A national newspaper recently published an article saying working mums contribute to childhood obesity. My first thought was working mums are rock stars. Now it’s working mums, next week it’ll be stay at home mums, there’s always something mums are being blamed for, and the dads never feature in these articles.The problem is this is part of a wider culture where all types of mums are undermined, but as a working mum myself it feels like we get a particularly hard time.
There can be a perception that when women have children their career progression can be over and they have less to offer in the workplace. They can be viewed as distracted, uncommitted or unreliable, so I wanted to write something to dispel that myth.
If I had the money I probably wouldn’t work right now, I’d stay home with my daughter, but I would always want to go back to work at some point. I enjoy my job and being able to contribute to our family finances. I’m also still ambitious and having a child hasn’t dampened that. I believe I am good at my job and have a lot to offer, so I will keep applying for promotions.
Now I have a child things are different, there’s no denying that. I don’t stay late into the evenings anymore, and sometimes if I have to leave suddenly to take care of her when she is unwell then I’ll go without hesitation, but that doesn’t diminish the work I do. I have a mobile phone and laptop so I’m connected, and will always tie up loose ends and get things done when I’ve had to rush off. My partner is also great and takes an equal share, so if I’ve a meeting I really can’t miss I’ll usually make it.
Being a mother makes me an even better worker and here's why:
1. I’m now used to surviving on little food and drink grabbed in a hurry when I can. Previously if a meeting overran into lunchtime I was starting to get hangry, but now I’ve probably snacked before and I’m a nicer person for it.
2. Any mum who has done the laundry, fed a baby, bought something online and had a phone conversation all at the same time will know mums rock at multitasking. I thought I was good before, but I was an amateur. And if I get distracted mid-way through a task, like a colleague with a sudden “urgent” query, that boring spreadsheet doesn’t get forgotten, oh no I’m still doing it with one hand while finishing the conversation.
3. I’m way more confident now in my decision making. On maternity leave I read the varying guidelines, listened to all the conflicting advice, listened to my instinct and managed to keep a tiny human alive, so now I can be more decisive and confident with my business decisions too.
4. My productivity has increased. I’ve realised the value of time, and my first priority is getting home on time, so there’s no time for procrastination. I get a flurry of work done with less time wasted.
5. Kids give you an instant topic for chit chat at the start of meetings, so I find I’m connecting with suppliers and colleagues easier. Before conversation was limited to sports (which I know next to nothing about) or current affairs. Now they know I’ve been on maternity leave and suddenly they are sharing their parenting tales.
6. Send a parent on a business trip and there’s zero chance of them running up a big food and bar bill at the hotel. They’ll be so grateful for a bath in peace and a full night’s sleep they’ll be the most rested and perky employee the next day.
7. Have you ever had to negotiate with a toddler to put down a plastic carrot before putting their coat on? What about persuading them to eat their vegetables before they can have pudding? There’s no doubt having children increases your influencing tactics arsenal. So when it comes to dealing with difficult customers you can guarantee you can find a compromise, I mean they have to be more logical and reasonable than a child surely?
8. Resilience. As a parent you’ve probably walked through a supermarket with a crying child while everyone looks on judging. You learn to be strong and know you are doing your best. That strength helps you cope when faced with difficult situations at work.
9. Before I had children I found it hard to switch off from work. I’d be in bed thinking about emails I had to write. Now when I go home all my attention is on my family and I switch off from work. This means when I’m going into work the next day I’m rested and recharged, even if I didn’t get a full night’s sleep.
So just because we are working mums, don’t write us off just yet. It’s not easy juggling a career and home life, but it’s about time society appreciates all the effort it takes and starts applauding us for it, not finding ways to knock us for it. That starts with the way mums are portrayed in the media so next time you see a newspaper article knocking working mums don't forget to remind them how great we can be.