Cast your mind back to life before kids.
Did you ever roll your eyes when your boss left at 5pm to pick up her kids and you knew you’d be working til 7pm?
Had you ever done an hour’s work already by the time The Mums arrived at the office?
Did you ever feel like your time – to exercise, to be with friends, to make a decent dinner for your partner – was not seen as as important as your co-worker’s, who just HAD to leave the office at 2.15pm for kindy pick-up?
If you ever felt like that, I have two little words for you: me too.
I was that person. I worked long, long hours for many years, and I viewed The Working Mums as part-timers who weren’t serious about their careers. I had Working Mum bosses who left the office way before me, and Working Mum colleagues who arrived way after.
Sometimes I felt resentful. But mostly, I just thought they were lightweights. Let them pootle about in their non-committed way, distracted by grocery lists and calls from day care and taking their kids to doctor’s appointments. Let them do that, I thought. The grown-ups will stay here and work, and get the job done.
What a narrow-minded little fool I was.
Because life happened. And now I have children. Two hilarious, squeezable children who only really want one thing from me. My time. Maybe one other: my attention.
Co-incidentally, I have a job which demands exactly the same things of me; time and attention. But my job also requires a few others, like punctuality. Reasonable thought. Ideas. Some words.
I like to think I still have those things to offer. But then I read this story in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper by Working Mother Antonia Hoyle that made me think I should probably pack up my lunchbox and go on home.
We can’t expect to compete with women who don’t have children, or to perform as well as we did pre-motherhood. It is disingenuous and self-defeating to try. Accepting our limitations is the only way we will keep our careers, our families and our sanity intact.
Antonia (who wrote an excellent story, despite being, you know, a mother) makes a very compelling, and not unfamiliar case for the fact that once we reproduce, we will never be the 100-per-cent committed fembot employees we were before, what with our laser-like focus and our happy desire to work around the clock. If you know any of those.
My first reaction to those words about work were angry. I am still good at my job. I am just as committed, just as focussed, just as competitive, my time management is better, I’m more understanding… and then I stopped, and considered why I was really upset by those words in this story – a story in a newspaper on the other side of the world.