At some point before, during or after falling pregnant, you are usually faced with the question of ‘ to work or not to work’. I am a working mum and I made my decision to keep on working, because I was – and still am – lucky enough to say that I love my job.
Regardless of my love of being a Photographer, after the arrival of my first baby, the divide began. My newly crowned title of supermum reflected my capability to undergo almost any task while standing on my head in a yoga-pose, feeding, cooking dinner, taking a work call, sending an email and being the CEO of a fully functioning household. Did I forget to mention all of this was totally achieved without breaking a sweat?
But the inner divide as a working mum really did happen every day, every week, every month for a very long time. Oh the guilt, the feelings of not being good enough. The internal dialogue constantly reminding me of the outside pressures of what I should be, what I was expected to be, what I wanted to be vs who and what I was. Let us not forget the constant reminder of daydreams (or daymares which it felt more like) about the very real possibility of failing at one, or both, jobs and then having to deal with the hard fact that I really would be a failure.
As I got deeper into my role of what my own expectations were as a working mum, I realised my total hours were the equivalent of 2 full-time jobs. Hours in a day seemed to have halved yet expectations had more than doubled. My job description expanded to include the titles: Photographer, 24 hour doctor, nutritionist, psychologist, hairdresser, event organiser, taxi driver, human climbing frame, teacher and Michelin star chef to name but a few. As a working mum, all these additional roles were fulfilled by hours which used to be inhabited by sleep. Of course I did all of this while I still managed to look younger and healthier than ever before, sporting my youthful glow and muscle-defined physique… <insert sarcastic emoticon here>!
All of my childless friends could never understand. Their harmless comments like ‘did you have a sleep today’ or ‘it must be so nice to being at home with your baby all day’, were just reassurances that I was doing my job so well, no one had noticed my unwashed hair or ‘same clothes as yesterday’ outfit. My friends with kids just knowingly nodded and always had a glass of vino ready for me when I needed it most.
I was filled with the frustration of knowing what I was capable of achieving but now that I was divided into so many little pieces, I felt that I could not run as fast as I was used to. This alone was torture for me. I had to stop. And finally – one day – I surrendered to myself. I realised that life was not just about me anymore; it was now about my babies, my family and me. It was about sacrifice – but not without rewards – and I needed to slow down before I burnt out.
This realization was the most selfless and rewarding moment in my life. I made peace with the understanding that I may not be able to achieve all that I wanted to in the same amount of time like my former days but the very fact that I was even trying and being true with myself was the type of role model my little ones would one day admire. From this point on, I was a lot less critical of all the things I couldn’t be and far more appreciative of all the things that I was.
As a working mum I’ve noticed my time management skills are impeccable and I no longer have one moment to freely give away to people, places, thoughts or situations that are a distraction or absorb my valuable energy. I chose my friends extremely carefully and have ceased to feel the need to please everyone. I am far more comfortable in my skin and surround myself with only the love of people and places I adore.
I have been tested beyond any circumstance previously imaginable to me, pushed to the limits of sleep deprivation – which is the second closest experience I have come to torture! – and survived. I have come out the other side with more focus, ambition and am a force not to be reckoned with.
More often than not the role of being a mummy is totally undermined. Yet it is the most valuable role you will ever be privileged having bestowed upon you. But for now, I admire those little flip-flops that sit by my front door in the morning and are scattered all over the house by the end of the day, because it wont be long until they are in the same place for a week, a month, or even longer.