Recently, I blogged about women hiding their motherhood at work. With the likes of me, is it really any wonder? I was a corporate bitch clambering my way to the top. If anyone got in my way I would stab them with my heel, chew them up and spit them out - especially any of those soft-assed working-mum types.
Ok, major exaggeration for the sake of a good opener.
It is, however, true to say that my ambition has always been expressed through an eagerness to do things well. Especially when I was BC (before child) and my career was the only thing in my life that needed nurturing.
While my BC employers applauded my passion, I’m ashamed to say it also fostered a lack of empathy towards colleagues attempting to balance a career with motherhood.
Yep, that’s right. I was once one of those ‘eye-rollers’ when the working mums dashed out the door while I settled into my cubicle for the evening with my pre-packaged cheese and chutney sandwich from the dispense machine*.
My shame deepens when I recall some ‘advice’ I gave a working mum during a performance review. As a member of a corporate press office I told her she needed to spend more of her ‘free-time’ on the weekend reading newspapers.
“What’s that? Did you just say free-time?” said the mother, one eyebrow cocked. If I recall correctly, she had two children under the age of four, which at the time meant nothing to me. Nada.
No wonder she hated my guts. I would have hated my guts too.
Thankfully she was a tough cookie. Like me, she was ambitious, but there was more depth to her ambition as she strived to juggle motherhood and a career. So, no matter how much I rolled my eyes, she still proudly marched out the door at the same time every day to be with her children – and bloody rightfully so.
It’s not that I went out of my way to dis working mums when I was BC. Far from it. I’ve always been maternal and if I’d had my way I would have had children earlier than I did. Fate had different plans for me.
I was just so blinded by my ambitious ego that I genuinely had no idea how tough these women do it. I just didn’t get it, until it was finally my time to enter the motherhood. And when I did…holy crap…it was a stinging slap in the face.
Recently I read an article in The Punch by Lucy Kippist criticizing Elle McPherson’s parenting technique – namely the use of a ‘manny’ while on holidays. To be fair to Lucy, I felt she had some good points about the importance of spending quality time with kids. But when she confessed to having no children of her own, she lost me. Given my own experience I think it’s a dangerous thing to judge a person’s ability to parent unless you have worn the shoes yourself.
Today, a soapbox sits in the corner of my lounge room with the words ‘working parents’ engraved on it. Often, I drag it into the middle of the room and deliver a diatribe, demanding we do more to support working mums and dads to be their best at both work and home.
Quite frankly I think I’m entitled to my rant because I have spent time living in both camps – those who get it and those who don’t.
To the working mother I mentioned earlier - I hope you are still chasing your career dreams, and I also hope you are using that ‘free time’ to be the wonderful mum that I have no doubt you are.
*I would like to say I rolled my eyes at the working dads who ran out the door early too, but sadly, I’ve not come across too many of these.