“…there are invisible problems all around us, ones we can solve. But first we need to see them, to feel them.” —TONY FADDELL, CEO, NEST
Many contemporary mothers, like me, have had specialized educations, successful careers, incomes and aspirations when they become mothers. We’re achievers, we want to be our best at whatever we do.
Motherhood runs counter to so much of the success indicators our society measures by. Whether we return to paid work and juggle work hours alongside the demands of family life, or work at home full-time raising our children, our lives suddenly have a different priority and shape. Motherhood is an invisible job.
If we’re “working mothers” as in working for someone else, an unexpected day of illness (it’s always unexpected so we should expect it right?) can be seen as an inconvenient interruption to one’s “real’ work. In these situations, mothers experience availability pressure. Caught between the practical requirements of being a hands on mum and being judged as unreliable, seen as not measuring up. Maternity leave, school hours, the flexibility and attention that motherhood requires, clash with the conventions of dedicated work contracts designed and intended to take priority over ones outside life so that the business can thrive. Effectively these mums are working two jobs coming in the door straight to their role as home CEO, tasked with meeting the family needs. We want to be the best mums we can. It’s obvious, we’ll make it work, because lives are at stake here.
“Stay-at-home mother” as in working full-time at home, is no less of a minefield. Unpaid, largely invisible, seen as unprofessional, mothers become second-class citizens. “And do you work?” I hated that question. Of course I work! I’m working all day raising the next generation, putting my all into educating my kids to be loving, mindful, healthy, self-aware, inclusive, relational, communicative, caring, responsible, compassionate, happy individuals who will create good lives, for themselves and others. I care about this and I’m working really hard. Even when I’m frustrated, tired, have no break from the merry-go-round of dishes, laundry, story-time, playtime, getting to supermarket, Playcentre, trying to balance house accounts, shop wisely, educate in every aspect of life, I’m giving it my best. It can be lovely sure, days walking the buggy to beach are a blessing and I feel lucky to be me. But it’s also isolating. I challenge anyone to be a full-time parent and not get bored, tired, frustrated, long for a break, want some help, to run up against their own edges of bad behaviour, which people do when they’re stressed and under pressure. If mothers didn’t go to work tomorrow the world would fall apart. But we don’t have the option.
If you think I’m complaining about being a mum you’re not getting it. I’m saying I care, I love being a mother, I’d choose it again, but the truth is it’s not easy. And I’m saying mothers are at the heart of our social health. The truth is that mothers have way more value than we grant or utilize as a society. Mothers care. We educate. From the moment of conception on we raise the future.