parent opinion

'They don’t work as much as I do.' 4 unfair misconceptions I had about working parents.

Before I was a mum, I remember there was a divide at work between the parents and non-parents. It was like a club that allowed its members to have certain privileges that child-free folks didn’t.

I’d roll my eyes whenever I’d see a gaggle of parents in the lunchroom. 

One parent would take their phone out and start showing another parent their adorable three-year-old. An older mum would give advice to the new mum who just got back from maternity leave. And as I planned my escape, I’d see a mum rushing towards me with a big box of chocolate bars. I’d get suckered into listening to her sales pitch and end up transferring her $5 to help raise funds for her son’s football team.

Watch: The morning routine of a working mum. Post continues after video.

For many years, I made unfair assumptions about being a working parent. But now that I'm a mum myself, I get it.

Here are four misconceptions I had about working parents before becoming one:

1. They don’t work the same number of hours as me.

I remember a co-worker of mine with a two-year-old who would always roll into work at least 15 minutes later than me. Then, when 5pm came, she would dash for the door. She would decline any meetings that were before 9am and after 5pm. I would wonder how she got all her work done since she wasn’t working the same number of hours as me.

Now that I’m in her position, I know exactly how she gets her work done. I’m an efficient and extremely organised beast at work. I work through my breaks and have lunch at my desk. When I get up, it’s usually to go to the bathroom or to refill my water bottle.

I optimise every minute because I have a second job when I get home. I don’t have the luxury of catching up after 5pm. I pride myself on delivering results on time and giving my kids the undivided attention that they deserve. I do twice the amount of work in an hour now compared to when I didn’t have kids.

2. They’re chilling in their pyjamas while working from home.

Before the pandemic, co-workers who had kids would often be granted the opportunity to work from home once a week or whenever their kid was sick. I always wondered what they were doing at home. I assumed they were eating snacks in their pyjamas and watching Netflix.

Oh boy, I was wrong. I remember the first time I worked from home when my daughter was sick and it was complete chaos. Yes, Netflix was on but it was Paw Patrol while I tried to get emails out and review documents. Yes, I was wearing pyjama bottoms, but my work ethic was definitely business attire.

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When kids are sick or daycare is closed for the holidays, the opportunity to work from home is a godsend. But it doesn't mean I’m slacking off. I’m doing double duty, getting work done while making sure my kids aren’t tearing down the house.

3. They’re hermits who never want to socialise outside of work.

Before kids, the non-parent co-workers and I would often meet up for drinks after work. We would stay out and head home late at night. It was our time to bond and vent about work as comrades. At first, we invited those who had kids, but they declined every single time. I thought they were hermits who didn’t have social lives.

Now that I’m in their position, I realise why they never came out. It’s not that I don’t want to socialise. It's because, after work, I have to do pickups and drop-offs, make dinner, give baths, go over homework, brush teeth, read books, give hugs and kisses and so forth.

The decision to go out for drinks isn’t only based on my needs. I can’t just decide to go without considering a bunch of other people’s schedules that I’m fully responsible for. And to be honest, most work nights, I’m so exhausted that I prefer to stay home and spend an hour playing with my kids before they go to bed.

Listen to No Filter where Mia Freedman is joined by Christine Armstrong on what it's like to be a working mum. Post continues after podcast.


4. They’re obsessed with their kids.

I remember whenever someone got pregnant at work or their partner was expecting, all the parents would hover over them like moths to a flame. They were so excited to share stories and welcome this new member to their cult. I wondered if all parents were obsessed with their kids because that’s all they ever wanted to talk about.

And to be fair, I am kinda obsessed with my kids because they’re a huge part of my life. They’re still young and they need me as much as I need them. I’m in the trenches of parenting where it seems both tough and rewarding at the same time.

It’s one reason I love writing about my journey. However, I know this phase won’t last forever; when the kids get older and they need me less, I’ll discover new things to be obsessed with. But for now, I’m embracing every minute of it.

Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP is an author, wife and mum of two. She writes stories to empower individuals to talk about their feelings despite growing up in a culture that hid them. You can find more from Katharine on her  website or podcast, or you can follow her on InstagramFacebookTwitter or YouTube.

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Feature Image: Getty.

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