How do you want to make a meaningful contribution in this world?
One of the most important jobs we have is raising our babies into happy, healthy and successful adults. But the truth is that we’re not always recognised, or valued, for our contributions in this. It often feels like the gravity motherhood, the blood, sweat and tears, get overlooked. Within paid work, if we work long hours, keep that customer happy, and deliver results, we’re applauded, congratulated and acknowledged financially. But if we’re up multiple times a night for an upset child; on the move from when they wake up to when they finally go to sleep; wiping bums and snot; cooking nutritious meals (and watching them throw it on the floor); doing this and more day in and day out, it more often than not goes unacknowledged.
If your world pre-babies revolved around having a career, it can be hard to find meaning in this unnoticed world of motherhood. But trying to do both, be a mother and work outside the home in order to fill a gap in who we want to be, or who we think we should be, can be fraught with challenges.
Which of these do you struggle to avoid?
- Unconscious judgements about where you should, or shouldn’t be – at home or at work – and how you should or shouldn’t behave – caring and compassionate, and not cold.
- A work environment that makes it hard for you to ‘juggle’ child care and domestic home, at the same time as fulfil expectations of success at work.
- Pressures you put on yourself to be this great mother AND prove that you’re still as capable and committed as your colleagues, as the person you were before babies.
- Gendered expectations about your role in your household; cooking, cleaning, shopping, as well as organising the swimming lessons, the birthday presents…. The mental load list goes on and on.
- Uncertainty about who you are now. Are you a mother? A worker? A leader? Do none of these roles fit you perfectly? Do you feel like you should pick just one? If you pick just one, can you feel like you do it well enough? What is enough?
Being a mother is one of the most challenging and rewarding roles we have as women. For me, it’s the one that gives me the most meaning and significance, but at the same time as the most frustration and grief. Not just because of constant negotiation with a toddler hell bent on eating cat food. But because of the inequality that seems to go hand in hand in being a mother. A portion of our lives as mothers gets denied, silenced, or excluded. We still have to assimilate to the status quo culture, or ideals around leadership, in order to fit in, or be respected, valued, acknowledged. It’s a significant reason why women exit the workforce and don’t make it into leadership positions.
This is not right, or fair, or equal. Our children are not invisible to us. The part of us that makes us mothers should not be invisible. What is at stake here is our inclusion based on our needs, preferences, and skills. Not body count… inclusion.
Today is International Women’s Day. The theme this year calls for us to “challenge stereotypes, fight bias, and broaden perceptions” (International Women’s Day 2020). In acknowledgement of this day, I’d like to propose something to you. Let’s own who we are as mothers, and step into our potential as leaders. Let’s challenge stereotypes surrounding what gets rewarded and recognised. Let’s unsettle what it looks like to make a contribution to this world. Let’s take back our worth as parents nurturing the next generation. Let’s own who we are as mothers, partners, friends, sisters, workers, leaders, lovers, fighters… women. All of it.
In a practical sense, what can you do right now? As a starting point, you can pause and reflect on three questions:
- What could you let go of that doesn’t serve you?
- What do you already do that is beautiful and meaningful?
- How could you acknowledge and celebrate that more?
If you feel comfortable doing so, please share your thoughts surrounding these questions by commenting on this post. Or simply write your answers down somewhere and use them as guideposts.
Keep doing beautiful things mummas,