There are a lot of things about being a working mother that are difficult, that’s for sure. The word “working” adds another element to what’s already a tough station, rewarding and all as it is.
There’s the leaving your children in the morning before they wake, or leaving them crying to a minder or creche, the organisation of everything, the guilt at not being at the school gates, the frantic scheduling, the phonecall to say a child is sick but you’ve an important work thing, the guilt, the puke on work clothes, the juggle, the struggle, the presentations on a sleepless night and did I mention the guilt? Oh, and the guilt at not being at home all of the time.
But there are days when sneaking out the door in the early morning darkness feels like an escape from the day’s whinges, when the black tights and heels combo feels like a superhero outfit in place of the jeans and runners, a secret identity. Days when answering a question I actually know the answer to and getting thanked for it feels like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Days when I’m glad to have somewhere to go and days when I’m glad of the incoming credit to the bank account.
There are ups and downs. Hot cups of tea in hand and cold, hard Weetabix dried into floors. Performance reviews and pre-dawn reveils. Heels and squeals. Meetings and more meetings. Conference calls and coffee dates.
I realised today that sometimes, some days, working parents have the best of both worlds. No, really.
Because when you’ve a crap day in the office a small person flinging themselves at you at a speed that would almost knock you over to give you a big hello hug is the best thing in the world. That small face forcing itself against your cheek, squeezing you tight, their smell enveloping your nostrils.
And when you’ve a hard day with the kids, you might just get some positive feedback in work, someone might appreciate something you did. you might use your brain and remember that you’ve another role other than “mum”, and if that doesn’t happen, there’s still the uninterrupted toilet time, finished cups of tea and adult conversation to enjoy.
When you’ve a great day at work you might be brought right back down to earth with a bang by being called “the worst mam evah” for refusing “just one more” Peppa/ricecake/biscuit. When the kids are being wonderful you might have a client, more demanding than a teething toddler, who makes your life hell.
You’ve an escape from the harder one, to go to the other one. A legitimate escape that uses all your capacity while you’re there. Which one is harder at which time can vary.
There are rare enough days that it all aligns, a great day in the office and children in fabulous moods too. But there’s a better chance in my mind that one part will cancel out the other, there are twice as many potential positives. (I refuse to believe that negatives could possibly multiply as quickly, but I’m no mathematician.)
Imagine if we let that positive thought take up even half of the space that the guilt currently occupies, what headspace that would free up. Imagine if we focussed on the good parts of it all, the pluses not the minuses. Who knows what would happen? Just imagine.