Talking Motherhood, Money and Mops...

Post date: 18-Feb-2015 22:07:19

Ten years from now, I will still be in my prime. Ten years from now, I will still be at least a decade away from retirement and I will still have skills, scope and passion for interesting, meaningful and valuable work.

Ten years from now, I will not have the option to be there when my children get in from school, the opportunity to sit with them as they practice their music, supervise as they bake and decorate fairy cakes or even simply sit and watch Spiderman with them as they discover the cast of Marvel characters for the very first time at the tender age of two and nine months!

I have always encouraged people in a decision crisis to consider the choice that keeps the most options open to them, rather than committing to the course that closes them off.

Ten years from now, I will have adult and teenage children who will hopefully still want some of my time, company, wisdom and possibly cooking. They will no longer need me to help with homework or ferry them to Brownies, ballet and GAA. I will therefore have my “working” hours available to “work”.

So, if I were coaching me, I would recommend that I focus my daytime hours now on those things which will no longer be an option in only a very short time. I would recommend giving priority focus and truly mindful attention to those moments which will accumulate to create memories of genuinely great parenting in my children’s minds. I would recommend forgoing some income, some really interesting and challenging projects and probably even some housework in order to make this priority a reality in practice.

These recommendations are so clear and so easy to write, it is almost baffling to understand how they can be so hard to live. Perhaps it’s in part due to the fact that, being self-employed, it’s impossible to be both stern with my boss and positive with my self-talk!

Please don’t misunderstand the intent of this blog. There is no right answer to the question of balancing work and parenting for professional working mothers (or fathers). There is no universal formula that works for everyone. It is a case by case decision that we all need to muddle through.

There are however some societal pressures that make it hard to even have the honest, reflective conversations that might help us steer our own courses more confidently. While we pay lip service, as a society, to the value of good parenting, we still moan about the cost of childcare suggesting its only valuable work when we’re doing it ourselves! It is totally acceptable, normal in fact, to outsource the care of our children if both parents are working. It’s not so clear that it’s normal, acceptable or even reasonable for working parents to outsource their housework! So the options for achieving the delicate balancing act are impeded at times by the mores of society and our own baggage and hang ups.

Then the differences in views, values, situations and opinions between mothers who choose to also work, those who choose to stay home with their children and those who have no choice but are forced into either situation by dint of circumstance are so deep seated that it becomes almost too risky to discuss it - even among friends.

And yet my biggest learning over the last few weeks has been how valuable it is to open those conversations. How helpful it is to gently share and listen and therefore to learn that we none of us have the answer and all have the same struggle.

Ten years from now I will certainly be older, I will hopefully be wiser, and I undoubtedly still will be muddling through. I hope that I will still be having open, honest and helpful conversations with all the wonderful women I know and those I have yet to encounter and maybe, just maybe, we will all be steering our courses a little more confidently as a result.