The split between
Do you ever feel split between home life and work life?
When couples have children, they have to move very quickly from ‘Hey, we made a person!’ to ‘Holy $%@* this is full-on, we’ve got to make this work!’ More often than not, it’s the female who will sacrifice her work-life in order to manage this new version of the couple’s home-life.
In the early stages, mums will typically be at home with their tiny infant, spending every waking minute (and there’s a lot of them!) dedicated to making sure this new little human survives and thrives. As the child grows, so too does the complexity of challenges the mum will face.
‘Working’*, through choice or circumstance (or a combination of both) will throw a whole new set of challenges forward.
*DISCLAIMER: The terms ‘work’ and ‘working mum’ refer to working for/in/on a business for financial reward, but let’s face it – it’s all work. Especially the home stuff. Really. Hard. Work. The amount of work to keep your household running should be shared, rewarded and come with bonus week in the Maldives each year.
Working mums are often conflicted between the two worlds: home-life and work-life. There’s very little scope for these worlds to live harmoniously together. They crash into each other daily. Deadlines, targets, presentations and pressures from the workplace compete with viruses, bad sleep patterns, mishaps and all around chaos on the domestic front.
The working mum is highly likely to put a lot of pressure on herself to manage this without much help at all. (Reality check please: ‘Supermum’ is FICTION.)
And so develops a life of feeling split between work and home.
Many mums get a sense they are doing neither very well.
If you stay up late to work on a new proposal, you’re going to be a crappy mum the next day. If you need to leave work to be with your sick child, people regard you as a crappy worker. You just can’t win, and it boils down to the fact that there are simply not enough hours in the day to do it all, and sustain yourself on enough sleep. (Sleep, what’s that?)
The idea that everything should be in balance, and even the buzz word ‘work-life balance’ for a working mum is as unrealistic as keeping a pet unicorn. Balance simply doesn’t exist, and even if it did, you can’t keep it. We live in a state of flux. Chaos is our ruler and if we are to regain some sense of sanity through these early parenting years, we must accept this.
There is no simple solution to the feeling of being split.
What can you do?
- You can try reciting some great mantras like ‘This too shall pass’ each morning
- You can be kind on yourself
- You can ask for the help you need
- You can complain about it until either yours or your partner’s head explodes
- You can drink enough wine to feed a small nation.There’s plenty of things you can and probably will try week-in week-out for many years. Until eventually things get better … eventually. They WILL grow into adults. You WILL look back on these years with fondness (but don’t tell us that now PLEASE lady in the supermarket – back off!)
But is the ‘split between’ problem only solved by mums finding ways to cope?
Or can we begin a cultural shift that doesn’t place the majority of burden on mums? A shared value, shared approach at home and in the workplace.
The shift would need to occur on both fronts.
At home, we can educate our sons and daughters about fairness and equal contribution. At work, we can rally and push for change to achieve truly family-friendly workplaces, not just glossy annual-report-speak. This requires a perception shift for both men and women. Dads can also be discriminated against when prioritising home life.
This needs to change.
We need women in the workforce to make our economy stronger and we subsequently need flexibility in the workplace (for both mums and dads) to make it all work. There’s simply too much ‘work’ to be done inside and outside the home for the burden to be placed unevenly.
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