When I was growing up, I owned a lunch flask that had the 5 Ws on it - who, what, when, where and why. It's fair to say that most of life's pertinent questions can be asked using one of these words. How is this relevant to achieving balance as a working mother you may ask. Because there are a few W questions a working mother needs to answer as a first step towards balance and peace
- What am I? What are my priorities in life? Knowing this guides my decision making process in periods of emotional overload where I can't always be logical or coherent. I'm a Christian, wife, mother, daughter, sister, engineer, friend and part of the community (more or less in that order)
- When am I ready for a change in my current work-life dynamics? No matter how content I am with my current situation, my work requirements will change as my family situation changes When my oldest kids start kindergarten I would want to have the work flexibility to pick them up from school and take them to their various activities.
- Who am I working for? For myself because I need the mental challenge that my career provides. For my daughters because I want them to know being a career woman and mother are not 2 mutually exclusive roles. For my family and society because I appreciate the difference I can make
- Where do I see myself 10 years from now? Earning income independent of any employer. Having more control of my work hours
- Why am I a working mother? People will always ask this. Sometimes out of curiosity and sometimes out of condemnation. I'm a third-generation working mother and I've never personally met a stay-at-home mom until I moved to North America as a 29 year old. I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria where most families had 2 working parents. That's our culture and that's how we lived and there were/are no negatives associated with being a working mom. I enjoy the work that I do and even though I am physically in a different part of the world, my lifestyle and values are still heavily influenced by my home culture
My answers are in grey.
I believe every working mother needs to think of those questions and peel away the layers until the honest answers come through. There are no wrong answers; instead knowing the answers helps me stay grounded and shields me from the occasional attack of my life choices that sometimes comes from the most unexpected quarters.
Most recently, it was my (young, single, male) colleague who casually and non-maliciously remarked that I couldn't possibly be an influence in my kids' lives since they were being raised by the daycare. It took 3 minutes of control for me to shake off the desire to walk across to his table and yank his head clean off his shoulders "Kill Bill" style. It took another 5 minutes for me to breath through the feelings of guilt that overwhelmed me - "I'm a bad mother because my children are in daycare being raised by strangers."
The search for work-life balance has to start with being at peace with your decision to have a job outside of your home while raising your kids. Without that truth and peace, your soul will be assaulted every time someone suggests that your job is an excuse to neglect your kids welfare and indulge in your penchant for gel manicures.
Dear mom reading this, know your Ws and own them!
I'll be writing about being a working mother throughout October and sharing my personal experiences. Emphasis on personal. I realise that everyone's situation is different and what works for me may not be the best for someone else.
PS: Anyone else watch Kill Bill over 50 times? Yes? No? Was I alone in my weird fascination with this movie?