Why being a working mother with children under five is so freaking hard

Young mother working from home with baby

I’ve got an amazing team of women who work for me in my marketing agency. Many of them have children — we have championed the need to be a family friendly workplace (which I talked about here) and have won awards around our company culture.

But even with family friendly practices I’m telling you — being a working mother of preschoolers is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise is out of the reality of the majority. They either have the funds for full time care, or they have a husband who does the bulk of the house work/cooking. Grocery shopping/ferrying and other things, or they have grandparents on tap. (and even then, sometimes that toddler still JUST WANTS HER MAMMA).

Look to be honest — being a working mother is tricky at any age

I’d like to say I didn’t lose my cool yesterday when I discovered that the meat I got out for dinner could not be turned into spag bol because the teens had eaten their way through packets and packets of pasta and what felt like a carton of pasta sauce in a WEEK.

And I’d like to admit that I didn’t shout at my daughter for wanting a ride (due to what some might call torrential rain) because I had an eight o’clock meeting and I couldn’t be in two places at the same time, can’t she just put on a raincoat?

But I did do both of those things. I lost it. Twice. In two days. Because being a mother and working is a juggle — even with 11, 14 and 16-year-old girls who are very helpful nearly all the time.

But it’s better than it was

I now do get to go on walks with my husband in the early morning without children, any sleep deprivation is due to Netflix binges and weird dreams about underwater dancing (less cheese for dinner this week!), and I don’t have to worry about baby sick on my work jacket. It’s eons easier than it was.

So this is for all of those mothers in jobs or businesses they are trying to manage with a baby or two, or three or more.

mother with baby working

I want to tell you the following:

1. You are likely not crazy or suffering from serious depression. But you are sleep deprived and you are on a continuously steep learning curve as a parent and that is EXHAUSTING and yet you still actually show up for work and that makes you a ROCKSTAR in my eyes. If you aren’t giving yourself UPS for this, you need to start.

2. Make some boundaries around work/ life/ parenting. If you are getting up at 4am every day to work it’s going to hurt somewhere else eventually. I know. I’ve got a very round tummy as a direct result of my body having to cope on a long term diet of piles of stress, and no sleep, working from 3–6am and then again from 7–11pm for about four years as a single parent of children who were 1,3 and 5 at the start. It’s not good for you.

3. But if you need to do that for the short time — that’s okay too — the key is to SURVIVE. If you are just surviving… Do make sure you honour yourself, treat yourself to things that make your heart sing at least once a day. You deserve a coffee in a cafe with a magazine, a hide out moment in that toilet, or a mango ALL to yourself.

4. Carve out at least ten minutes a day of UNINTERRUPTED and FOCUSSED time with your child. No phone, no TV, just you, the child and maybe a book.

5. You need to learn to articulate to your partner all the things they need to do to share all the parenting and home tasks with you. If you are both working, then you both need to do the other stuff. Talk to them. Make a list. Don’t assume they’ll just work it out. It’s not because they don’t care — they just don’t know you are doing that stuff. They think it happens by MAGIC. If you are a single parent, then accept ALL OFFERS OF HELP. Have no pride woman!

6. Teach your kids early to take responsibility for stuff. It’s the very best gift you can give your children after unconditional love – the ability to look after themselves.

7. Realise that if you love what you do you do not need to feel guilty about that. You are a mother, but you are also a person — and being a person is a WHOLE thing. Being a mother is PART of that whole thing. We forget that.

8. If you lose it, pick yourself up, set it up right again with your child, move on. They won’t remember. Even if you do.

9. Trust. Happy mums make happy kids. If you are propelled into working, or running a business and it’s something you love, your children will grow up seeing a motivated Mamma who is happy and engaged. It will shape and inspire them

10. Have hope. This horribly hard time passes. They sleep through more. You get more time once they are at school. They become independent. They grow up. It does get better (most days anyway, honest).

Rachel Klaver is managing director of Identify,  a full service marketing agency for small to medium businesses. This article was republished with permission. You can read more of her content on her blog

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