Yesterday I was chatting to a friend who is about to return to work after five months of maternity leave. She is going back to three 13-hour days – so technically full-time, but squished into three days. Her baby girl will be looked after by her beautiful mum during these shifts and her partner will pick her up after his day at work.
The conversation went like this …
“Will I cope?”
Her: “I’m so scared about it. Will she miss me too much? I know I will miss her unbearably. But we need the money. We can’t live off one income any longer, and although we saved for this time of me not working, the rent is catching up to us. So I have to go back to work.”
“But I’m tired and I also feel that it’s only now that I am finally into the swing of motherhood. Like I am really enjoying it after feeling so overwhelmed in the beginning, but now I am going to juggle mumming and work and I feel ripped off, for me and for her. It sucks. Sigh.”
“But tell me honestly, do you think I will cope with work and being a mum?”
Me: “Yes, but I think it will be hard, especially in the early days as you get into a routine. Those hours sound crazy, to be honest. So you’ll be tired. And you will probably feel conflicted and at times, even broken, from struggling to do it all.”
“But you know what? You will do it. You will do it because women are amazing and we just DO. And your daughter is so lucky to have you. You are strong and capable and so giving. You are the BEST mum to her and she will grow up knowing that.”
The brutality of modern motherhood
It was a hard truth-bomb conversation to have and it made me think how brutal modern motherhood is.
The fact that women are thrust back into the workforce before we’re ready, or even before our bodies have fully healed from pregnancy and childbirth (experts say this takes about a year).
The way some of us accept part-time jobs that are actually full-time positions so we can attempt to better juggle everything but end up stressed out because the job requires more hours than we are getting paid.
The way our two-income society steals us away from our kids more than we (and they) might like.
The way mums still carry most of the household load too, doesn’t help. And no matter how ‘hands on’ your partner is now, as the years tick by this domestic disparity might become more apparent to you, or you might become or already are, a single mum.
Women work hard, give abundantly and we sacrifice a hell of a lot.
But that’s just modern motherhood, right?
I’m not saying we have it harder, because in lots of ways we have it easier. We have childcare and partners who do more than our fathers or grandfathers did, we can also be mums and have careers we enjoy, but there are struggles that come with today’s parenting reality that only our generation knows.
The struggle is real
Maybe you have set your life up in a way to manage this modern motherhood juggle better, or maybe you fall into the category of my friend and are working way more than you feel you can cope with.
If you are, then I take my hat off to you.
Hats off to you for feeling like you are failing when you are actually succeeding. You are doing it all, despite feeling like you can’t.
Hats off to you for cuddling your sick little one half the night and then calling in sick AGAIN to work the next day so you can care for him. He is your priority.
Hats off to you for keeping a job when you are doing two and the other one requires not just your skills and hours, but your heart, soul and everything you are.
Hats off to you for cooking dinner on those nights when you really just feel like chucking the Weet-Bix box on the kitchen bench and telling the fam it’s “brinner!” tonight. And if you did do the ‘breakfast for dinner’ thing, hats off to you for doing the shopping this week on top of working and being a mum so you had cereal in the cupboard in the first place.
Hats off to you for divvying up the chores and childcare duties with your partner to help you all better cope and set a good example for your children about fairness.
Hats off to you for surviving all the working mum pressures.
Hats off to you for raising beautiful kidlets who feel loved and will grow up to admire how you did it all.
So yes, modern motherhood is brutal, but you know what? We are all amazing because, despite its challenges, we ARE doing it.
And we are all fantastic mums, no matter if we spend more hours mumming, at work, or trying to juggle both.