Following the election loss of President Trump, the General Council has finally appointed Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, our very own Nigerian, as the next World Trade Organisation Director-General. Woohoo! While we celebrate, it brings me to discuss this working Mum concept again that brings the infamous mummy’s guilt with it, just like I did in my eBook You Can Kick Ass Girl!, which you can get here as a giveaway.
So this image below was posted in a WhatsApp group I belong to, and I was pretty much bothered. And my response is right below as well:
So people are everywhere reinforcing to women that you can juggle marriage and career at the same time living true to the super woman image. So I’m here in this episode to really discuss this working mum pressure and of course the whole burden of the mummy’s guilt that hits us women so hard. Let’s get down to lifestyle of this acclaimed “Superwoman”, what makes for her success and how you can free yourself from such pressure to reach your full potentials.
The Mummy’s Guilt.
Author Amy Westervelt says, “We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work.” This is the origin of the mummy’s guilt. You are made to feel guilty for working (and not spending all day with your kids) and still feel guilty for not working (because you are a liability).
Missing out on meaningful time with your kids- like the school play, Science fair, school team football competitions, even PTA, or not showing up at another classmate’s birthday party with your kids, leaves many mums feeling like they are failing. In return, you find it hard to be proud of your work or career or even to venture out to bigger things that you crave to achieve. And at the same time you’re not comfortable to openly discuss issues about your schedule at workplace, for instance when you have a paediatric appointment. Instead you hide and sneak around so colleagues don’t think you are incompetent for taking time off for your child’s appointment or think you are less productive.
In an earlier episode, it was the Madam Vice-President, Kamala Harris of the USA that we celebrated. Today, it is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of Nigeria. There are several other women in politics, congress, steering businesses, smashing athletics, etc; both married and unmarried, with kids and childless. Many of us would look up to them and wonder “how are they combining home and career?”
And of course this is one question every interviewer is ready to ask successful women but they would never ask men; aren’t fathers supposed to have responsibilities at home too? So I will first talk about the merits of working mums, how to overcome your mummy’s guilt, and how to relieve yourself of undue pressure as a working mom.
Significance of Working Mums.
1). As a Working Mum, you form a positive role model to your children and other children too.
You help children realize from an early age that women and not domestic servants as they may choose to have a professional life of their own. Boys will also learn that household chores are part and parcel of family life which will impart them positively. You raise more independent children inadvertently because they take turns at roles in the home.
2). As a working Mum, you are less prone to depression.
This is because you’re driven and fulfilling your passion doing what you love out there and still coming home to those you love. You can also better manage quality time with your kids because you don’t have all day with them so you make the hours with them count. Consequently, you’re also happier in your relationship and better respected.
Look at Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala whom we are currently celebrating as the first black and first woman director-general of the world trade organisation. Have you read up her family? And her kids? See how they are smashing!
Overcoming your Mummy’s Guilt.
So you are a working Mum and you know what it feels like to literally divide yourself into 3 to be at three places at once. What it feels Like to be under the macroscopic scrutiny of the the motherhood police who seem to always know how best to be a good mother and question every move you make. 100% mother and 100% worker remember?
In my book, You Can Kick Ass Girl!, which you can get for free here, I discussed how mothers feel guilty about being busy and find it difficult or feel ashamed to ask for help. You are obsessed with this image of being a Superwoman; a perfect mother a great wife, and smashing an outstanding career.
Therefore having a nanny is bad – how can another woman cater for your children? The height of a responsibility!
A Chef? Your husband eats another woman’s (or man’s) food? The height of disrespect!
There goes the motherhood police! Questioning why you have to even be too engaged at work that you can’t attend all the PTA meeting – including the ones your husband can make; Why you can’t volunteer like other ‘humble’ mums at your child’s school; Why you don’t have the time to take part in the community bake sale, or kids party, or to show up at your in-laws’ many activities. Anything at all (that’s not your career of course) that you miss, you feel guilty. Once you take your career or business seriously and become less available, the criticism makes you feel heavily guilty.
Today I need you to know that you are a great mum, don’t let Society tell you otherwise. You should live your life and raise your kids to live theirs too. You cannot keep surviving working like you have no kids or mothering like you have no job. Don’t listen to the motherhood police force.
- It is okay to say no when it’s inconvenient to show up because you have work to do or business to run.
- It’s okay to miss some of your kid’s school activities – you simply have to reassure them that you were thinking of them. Have your husband attend some too so your children don’t grow with the stereotype that only mums are required to be present where it matters.
- And most importantly, it is very ok to have help! Ask for help, get help. Quit forming you can do it all like the superwoman you’re struggling to be. Whether volunteered help or paid help, get what you can when you can; Gardening, cleaning, laundry, cooking, babysitting, grocery shopping, and whatever form of assistance that you may need.
How to Overcome your Mummy’s Guilt.
Now the very first step to ridding yourself free of mummy’s guilt is to forgive yourself.
You have to let go of the guilt you carry for not being a “full-time mum” and make the commitment to stop beating yourself up over your choices and circumstances. If you don’t, you will be increasingly ashamed of your bright career, your progressing business, your pursuit of further education.
Understand that your kids are not suffering for being away from you for a few hours a day, or a few days a month, as long as you have your partner and/or helper stepping in when you are away and spend quality time with them when you are home. You. Are. Not. A. Bad. Mum for doing this!
Make a New Commitment.
Once you have forgiven yourself, commit to upholding your values of prioritising family time by disengaging from other less important appointments that are not fundamentally work-related.
Get the help or assistance you need
It could come from friends, parents, in-laws, after-care school programs, or simply paid help. I tell you, if a woman like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had no internal or external form of help, she wouldn’t be this woman we are celebrating globally right now. So cleanse your spirit and enjoy your family plus your career.
Be Mindful of your Partner.
And finally of course, the most important denominator in this equation is the kind of partner you marry. This is more critical for women than it is for men because women need all the moral, psychological, physical, and financial support that they can get to go through motherhood and still shine in other endeavours. So I can never preach intentional marriage any less.
Check your partner today:
Is he the type of man that will really work with you as a team both at home and while you journey through your career?
Is he the type that will not do school runs when you are unavailable?
The type that will not attend the PTA when you can’t?
Or that will only eat freshly homemade food cooked by you? When you are not a full-time chef?
Is he the type that can actually spend a few days alone with the kids when you have a business trip or conference? Or will he ban you from travelling?
Is he the type that wouldn’t celebrate your promotion at work or the type that would sabotage whatever small business you start, or make a mockery of your little hustles?
Be very careful. Many of our men are still very patriarchal. You either figure out his stance before marriage or you are in for a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” kind of marriage.
Be alert sis! Be very alert! Your home is either one football team or the whole pitch. Shine your eyes!
Have you seen Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s husband? – Hitting the tops in his career! Their kids? – All smashing! A team baby! Form a team or disperse. Everyone flies or you are doomed. You can be a mum and still be a boss!