Motherhood...it is that point of time in the life of a woman when the center of her universe shifts to a different individual..her child. A moment where feelings of love, gratitude, and responsibility meet stress, fear, and self-doubt. Motherhood might not be an easy transition for many to start with. The sleep deprivation, the lack of time to attend to self's needs, trying to figure out the needs of a human being who is not verbal yet, and having to sort through the barrage of well-meaning but unsolicited advice. This phase of motherhood, though temporary, feels suspended in time.
For working mothers, the challenges add up. Not everyone has the luxury of taking a career break to focus solely on motherhood. The choice of taking a career break comes with its limitations: the loss of professional identity and financial freedom. Those who go back to work will have to make arrangements for reliable childcare and take up the task of balancing work and motherhood.
The one common thing between mothers who choose to take a sabbatical and mothers who return to work is the 'Mommy Guilt'. A stay-at-home mom can harbor feelings of guilt of being tired of parenting despite not having to balance work. A lack of appreciation or validation would not help her case either. A working mother might feel guilty over missing milestones of her child. The additional stressors of work could also lead to anxiety. The guilts of both the stay-at-home mother and the working mother over their respective choices could end up making them feel not good enough.
Guilt is a feeling usually experienced when one thinks they have made a mistake. So it is surprising to see a mother experience guilt, even when motherhood was by choice. Though nothing can indeed prepare one for motherhood, many times this guilt is self-imposed. Being stuck on these feelings of guilts can make motherhood seem like a helpless and endless phase and can take the joy out of motherhood. So, what can working and stay-at-home mothers do to address their feelings of guilt and enjoy motherhood to the best extent possible?
Accepting Limits and Seeking Support:
The first step is to acknowledge that, we as mothers, are not superhuman beings. Though one's intention can be to be the best possible mother, one has to be cognizant of one's limitations. A stay-at-home mother might seem to family, friends, and working mothers as having a relaxed life. A working mother might be struggling to balance work and motherhood. Mothers need to acknowledge their stressors and limits and seek support. Letting go of the need to do it all and seeking support from others is a way for mothers to be kinder to themselves. Family, friends, trusted social circles, or paid help can be reached out to share certain responsibilities. Asking for support is not a sign of weakness. It can be a smart move to support yourself to be the best possible mother.
The Dual Identities of being You and a Mother:
"Mother" is a powerful identity for life. Taking on the identity of a mother doesn't have to come in at the cost of losing other identities. The loss of identity that comes with being a stay-at-home mother is something that not many women anticipate. It is important for stay-at-home mothers too to recognize their identity as an individual. The luxury of an added professional identity sometimes can come with the cost of burnout. Mothers need to take time off from mothering responsibilities and find their 'Me' time, a time to function and relax as an individual and not just as a mother. It might seem like a selfish activity yet one that can be valuable and energizing.
Growing along with Motherhood:
Motherhood is not a destination. As much it is a journey of supporting children grown into healthy individuals, it is also a journey of self. We learn to be resilient, empathetic, patient, nurturing, a problem solver, multitasker, and much more. These qualities can help a mother a well-rounded individual in other societal roles, most importantly as a professional. Recently, many organizations in acknowledgment of this have been welcoming mothers into professional roles and supporting them by adopting returning mother-friendly policies. Organizations such as Her Second Innings offer guidance and support to mothers wanting to give back through professional roles. Click hersecondinnings.com to know about the various support services to guide a mother take on a professional role. Giving back can be through volunteering opportunities. "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” —W.R. Wallace.
Though Motherhood is a role of a lifetime, the commitments and responsibilities of a mother change over time. In accepting your limitations and as you balance being an individual and a mother, you can continue to be you.. an individual with successful lives outside motherhood and the best mother to your child(ren). You deserve to be both without the feelings of guilt and enjoy the joys that only motherhood can bring forth. Wishing you a Happy Mother's Day, 2022.
About the Author
Her Second Innings supports women professionals on a sabbatical in their journey of getting back to work. The mission of HSI is to guide women to achieve financial independence. Support from HSI comes in the form of job interviews, reskilling programs in Automation and, free Career Guidance Counselling. Sign up with us and complete your profile to get a call from our counselors to know your job fit.
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