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THE INVISIBLE PROBLEM – Part 1. Motherhood Undervalued

By September 6, 2016Blog

…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.

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