This post was written by Billie Louise.
I always thought I’d be 26 when I had my first child. It’s strange because I remember plucking the age out of the air as a child, but 26 always felt like such a grown up age. I thought I would have ticked off most of my bucket list, minus that, but I didn’t want to be so old that I was worried about sticking out at the school gates with the other beautiful young mums.
Reality obviously is very different to the timeline I set as a child – back then 26 felt like a million years away but now I’m there I still feel like I have no clue what I’m doing (which I believe I have touched on in another article!) It’s funny because unlike my friends, the thing that terrifies me most about becoming a mum isn’t the screaming baby or the lack of sleep, or even when the baby is covered in poo and you contemplate throwing the whole thing away and just starting over for a split second.
It’s the fear that I will lose everything I’ve worked hard to establish, everything that makes me, me.
I know it’s a silly concern and I’m not saying that once you become a mum everything about you disappears and you become a care-giving robot! But ever since I was little it was drilled into me that you had a baby when you had lived your life, so the positioning from other adults and mums was that you needed to complete everything else before which kind of makes it sound like your life is over the second you hold that beautiful little baby in your arms. Now, I know that is almost a dirty thought but think for a second the way it has been positioned to you in your life. Is it the same? Now the sense of fear you have makes a little more sense.
Ever since I can remember I wanted to have a career – sure it’s changed over the years and it hasn’t always been a straightforward road but I always wanted the stability, the money and the life that money would provide me with. I don’t think its materialist to want to be comfortable enough financially so that you can go for dinner without worrying how you’ll be able to pay for it, or treat yourself to something you want without waiting for a special occasion, and I’m sure lots of people would love that same luxury. I have worked hard to get to where I am, especially in a very male-dominated industry – I even turned up to the interview of my most recent position in hot pink trousers! I’m sure a lot of twenty something women understand what I mean when I say my career, at the moment is the main focus. Sure I have a life, see my friends and family and make plans around my job but Monday to Friday my main focus is my work and pushing myself to be better every day.
So when I think about the next logical step with my fiancé – it absolutely makes sense that thinking of children should be on the cards in the not so distance future and this should be the most exciting thing we talk about ever! So why do I feel like I’d have to sacrifice everything to be a mum? I think it comes down to the way people position becoming a parent. Generations ago, women didn’t typically work when they had children and spent their time at home looking after said children and keeping a beautiful family home. Some days when I’m struggling at work that sounds very appealing.. but then other days when I crack a problem I’ve been trying to solve for a while and I get the rush of pride the thought of giving it up makes me so anxious. So my question really through all this waffling is – Can women have it all?
My job can be very stressful, sometimes the hours are long or unsociable and alongside the ‘job’ I want to develop for the next step up. I want to push myself and learn new things so I can do better and earn more money to provide for myself and my family. So can we have it all? Workplaces are becoming much more equal when it comes to maternity/paternity which is a great step in the right direction but we still face battles every day In the fight for equality. In previous studies women have been asked if they plan to have children in interviews, if they have suitable childcare lined up should they need it and I don’t believe those questions are always meant in a supportive way. I think sometimes people see a working mother as a bad thing. That she could be spreading herself too thin and not giving 100% to both areas of her life, or that she could be unreliable and I can only imagine how hard that must be, battling with deadlines at work and the school play, the football games or dance performances. But surely demonstrating to your children a good work ethic can’t be a bad thing?
I am very lucky to have friends and family members with stressful, high-power jobs being incredible parents at the same time. (I imagine they don’t ever sleep and survive purely on adrenaline and caffeine but god do they make it look easy!) Those people give me the reassurance it can be done.
I suppose there isn’t really a specific point to this post when I come to think of it, but I think its important to recognise that feeling this way is probably very common. I absolutely want both but It is hard to not feel a little envious when I see my fiancé doing so well at work, especially knowing that his career won’t be put on hold for 6-12 months while I have to push a watermelon out of something the size of a golf ball – don’t even get me started on the logistics of that one. He’ll have a few weeks off and he will be able to pick up right where he left off. Where as for me I know it’ll be hard learning how to do my job again and filing the knowledge gaps of the things I’ve missed alongside trying to juggle being a mum and all the scary things that comes with.
So if you are a working mum and you feel like you are being pushed from pillar to post just trying to make it through the day with your kid keeping all their limbs attached, please note that you are an inspiration to people like me. You are showing us all how possible it is to have a career and be a kick ass parent. You are restoring my faith that I won’t have to give up everything I am to be a mum, I know my priorities will shift and my job wont be the most important thing anymore but I’m also absolutely sure that children will benefit from seeing their parents work hard and you are teaching them the importance of being independent and working hard. You guys are totally kicking ass.
Whenever the time comes for me to join the kick ass mums club I’ll be there with a coffee in one hand -probably late for a meeting – and a pen in the other ready to be real about the struggles so that other women who are apprehensive like me can see it’s possible to have a career and be a mum.