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Striking a balance – The Mum vs. Work Dichotomy

Mother’s guilt is real. Nearly all of us working mums experience it. Yet we don’t often speak about it. Like it’s something to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s the antithesis to that. The feeling of guilt is a consequence of wanting to be a good mother, whilst maintaining a sense of normality with a 9-to-5 job and holding down adult conversations that stimulate the non-baby side of the brain.

For years I’ve tried to strike the perfect balance between a successful career and #mumlife. Maybe that’s because I’m a self-confessed organisation (ahem) “freak.” Whilst I sometimes feel I have a double-persona, spinning all these plates is possible. It isn’t easy, but it is possible.

I’m fortunate to work in an extremely supportive environment with amazing flexibility. We have part-time mums and also part-time dads working in the office giving us the opportunity to keep doing what we love, post procreating. But, that doesn’t mean that every day is perfect.

No two days are the same. It is this sentiment that initially made me fall in love with advertising and working in a creative field in the first place. The notion that one day I could be writing a brief to reduce the number of homeless families on the street for Mission Australia, to understanding the psychology behind purchasing luxury jewellery for Georg Jensen and everything in between. The thing is, this thought also extends far beyond advertising, especially when it comes to the unpredictability of children.

So, why do we struggle as parents with unplanned change and unpredictability? It often feels like no matter what we do right as parents, we tend to more often focus on our failings. I’d be the first person to put my hand up and admit that. Would you?

Why are we racked with feeling guilty? Feeling that our best isn’t good enough? Why are we crushed by the looks of disappointment on our children’s faces after we miss them coming down the slide at the park as we peer over our laptop screens?

When I’m asked if I’m a stay at home Mum or if I work and I mention that I, “work from the office and from home,” and the usual reply is, “that must be so nice.” Now, don’t get me wrong, it is. However, part of me feels that guilt when I think to myself that it’s so much easier to go in the office and work, rather than being at home and trying to do it all and keep everyone happy.

It took me some time to give in and surrender to the dichotomy, which was essential when returning to work two years ago, with two kids under 3. I would plan my day with a detailed checklist of things to do, with timelines and a lot of expectation to achieve it all, and then some. Preparation and planning are big parts of my job and I’d often feel disappointed if I didn’t have everything ticked off.

My perspective definitely changed after having kids. I used to sweat the small stuff and stress over the most ridiculous things. Now, I try to focus on the positive things that are on the go. Instead of looking at what isn’t working, what I’m missing out on when I’m not in the office or at home, I focus on what is going right.

So, how can we shake off this guilt? First of all, we have to turn in our ‘super parent’ cape and acknowledge that unconditional love is the only requirement to becoming an extraordinary paternal figure. And, even when it aches at our core, not sweat the small stuff.

If we can understand that perfection and parenting going hand-in-hand is a ridiculous notion, we’ll be on the right path. I’ve accepted that I will make mistakes, but so long as I am honest with myself, my kids and my work then it can be possible.

We are our own worst critics. We all have our good and bad days. But, as long as we do our best, that is more than enough.