I’ve spent some time considering the plight of the working mother. This is a topic I often land on, having spent the best part of ten years juggling a corporate job and a family. But recently I have observed my sister in law enter the fray as she has returned to work after her maternity leave. I’ve been wondering: what are my words of wisdom to her? I have this overwhelming urge to warn and protect her from the tougher elements of being a working mother as if it is a battle zone that she is entering. Of course it isn’t. Many women can work and have children and it all goes swimmingly.
I wonder why for all the years that I have worked, after having children, I drove myself so hard, not content to let anything slip. To the extent that I became slightly unhinged. My hinges are back on now, but the fact remains: why can’t it be easier to have a job and a family?
|…beautiful Jackie…via pretty stuff|
In practical terms, I stood by my methods which over the years oiled the wheels, ensuring our life stayed on track. I religiously got our weekly food shopping on a Monday and planned what we would eat so there was always food in the house. Not having adequate or nutritious food was a surefire way to feel I was failing. Likewise, I ran a laundry system where I devised a cupboard dedicated to laundry sorting; a whites shelf, a coloured shelf, a darks shelf. All meaning that laundry was ready to be scooped and moved into the process, already colour coded. This made me feel in control. If no member of your family has clean clothes, you feel like you’re failing.
I’d plan weekend social engagements three to four months in advance, so at least my husband and I felt were seeing friends and living life. Being a social recluse makes you feel like you’re failing.
I’d fantasise about sorting my entire house so that every item had its own place. In my mind this was the key to not feeling like you’re failing.
And all the time, with these measures I would be in control and there would be no variables. But in reality, life does throw variables our way and so I would get sick or the kids would. Or there would be a school trip or an event that I had not catered for in my planning. Or I would simply forget who was meant to be where and when.
In short, it required military levels of organisation and discipline to make it work. Constantly thinking ahead. Not to mention normal life stuff like dentist visits and haircuts and school projects and weekends away. Family lunches and friends’ birthdays and thank you cards.
And now of course I can see that these rigorous demands, all self-imposed, were my undoing. For years, so staunchly did I defend this way of life. And now, when I observe it in myself I see that fundamentally, something had to give.
And so it has given. A shift of seismic proportions in my little life. And now I contemplate the future and wonder…where do I want to take it?