
And who fought so hard for our rights to make our life as working mothers so much easier.
So what don’t I want?
I don’t want to have it any other way because life should be easier for working women … heaven knows we earn it.