I started working when I was 15 years old. I had a Saturday job in Woolworths and I would stack the shelves and shyly serve customers buying their weekly pick and mix. It wasn’t the most glamorous of positions but I got it all by myself and the small fruits of my labour were spent on clothes and treats my parents wouldn’t buy me.
Later when I graduated to the local petrol station, I would save for holidays abroad and nights out clubbing and my summers were spent saving madly for the next term of university. These jobs were never full time careers but they did give me a taste of independence which is something I have never really wanted to let go of.
I’ve continued to work hard all of my life and as a 21st century woman I appreciate the freedom and choice it gives me. At school we learnt about the bravery of the suffragettes and the industrious land girls of WW2 and we read about courageous heroines who were trapped by patriarchy, desperately trying to escape their matrimonial misery.
I wasn’t going to let go of my rights too easily.
When I became a mother, I always knew I would continue to work and not just for financial reasons. I’d spent a good eleven years building up a great CV and reputation and I didn’t see why I shouldn’t have both. Fast forward four years and if I’m honest it hasn’t been very easy to juggle the two. In fact I’ve never worked so hard in my life. But I’ve managed it and somehow we have a rhythm and routine in our house that works for now and makes us happy.
Honestly I’ve never been embarrassed about my choice to work because personally without work I don’t feel complete. I like to use my brain and challenge myself, it’s a muscle I want to keep flexing more for my wellbeing than my bank balance. But I also love the social aspect of work – seeing familiar faces every day and being part of a team is important to me.
Does that make me a bad mother? I don’t believe so. I like being a mum – my son makes me want to be a better person, one that he can be proud of. I enjoy spending quality time with him and I enjoy watching him grow and develop. But would I like to do this all of the time? Unpopular as this declaration might be with others, the answer to this is no way.
Some of my friends have really struggled with the whole work and motherhood conflict. They hang their heads in shame when asked how many days they have decided to return to work, worried about the judgement this may incur. Others have been made to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when they have to leave a meeting early because of their kids.
Equality laws aside, in reality it is incredibly tough being a working mum. People roll their eyes when you have to take a day off to care for your child because the little love has vomited all over you. Or they get annoyed when you ask for the school holidays as your annual leave. Or they get irritated when you don’t answer your emails on your one day off a week for which you are not paid. Worse still your agreed flexible working right which means you lose 0.2 of your annual pay is gossiped about in the office as though you’ve been given a year’s free pass to Alton Towers. Society is unforgiving.
I think all mums should be celebrated for what they do, whether it’s looking after your children full time (possibly harder than a FT job) or if you are balancing the professional world of work and a frantic family life. Being a parent is a huge responsibility and one that as women instead of mercilessly judging and ‘mother bashing’ one another, we need to work together to be more sympathetic of.
I’m not ashamed to publically out myself as a ‘happy’ working mother. It’s my choice and one I hope to continue with.