parent opinion

"There will always be something left to do." What no one tells you about being a working mother.

People tell you it’s hard. They say, 'Wait until you have kids. Everything changes.' And they’re right. It does. But not in the way you think. 

It’s easy to see that your life after kids' may lack spontaneity. 

That you may not go for cocktails on Friday just because, or take a holiday that involves scooting across the Greek islands, or have a long lunch with your friends on the weekend. 

That’s all easy to see from the outside. It’s expected. And it’s okay because you’re ready (at least you think you are). You’ve thought about this. You’ve done all the 'right things'. You’re in a stable relationship, you’ve got a lovely home, and you’ve built a good career. 

You’ve had your fun, your wild years. You’ve done your travels. Now, you’re ready for something different.

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Video via Mamamia.

So, when you see people going for dinners in nice clothes and you’re at home trying to reconcile this new postpartum body with the one you used to know, it feels strange and lonely, but it’s okay because you knew. 

You knew that nice dinners and lunches out and girls' weekends weren’t in the plan for this season of your life. 

You knew that there would be sleepless nights and days where caffeine and Instagram were the only things that got you through. And it’s good. 

It’s so much more than you could have imagined. There are scrunched-up little fingers, tiny baby sneezes, first smiles, first sounds, first times rolling over, sitting, crawling, eating! 

There are so many moments when your heart could burst as you look down at this little being you made and are filled with joy and wonder.

Things go well. Your little one grows, thrives. Suddenly you don’t have a newborn anymore. You have a cheeky little almost toddler. A smiling, careening, energy-filled piece of you crawling around the world.

And then, the conversation shifts. 

'Have you booked in to daycare?' 

'Are you on the waitlist?'

'When are you heading back to work?'

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'Oh, three days. That’ll be a good balance.'

But it won’t be a good balance. 

Suddenly you’re working two, three, four days a week and you’re adjusting and trying to find a balance between 'work you' and 'mum you.' The you who used to work full-time, who was creative, energetic, passionate and gave her all. 

She’s still in there, but she’s also changed. "Something huge happened," you want to shout! I’m not the same me that worked with you a year ago. I’m a MUM now. Yes, I can still do my work, yes, I’m still an intelligent, capable woman, but I’ve changed.

Now, you’re expected to do all the things you’ve been doing for the past year to keep your baby alive and happy - feeding, scheduling naps (oh the naps!), cooking, washing, but you’ve also got to show up at a meeting with ideas, give a presentation, and prove that you’ve still got it at work. 

And then 5pm rolls around and it’s time for dinner, bath, bed, and then some more work. The things you’ve been doing across seven days for the past year? Now you’ve got two, three or four fewer days to do them in. Good luck with that.

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Welcome to being a working mum. 

You’ll jet from scrubbing poo stains out of a onesie to emailing key stakeholders and back to researching baby-led weaning. Your mind will never turn off.

There will always be something left on your to-do list. And, let’s be honest, your partner isn’t going to take this on. Their plate was already full and really, so was yours.

So, how does it work? Sheryl Sandberg said women need a wife at home and she wasn’t wrong. But the best most supportive partner in the world doesn’t change the fact that even if you’re working part time, you’re now doing at least one and a half full-time jobs. 

And that, that is what they didn’t tell you. That’s what smacks you in the face on a Thursday night at 11pm when you’re folding washing while trying to come up with a pitch and remember if you ordered the nappies and actually, did you book that meeting or were you interrupted before you hit send?

You’d think with the amount of articles, podcasts, books and TV shows on the mental load and supporting working mothers, we’d have figured it out by now, but the fact that I’m writing this says we haven’t.

What are the answers? I certainly don’t have them. Maybe we don’t make it work. Maybe it’s the system that’s broken in the end.

Danielle Holt is a freelance digital marketer, writer, mother to one, and clearly still figuring things out. You can follow her adventures on Instagram.

Feature Image: Supplied.