✦ When one decides to be a mother in our modern times, one takes on juggling skills that no acrobat in the Cirque du Soleil has ever been able to outdo.
A brilliant feature for Mother's Day celebrated in Australia on 14th May about Modern Parenting
Look into the head of the Modern Mum and you might just get dizzy. She has a million agendas all superimposed on one another and she can cross reference them in all directions. There's one for each kid, one for the husband, one for her family, one for the in-laws, one for work, one for friends. Her headspace is not one for the faint-hearted.
So what does it take to be a Modern Mum in our time and age?
Can a woman have her cake and eat it i.e. have a family AND have a career AND feel fulfilled in both AND still retain her sense of self without getting lost in 'roles'?
Is work life balance even real and achievable? Many mothers lament and feel torn that they have to go to work to earn money so they can pay someone to look after their kids while they're at work. At the end of the day they sprint home and may just squeeze in an hour's quality time with their child before bedtime at 8pm.
As a society, surely there is something really off that we're not able to have our professional development and build a family without sacrificing one or the other.
Modern Mothers are very much left on their own. We no longer have 'a village to raise a child' and if companies continue to be rigid with timetables, it forces parents to seek help elsewhere to look after their children for long hours at a stretch.
An Anguished Scream
"How in the world do I find time to go to work (full time), prepare (healthy) meals at home, spend (quality) time with my husband, not neglect my parents or my in-laws, remember I have brothers as well, and oh wait I need to meet up with my friends, and did I mention I really need to go to the gym so I exercise and keep healthy, and I mustn't forget about the groceries, and I know it's healthy to have a hobby also, and I really want to go further in my career so I should probably do that training my boss has offered me but it's three evenings a week, and we need a break from work so we really want to travel too, and oh man there's the housework that's piling up...and.... HOW DO I FIND TIME TO HAVE A BABY AND TAKE CARE OF IT on top of all of these things?!"
This is an anguished scream from many young women nowadays who are finding it next to impossible to imagine getting the support they need to become mothers. And we've not even touched on the financial aspect yet. Surviving on one income is just not an option for many families, which means mothers have to keep their jobs. With inflation and the increasing costs of housing and medical care, a new baby is going to require some financial gymnastics.
Let's face it. Having a baby is not the toughest bit. Many women DO want to be mothers. It's how to manage after having the baby that is the catch.
Being a Modern Mum requires nerves of steel.
If you are a Modern Mum reading this, then what we have to say here is something you'll resonate with. And we just want you to know you are Simply Brilliant.
Bits of Wisdom from Modern Mums
We've put together little bits of wisdom from all the amazing Modern Mums around us who have experienced what it's like to balance both Career and Family. They have survived not just to tell the tale, but to thrive in spite of the struggles! For those who are contemplating starting a family and are facing the dilemma of family vs career, know that you are not alone and these experiences from Modern Mums may help bring you a bit of relief.
You can admit it's tough being a parent and there are (many) days you just want to scream and throw in the towel.
We've all met that Perfect Mum who seemingly has it all sorted out and her life is simply perfect. That's what we see on the surface. If you could see their actual lives you may well be shocked that they are not that different to you. They struggle too. They've just given themselves the added burden of appearing like they've got it all figured out. You don't have to.
As mums we are simply all really trying our very best, and often, many things out of our control go wonky. It's just not possible to keep everything in place. Remember, you are a Mum, you're not Ice Cream. It's not your job to keep everyone happy. Motherhood has its frustrating manic side too. It's part of the package. And if you're experiencing it, it simply means you are a mother. It doesn't mean you're not being a good mum. And let's be fair, we don't have a Manual of How to be a Mum, we didn't have to go to university for 6 years and do an internship for 6 months before we became 'licensed' to be mothers. No number of books and podcasts can prepare us to be one. It's really 100% learning on the job. And it's tough. It means mistakes will happen, we will mess up, and that's all part of the process.
At the end of the day, you will always be the best mum for your kids. You are not Lesser Than, or Not Enough or Too Much. You are Just Goldilocks Right for your kids.
"My kids sometimes tell me 'Mum! You're so beautiful!' when they come to my bed early in the morning and I'm looking a mess and I always wonder what they see. It is very touching though, and I have to remember sometimes to look at myself through their eyes instead." - Azu, 40, HR consultant and mother of two.
You have found your tribe who get you.
New mums, choose your tribe wisely. You do not want to surround yourself with 'Shamers' who insidiously patronise or pity your situation as a struggling mum. Modern Mums get shamed for just about everything. Not putting in extra hours at work. Not attending your kid's ballet recital. Not being the right weight. Not making homemade cookies for your kid's fundraising at school. Not doing enough self-care. Not giving your kids organic food etc. etc. etc.
It's a huge relief when you can be raw and vulnerable with close friends who get it. There are days when you do feel more than just upset and fed-up with kids and husbands and work. You just want to run away, escape and fantasise about being on a quiet island where you can just sleep for 10 hours straight and have someone bring you good food and you can do whatever you want with no agenda to manipulate and no deadlines to rush to. It doesn't not mean you don't love your kids, husband or work. It just means you are tired, stressed, overwhelmed and could really need a break and some help.
You are going to have dark days, and it's important to find a safe space with supportive people you can express your feelings to and seek refuge in. And who don't mind that you're going to have crazy hair, messy clothes and have a good solid wail peppered with quite a bit of swearing. In fact, they'll just sit next to you while you have a go. And there'll be Kleenex, tea and your favourite cookies after. They'll think no lesser of you for being like this.
You can make decisions based on what's right for your family rather than what the media or trends recommend or what other people think.
We don't all have the same husband, same kids, same job, same families, same background, same experience. We're not in the same boat. More accurately, same sea, very different boats. We are all so different, and yet we seem to think there's some magic golden manual out there for How to be the Perfect Mum and if we were to just follow it everything will be peaches and cream.
There is no magic manual. And that magic manual can definitely NOT be found in social media or trends. We all want to look like Marie Kondo with the immaculate house and kids. Even the great Marie Kondo herself has admitted that she has had to change her priorities because of her kids. Someone commented, "It's the fall of a mythical figure!" when news of Marie Kondo giving up on her perfect tidying came out. Rather than see it as a fall or admitting defeat, why not see it as getting real?
The image of perfection is more damaging than kind to mothers. So Marie Kondo has decided for herself what is truly important to her now, and she's taking the step to not follow even her own trends of keeping the perfect house.
Because each of us has such a mix of situations and conditions, we all have to choose for ourselves what is best for our families. New mums often get bombarded with unsolicited advice and opinions. Try to keep your ear canals as clean as possible so you can let these things pass right through you. Trust yourself to do what is right for your family. Even if it looks different to the norm, and even if others have a lot to say about it. It's YOUR family and you're the one paying for the consequences of every action, not them.
You recognise you are 100% ecological, organic, natural HUMAN i.e. you are Perfectly Imperfect.
Our society has a strange obsession with Perfection, which is one of the biggest myths ever generated. There is no perfection. Yet as Modern Mums we feel that is our goal. We're expected to deliver a baby one day and boing-boing-boing our way back into a svelte figure in a week. Because that's what we see famous mothers do on Instagram. Unless your baby gets delivered by Amazon Prime otherwise any human mother will tell you with some deliveries it's like through hell and back. Your body has been all mashed up and it takes time to put it all back together again.
Perfection is actually rigid, unforgiving and restrictive. Being Imperfect allows for flexibility and adaptability, another two superpowers Modern Mums have. It's not about forcing the perfect family holiday. It's about still having a good time in spite of hiccups and changed plans. Adaptability allows you to salvage a challenging situation instead of letting tempers fly and wanting things one's way.
Like those tests on the Internet that want to know you are not a robot if you can identify all the pictures with traffic lights, if you are imperfect it's just a great litmus test to prove you are 100% human and not alien.
You can play to your strengths.
What are you good at? This is a really important thing to do regularly - check in on yourself, what are your wins? No matter how small, they matter and are worth celebrating. Perhaps you're really good at organising whether it's schedules or housework. Perhaps you're the one people at work turn to when they've got a nasty problem with a client and need your perspective. Some are just a whiz at calming the children down. Whatever it is, give yourself credit. Every day. Especially on the days when it feels like others do not see your efforts or strengths and have not been able to show appreciation. Be your best cheerleader.
You don't feel guilty for taking Time Off for Me.
Modern Mums are not machines. You cannot run on empty, and you're not expected to do it all 24/7. Since the pandemic, many have noticed an increase in the amount of work, and in the speed of work. Meetings have increased and seem neverending. Deadlines get tighter. Everyone wants things faster (or yesterday). There are 200 emails in the Inbox with their big bold letters screaming " Look at us! We are all urgent!" (and don't forget the incessant beeps of Whatsapp messages on your work phone and your personal phone). Many Zoom from one meeting to the next from breakfast till lunch and have not had time to do any work yet, and still feel they have to squeeze in an hour at the gym between work and then run back again for a work presentation. If we used to talk about the proverbial hamster wheel keeping us in a loop, nowadays that same hamster wheel has a F1 motor attached to it and is spinning at 100 miles per hour.
And that's just at work. When Modern Mums get home there's another whole new arena to manage. Being a Modern Mum you need the stamina of a long distance runner. It's for the long haul and runners will tell you there are times when they need to just walk and not run. Heck, if you're going to be running for 4 hours straight there'll come a time when perhaps you need to stop and pee or hydrate! Taking time off for yourself is simply necessary, practical and wise. Sometimes the demand comes from ourselves, and not from our bosses or children. We tell ourselves that to be a good worker or a good mum we must be available all the time. We're not Siri or Alexa. They don't have to change diapers, clean up vomit or prepare a mega presentation to win a new client or risk losing their jobs.
Time Off for Me is a tough one, so start small. Perhaps just 5 minutes only to breathe and do nothing. Guilt is a creepy and sneaky foe, and it will tell you that precious 5 minutes should be spent playing Lego with your kids or answering that email that's been stewing in your Inbox for 3 days. When guilt speaks, tell it "Okay, I hear you. Now let me get back to my 5 minutes of doing nothing." Eventually you'll be enjoying a weekend away with girlfriends on a spa retreat, or going for your art classes every Wednesday evening. Guilt-free.
And really, your kids want a Happy Mum. Not a Super Mum. Companies nowadays are so big on mental health and wellbeing, they also know a Happy Worker is far more productive than one who is sick and stressed out. Fathers are given more equal conditions in paternity leave, and there is more flexibility in working hours and working from home to allow parents to have the support they need.
You know better than to Compare and Despair.
Office and neighbourhood gossip can be toxic. So-and-so went to New York with her husband... and we can only afford domestic travel. So-and-so's kids won some national maths competition... and ours are struggling to keep up at school. So-and-so just bought their second house by the beach... and we're feeling the weight of our mortgage of our small apartment. So-and-so is only 30 and has already been promoted... and we're stuck with pesky clients in a routine position. So-and-so went on a cruise with her parents for their anniversary... and we're so tied up with kids and housework we haven't visited ours in a while.
The funny thing is, whenever we compare we only compare with those who seemingly have more or are better. And it always triggers a bitter, sour feeling that makes us squirm on the inside, but we put on a sunny front and say how wonderful, how delightful it is others have such amazing fortune. So perhaps it would be kinder to ourselves to stop the comparison. We can logically conclude that yes, it's great others are enjoying themselves, well done, (after all, we don't want others to suffer either!) and it is not an indictment of how we are and most certainly not an indication of our 'success' as mothers, workers, wives, daughters, sisters, friends. We can always step away from a conversation that is unhealthy and simply not engage.
You have the confidence to ask for help.
Asking for help is a strength not a weakness. It's simply a logical thing to do. It is respecting what you can and cannot humanly do. When you take care of yourself, you are actually taking care of your family. You have your oxygen mask on so you can help others.
An important part of asking for help is also letting others see it. Men also suffer from having to be Macho Man all the time and children feel frustrated and helpless when they don't know they can ask for help. Let your family see you asking for help. It gives them permission to do the same. It generates a healthy reciprocity and empathy too.
Join the global community of women
Brilliant-Online wants to salute all the amazing women around us who are taking brave steps every day to make a change in their own lives, and to make a difference to the next generation.
Photo above: Elizabeth Regin with son Henry
Modern Mums are not just working towards a more balanced, equal and fair life for themselves. Their children are witnessing this transformation in the roles of women - as mothers, workers, daughters, sisters, wives and they are seeing a new, healthier and happier way of being. It's a precious gift Modern Mums are giving their children. To see that things can be different, and they are a living example of this. Your children may be too young as yet to be aware, but they are so proud of YOU for breaking old patterns, and daring to change.
Modern Mums, you rock, and there is a beautiful Divine Goddess in each one of you, so keep sparkling brilliantly!
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