Non-working mums don't exist.

Angela Mollard

Recently Sarah Jessica Parker jetted into Melbourne for a bit of race-day strutting and to promote her new film I Don’t Know How She Does It. From the trailer, it looks like a cheesed-up version of a very wry British novel which – when published eight years ago – captured the Zeitgeist of the “have it all” working mum.

Here’s the trailer for I Don’t Know How She Does It:

Many will relate to the movie’s scenes and themes; SJP’s character distressing a shop-bought pie for the school bake sale and confessing she has no idea if her son likes broccoli resonates with my own personal juggling triumph – throwing sultanas and, stupidly, a lipstick to my bored 18-month-old as I interviewed Todd McKenney over the phone. (The result was a carpet cleaning bill far in excess of the fee I earned for the story.)

In the years it’s taken to turn the book into a film, I’ve moved on from the unhelpful and stereotypical polarising upon which the story turns: the tension between working and stay-at-home mothers (called ‘Mumsters’); the housework divide; the resentment child-free women have towards their child-burdened counterparts. I’m not saying those issues don’t persist. Rather, 11 years into parenting, I choose not to make them issues.

What does trouble me, though, is that despite all the talk of work and motherhood and the attendant guilt, exhaustion and short-changing, we’re still afraid to speak the truth about many of the points this story raises. So here goes…

These are things I’ve learnt. (Feel free to disagree.)

1. It’s impossible to be a completely engaged parent to a child under five and a full-timer in a high-powered role. That doesn’t mean you can’t take the job – just that someone else will witness the milestones and you’ll make decisions that puncture your heart. For me, it was hearing my daughter needed hospitalising for bronchiolitis after I delegated someone else to take her to the doctor.


2. No one tells you when you choose your career and your partner that, down the track, neither may fit with the parent you want to be. One writer says women are so unprepared for the work/home juggle that it’s similar to “mountaineers going off to climb Everest in Louboutins and bikinis”. Turns out, it was lucky I was so crap at being an editor. Writing allows me to work from home; editing would have me heeled-up in an office. I’m not saying either is better, just that this works for me.

3. Our grandparents could raise kids on one income; for most, it now takes two. We can’t change economics, but we can refuse to buy into the nonsense of what a toddler needs: yes to mud, puddles, cuddles, chalk and music; no to designer clothes, $200-a-term GymbaROO and Baby Einstein anything.

4. Type A careerists often strive to be Type A parents.

5. “Don’t worry if you’re not enjoying it all the time,” a friend emailed when my first child was three months old. It’s still the advice I come back to most.

6. The legacy of the juggling mum may be kids who rarely see their parents relax. Try. Being ‘always on’ via email and mobile phones is the new ‘having it all’.

7. ‘Quality time’ is a crock, because children don’t work to your diary.

8. Non-working mums don’t exist.

When you get the balance right, it’s the most heart-swelling, joyous feeling. Enjoy it for the nanosecond it lasts.

This article originally appeared here and has been republished here with full permission.

Angela Mollard is a Sydney-based journalist who began her career at the New Zealand Herald before moving to London where she worked for the Daily Mail. For the past few years she has combined motherhood with writing for magazines both in Australia and the UK. You can follow her on Twitter here.

How do you find the balance between kids and working life?