Monday, 26 October 2015

My love-hate relationship with being a working mum

Balancing my baby and her nursery bag with one arm, schlepping my teacher's briefcase with the other. Add a bag of groceries here and there, and this would be my early experience of being a working parent. And don't forget the sore back, and the nagging heartache when I would leave my baby with a childminder...mixed in with a frequent sense of relief, of being able to breathe, relax, when I was not having to care for my baby. Compared to taking care of her, work would seem like a walk in the park.

I've been pursuing my career since my daughter was three months old, and she's now two years old and at times, I still feel guilty for being a working mum. I look around at all the French mums and dads dropping their babies off at the crèche on their way to work, and I think: why do I feel so guilty when everyone thinks it's normal to be a working parent? Anyway, here are five things I remind myself of when I feel guilty:

1. Would a man feel guilty?

The funny thing is, despite the fact that they tend to spend more time with their children than men, women still feel more guilty than their partners.

2. I'm a role model for my daughter

I want Momo to grow up with a working mum so that she can see that it's completely normal for women to pursue their career. My mother was a stay-at-home mum, so that's all I've ever known, and it might be why I struggle so much now. My partner's mum had a brilliant career and that was completely normal for him. And he never felt like there was anything wrong with that. He still got a lot of quality time with both of his parents, and they are very close.

3. Being a part of the professional community is good for my mental health

I felt my identity change a lot when I became a mother. For a while, I was really confused. At first, my love for my daughter was so big it seemed to eclipse everyone and everything else. Then I realised that all the other parts of who I had been were still there, but that from now on, they would have to coexist with my role as a mother. Now, I am used to being a mum and I can see that being a mum is just a part of who I am. I am also woman who loves her partner, who enjoys her friendships, her hobbies, AND her work.
My work has always been important to me. I don't want to give up that part of me, because it's part of who I am and I enjoy it, and it helps me stay sane. And I don't need to give up that part of myself in order to be a good mum. Noone would dream of asking a man to give up his career for his children.

4. It's good for my marriage

Men tend to be the main breadwinners, but what we often forget is that it's not an easy role. It's a lot of weight on their shoulders and it also potentially means that they don't get to spend enough time with their children. By going out to work, I can help ensure that my husband doesn't need to carry a disproportionate amount of financial responsibility for our family. It also ensures my financial independence, so that I don't end up in a situation where I can't leave our relationship for financial reasons.

5. My daughter seems happy

And, last but not least, my daughter seemed to enjoy being with her childminder and the three other kids there. She still has a special relationship with one of her former playmates. Now she's in kindergarten and she enjoys it so much she doesn't want to leave when I come and pick her up.

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