Before I had children, I thought I understood the whole parenting thing.
First, you give birth. Then you never sleep again. You get sick of your mothers’ group (and your children) so you decide to go back to work. Finally, you show your colleagues lots of baby photos and avoid going out for post-work drinks because you’re no longer fun.
Then I had children.
We ask perfectly imperfect mums on the emotional struggles that come with parenting. Post continues below.
I realised within minutes of becoming a father, that on top of everything listed above (because let’s be honest, those things are 100 per cent true), working mums were going through so much more than I ever realised – mentally, emotionally, and physically.
I instantly felt sick. I had flashbacks to late-night texts where I expected a speedy reply. Meetings where I called out employees for spacing out. Reviews where I questioned their dedication.
At the time, it all felt so justified. It was my job as a manager and passionate colleague to push my team to achieve excellence. It was my responsibility to treat each employee – parent or not – as equals.
But on the other hand, no. Raising humans is really really difficult. Add work to the mix and it’s, well, virtually impossible.
When I transitioned back to work myself, I couldn’t shake the shame I felt for my unintentionally insulting actions. If I was struggling with the change in schedule, identify shift, and new responsibilities before and after work, then working mums must be drowning.
I couldn’t relate to what it was like to push through a client meeting with the pressure to pump, or the constant ticking over of thoughts in my head relating to my baby.
Some mums struggle with postpartum depression or depletion after the birth of their child. In fact, one in seven Aussie women are affected. This means that on top of dealing with competitive colleagues and combative clients, many working mums are fighting back sadness and anxiety. Feelings of inadequacy. Failure. Emptiness.
No one should be expected to sit at their desk and struggle in silence, while the rest of the office moves forward as if nothing is happening.