Mother work...

posted on: Monday, 2 April 2012

I've spent some time considering the plight of the working mother. This is a topic I often land on, having spent the best part of ten years juggling a corporate job and a family. But recently I have observed my sister in law enter the fray as she has returned to work after her maternity leave. I've been wondering: what are my words of wisdom to her? I have this overwhelming urge to warn and protect her from the tougher elements of being a working mother as if it is a battle zone that she is entering. Of course it isn't. Many women can work and have children and it all goes swimmingly.

I wonder why for all the years that I have worked, after having children, I drove myself so hard, not content to let anything slip. To the extent that I became slightly unhinged. My hinges are back on now, but the fact remains: why can't it be easier to have a job and a family?

...beautiful Jackie...via pretty stuff
In practical terms, I stood by my methods which over the years oiled the wheels, ensuring our life stayed on track. I religiously got our weekly food shopping on a Monday and planned what we would eat so there was always food in the house. Not having adequate or nutritious food was a surefire way to feel I was failing. Likewise, I ran a laundry system where I devised a cupboard dedicated to laundry sorting; a whites shelf, a coloured shelf, a darks shelf. All meaning that laundry was ready to be scooped and moved into the process, already colour coded. This made me feel in control. If no member of your family has clean clothes, you feel like you're failing.

I'd plan weekend social engagements three to four months in advance, so at least my husband and I felt were seeing friends and living life. Being a social recluse makes you feel like you're failing.

I'd fantasise about sorting my entire house so that every item had its own place. In my mind this was the key to not feeling like you're failing.

And all the time, with these measures I would be in control and there would be no variables. But in reality, life does throw variables our way and so I would get sick or the kids would. Or there would be a school trip or an event that I had not catered for in my planning. Or I would simply forget who was meant to be where and when.

In short, it required military levels of organisation and discipline to make it work. Constantly thinking ahead. Not to mention normal life stuff like dentist visits and haircuts and school projects and weekends away. Family lunches and friends' birthdays and thank you cards.

via pretty stuff
And now of course I can see that these rigorous demands, all self-imposed, were my undoing. For years, so staunchly did I defend this way of life. And now, when I observe it in myself I see that fundamentally, something had to give.

And so it has given. A shift of seismic proportions in my little life. And now I contemplate the future and wonder...where do I want to take it?

via pretty stuff


  1. You've described my current life :-( it would be easier to just give up on something if I were failing, but I'm not, my mind is constantly racing, if I'm not doing something I'm thinking of what I need to do next, and I'm keeping all the balls up in the air.....until I take a day off to be at home and realise that the constant juggling is what i want to give up....yet I don't want to give any one of those things up....arrrrggghhhhhh

  2. As women we feel like we are failures if things aren't just so ~ most of us anyway. It is the stress we put upon ourselves and I ask all the time ~ why ~ why do we do it. Then motherhood throws a wrench into the gears and all hell breaks loose ~ lol!! I am a type A personality but also laid back and easy going at times so I think I have the best of both worlds. I have come to learn that I can be content just sitting as long as you do get some things accomplished along the way. I think you put too much pressure on yourself Lou ~ as long as you and your family are happy ~ that is all that matters ~ clean knickers help too! xo

  3. Dear Lou
    I could see myself in your words, "suffering" from this urge to have order in my universe as well. I think one must find a balance, somewhere in between that gives you peace of mind but at the same time doesn´t demand too much from you. But I do understand the way you are. Have a lovely Easter! Spring hug, Manuela

  4. You are not alone Lou, a huge number of us are guilty of this too. I honestly believe that it comes with being a Mother, we strive to nurture and anything else is seen as less than "Perfect".

    I am so happy that your life seems to have found a gentler, natural rhythm.

    Have a wonderful Easter. Lots of Love Alison x

  5. Ah, Lou...this topic. I'm just now starting to get a grasp on things, and that's really only because I know that I'm going to change it up here shortly. That fear of failing that drives's maddening. But that is how I stay sane. If we have clean clothes, food for dinner, fun plans to look forward to....then I'm doing okay. I have learned how to let go in other areas. My house is pretty messy, and I am not the ambitious go-getter at work that I used to be (I still do have standards of course - but they are admittedly less than before). Some weeks are better than others, and I'm quite certain this will always be the case. This week isn't so bad, so I'll acknowledge that for today and keep striving.

  6. It's a touch balance. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that it's ok to let the laundry and junk pile up for just one more day.