parent opinion

'I'm a single mum to twins. This morning, the work-life juggle broke me.'

Four weeks ago I crashed my car into a concrete column on the way to my twins’ daycare. In the throes of an anxiety attack, blinded by hot tears, the simultaneous jolt of impact and clap of mangled steel snapped me out of it. 

I made it to the Mother’s Day tea, late, trembling, my face swollen from crying. I kept my sunglasses on. So long as no one asked me if I was okay, I could try to pretend that I was. To no avail, though. 

As soon as I opened my mouth to say ‘Hello’, my voice cracked, and the tears poured thick and fast once again. I fled to the hallway, bawling. I needed to get my shit together for the twins, but I just couldn’t stop.

Watch: Angela Bishop on why she never thought she would be a single mum. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

The centre director grabbed me in a tight hug, and then gently asked what was going on. I couldn’t find the ‘right’ answer. I mean, apart from the car there hadn’t been a traumatic incident. Everyone was healthy. No one had died. 

How could I explain that my life just felt... hard?

That morning, my alarm had gone off at 5.30am, just like it always did. I thought to myself ‘I can’t do this’, just like I always did. But I got up and did it anyway, because I had to. 


Shower, hair, make-up, clothes. But not any old clothes. I needed to look professional. My boss’s voice rang in my head. “The client is conservative”. “Do you think your top is okay?” “The client’s husband is going to be there.” 

When I’d picked the right outfit – the one that announced I was competent, fashionable, successful and definitely didn’t have boobs – it was time to tackle the twins.

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Getting two five-year-olds out of pyjamas and into clothing takes herculean effort. There are tantrums, yelling, and not just from them. Trying to explain through gritted teeth that if I am late and I lose my job, we can’t have nice things doesn’t wash. 

They want to do puzzles. They want to watch Kangaroo Beach. They’re bouncing on the couch, naked. 

Put simply, they couldn’t give a f**k. 

Finally, the kids are ready, their teeth are clean, their bags are packed and their hair is (mostly) brushed. It damn near finished me to get to this point, but I can’t leave yet. I still have to feed and walk the dogs, who are about to be shut indoors for the ten hours each day that I’m out. 


Even with a walk in the morning, I’ll still come home to find pee, poo or both in at least two rooms. Honestly, I don’t even blame them.

It’s a 45-minute drive to daycare through school zones and traffic. I make more than a few illegal turns to shave a couple of minutes off the trip. We get to daycare, and my son throws himself onto me, wailing. 

He doesn’t want me to go, he ‘hates school’ and all the while the sweet educator is trying to peel him off me, as he grabs fistfuls of my hair and wraps his arms even tighter around my neck. 

I feel like the world’s worst mum as I leave to the sounds of him crying and throwing himself against the door. But I can maybe get to work with two minutes to spare if I drive like I’m in Need for Speed. I get back in the car, it’s 15 minutes through the Cross City Tunnel from here. We’ve got this. 

There’s an accident on the Anzac Bridge. It looks bad. I haven’t got this. Maybe they were driving like they were in Need for Speed, too. 

I get Siri to text my boss. I send a picture of the gridlock to prove it. 

“I just need my staff to be dedicated,” pings back. 

I rush into the office at eight-minutes-past-nine, walking past the desks of people who were dedicated enough to make it in by eight. My boss is silent. It’s uncomfortable. I feel completely, utterly defeated. 


I know I’m not alone in feeling like I’ve run a marathon before the day even begins. It’s the plight of every working mum, everywhere. I’m just tired of fighting, when I can never, ever win.

“You need to leave your house earlier,” my boss suggests.

In my mid-30s, I’m the oldest woman in the office. I’m the only one with kids. I’m also a single parent. My married friends have arrangements where the parent who drops the kids off is the one who stays back a bit later to work, and the parent who got the early start leaves bang on five to pick them up. 

I was the drop-off parent, the pick-up parent, and the dog mum. It was all on me, and the weight of that responsibility was crushing. 

On the way to the Mother’s Day tea, it finally broke me. My car was insured, but my wellbeing was not. 

A few days later, I resigned. The simple act of getting to the office every single day felt monumental, and being made to feel like my job security hung by a thread because I couldn’t make it in at the latest, by nine, was too stressful. 


Society expects women to work like they don’t parent and parent like they don’t work – and in the long run, this is impossible. 

Life is a juggle, trying to keep all the balls in the air. But some balls are bouncy, others are made of glass. Your family, your sanity – smash those ones and it’s hard to stick the pieces back together. But jobs? Jobs are bouncy, and some jobs you should bounce right on into the f**king sea.

I felt happy when I resigned. And so did my boss. “I just need a 22-year-old with nothing going on who can be at their desk at 7am.”

This brings me to my final point, and I implore all childless working women to hear me. The s**t you put up with today may make you complicit in your demise tomorrow. 


Sure, you can roll straight out of bed, into a cute lil Zara outfit and be at your desk with an almond latte by a quarter to eight, but that doesn’t mean you should. By working legally ambiguous hours you are setting a precedent that you will not always be able to uphold. 

It might seem far away now, but if you decide to start a family, I guarantee you too will be roaring at your kids in your best death metal voice to just put some f**king pants on, while your dog, who has a porridge spoon stuck to its back, trips you up as you scramble to find your car keys.

Motherhood is unbridled chaos. The mornings and evenings are nothing short of absolute f**kery. But we’re trying our hardest, and burning out in the process. 

If you relate to any of this, go easy on yourself. Stop feeling guilty. Protect your energy, and drive carefully. There are more jobs, but your babies only get one mum.

And if you work with a mum who’s always in late and out early, be an ally. Internalised misogyny is insidious and ultimately self-sabotaging – because one day it might be you.

Carly is a (currently freelance) writer living in Sydney, finally enjoying work/life balance with her five-year-old twins and two rescue dogs. You can connect with her on Instagram here.

Feature image: Instagram; @_carly_sophia_.

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