Equal, but different

Women can compete equally in the workplace before they have children.

Extra responsibilities

As a working mother, though, you have extra responsibilities and you begin to face obstacles that men in general don’t have to deal with.

Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, power and the quest for perfection, says; “We need a revised and somewhat reluctant feminism, one that desperately wishes we no longer needed a women’s movement but acknowledges that we still do. A feminism based at least in part on difference.”

Daily challenges

Biological differences do matter in the workplace, something which has been downplayed by traditional Feminism. Many working mothers face these challenges on a daily basis:

  •  Once you return from maternity leave, most companies expect you to carry on as if nothing has changed in your life.  However,  you are now also responsible for looking after a child, which means you have the double burden of being employed and running a household.
  • A new mother suffers the effects of many sleep-deprived nights. Greater flexibility would allow us to make a more significant contribution in the workplace.
  • Finding somewhere to pump breast milk at the office. Even though South African labour law allows women time to pump at work, many companies don’t have hygienic and private facilities available. Formula is not a healthy alternative for all children.
  • Missing work because of sick children and having to take children to the doctor.
  • Feeling guilty about leaving crying children to come to work/attend meetings etc.

Opting out

The business world is still dominated by men, as can also be seen from the lack of female leaders. This will continue for as long as women have to continue to struggle and then choose to “opt out” of the workplace or more challenging jobs in favour of their families.

Many men also want flexible working hours so that they can spend more time with their families and this may level the playing field for women. According to recent reports, men are also struggling with work-life balance and are even more unhappy with their working hours than women.

It may become easier for working mothers to get flexible hours if fathers also demand it.

Sheryl Sandberg says that women will only truly be equal once men perform fifty per cent of household duties and women run fifty per cent of companies and governments.

 A more flexible work environment for all would probably be the best solution. No excuse then, for dad not to become involved in the childcare.

I like being a mother

I recently came across this blog post on the scary mommy blog.

She longs for her life before motherhood

The writer professes that she does not like being a mother and that motherhood is thankless and exhausting. Her life was so much better before she had children and she still longs for those days.

After all this, she claims that she loves her children and that they are well-adjusted and happy. Then she says she would never consider leaving them.

Motherhood is hard work

Comments on this blog post are overwhelmingly supportive, however, since I am a mother myself, I feel I have the right to criticise.

I have tried to see things from her point of view and I agree that motherhood can be thankless and exhausting. Sometimes I do miss having more time with my husband and sleeping late on a weekend, but that doesn’t compare to the joy the little man has brought us.

Baby made life more meaningful

I can get irritable if the little man is difficult for an extended period of time, but I feel that is just the normal flow of things and irritation always passes. He has enriched my life and made it more meaningful. He has made me busier and less selfish.

Mentally prepare

Surely the blogger should have realised before having children that she would have much less time for herself and the activities she enjoyed?

The fact that she states that she is the unhappy one and that her children are unaware of her feelings, is hard to believe. Children are usually quick to pick up on emotions and must realise that something is amiss with their mother.

Having a child is a privilegeBlog photo4 - Copy

For me personally, having a child is a privilege, and I cherish the time I get to spend with him, since I also work full-time and have a daily two hour commute. There’s nothing like my little man’s grin to cheer you up after a tiring and mundane day at the office. I would love to be able to spend more time with him.

I had 34 years to do what I wanted – now it’s time to be with little man and let him enrich my life by watching him grow and experience life on his terms.

His first holiday

The trip up to Sedgefield, about a six hour drive from Cape Town, went better than anticipated. The day before leaving, I was starting to wonder if a holiday that included a lot of driving would be a good idea with our active and easily bored little man. I had booked the trip months before, never giving a thought to him becoming an active little mover.Blog photo1 - Copy

He was a tad grumpy until we reached Grabouw and stopped at the Houwhoek farmstall for a break. There I learned about Ewan’s love for pies as about half my pie disappeared into his mouth and was eagerly chewed by his seven small teeth.

Swinging in Sedgefield

He was quite content for the rest of the journey, sipping milk on occasion. When we arrived at Eden, Sedgefield he was eager to be released and immediately started to explore our holiday accommodation by trying to climb into the raised bath. Afraid that the little man would slip and bust his head open, I had to keep the bathroom door locked for the remainder of our time there, much to the disgust and distress of the little fellow.

Other favourites at Sedgefield were the small private garden and the fabulous pink swing. Little man got properly muddied and dirty in that garden. Making me wonder, not for the first time, how other mothers managed to keep their boys even remotely clean. Mine would go through several sets of clothing if I gave into his wishes and left him outside all day.

The fantabulous pink swing drove mommy and daddy crazy. Baby wanted to swing all day long. He memorised the exact location of that swing. If you put him down in the braai area, he was around the corner in an instant, on his way to more swinging. Upon following the speedy crawler, he would sit down before it, looking up longingly at the little pink box and then back at mommy. Who could refuse those eyes?

Yummy crayons

The journey from Sedgefield to Ruiterbosch lodge was interrupted by Ewan’s first trip to the Spur. He promptly attempted to eat the Spur crayons and distributed them under the table, to be crunched under our feet. The colouring-in picture ended up in a crumpled ball between our plates. He refused to eat the potato cakes but consumed two fish fingers, quite a feat I think, for a one year old who had mostly baby food up until his ground breaking, adventurous holiday.

Fun at the beach

Hartenbos beach provided him with more adventure than he had ever imagined possible. He built Blog photo9 - Copysand castles with dad and got hit by a small, mean wave. This misadventure didn’t put him off and he was super glad to go back to the beach on one of the only sunny days we had. He also managed to bring half of the beach back home in his clothes and swimwear.

The genius

Ruiterbosch lodge is quite a child-friendly lodging and I didn’t have to worry quite as much as usual. The open plan setting of the family lodge meant I could have my eagle eye on the infant rascal at all times. Once again, though, I had to keep the bathroom doors closed as Ewan tried his luck getting into the raised bath and shower. As dad mentioned, all the bumps to the head could quite possibly reduce his status from super genius to normal genius.

Meeting his first horse

The gorgeous Percheron horse farm, Outeniqua Moon kept our little man entertained on our last day there, when the sun finally showed itself.

Not really a child-friendly place from mommy’s perspective – the rooms were small and a tad overcrowded – the place is simply beautiful with magnificent views. And Ewan got to meet awesome and friendly great danes the size of horses, as well as real horses. Part of the accommodation package includes a ride on a horse-drawn carriage which he greatly enjoyed. Just a pity the little fellow won’t remember any of this. But then, with his declared status of super genius, you never know.

Flexible hours for working mothers

The fact that everyone will soon be able to request flexible working hours in the UK, has made me think again about my own work situation, especially since I am now a working mother.

UK work flexibility law

From 30 June 2014, any employee with 26 weeks’ continuous service at a company in the UK, will be able to apply for work flexibility for any reason.  Employees will be able to request a change to their working hours, working time or working location. This includes job sharing, working from home, part time working, compressed hours and flexitime. Employers will have to give the requests serious consideration and can basically only reject the flexible working request, based on one or more of eight specified business grounds.

As a Communications Specialist who do a lot of writing, editing and updating of websites, the bulk of my job could be done from home. A laptop, cell phone, telephone and Internet connection, are basically all I need. Intermittent travel to the office for meetings would be easy to handle.

Benefits of flexible working hours

And best of all, being a fast and efficient worker, I would be able to structure my working hours to spend more time with my precious little man. As a working mother, I don’t see that much of him as I have a two hour train commute every day and only get home at about 6.30 pm on most days. Mornings are difficult as I have to be at the station before 7 am and the poor little dear has to be pulled out of bed early in the increasing cold and darkness of approaching winter.

People can be monitored when they work from home and severely penalised if they miss deadlines.

Companies would save on office space, electricity, coffee and a multitude of other things. Most important of all, they would help to eliminate the moral decline of society and help to create a healthy family life. Children would spend much needed time with their mothers and grow into balanced and mature individuals.

For now, I continue to face 10 hour days (sometimes functioning on disrupted sleep) and then mustering up enough energy to handle an extremely busy one-year old every evening. Luckily the combination of coffee, sugar and exercise seem to charge the batteries somewhat, even though it leaves you drained in the long run.