I wrote my first blog “WorkMumBalance – story of my life” almost two years ago, not long after I returned back to work from maternity after Troublemaker Bobi was born. At the time I didn’t really think about publishing anything but merely about using writing as my personal coping -mechanism to find my way in a situation that was yet quite new to me: being a working mum. Initially my blog was pages long, all about me rambling on about my ups and downs and I was writing and amending it every day for quite some time – just like you do with a CV which always remains your personal unfinished masterpiece.
Working mum vs. working mumster vs. part-time working-mum…society wants labels and stereotypes – but in the end society is us.
A long paragraph in my blog addressed the rivalry between the ordinary working mum and – what I called – the “working mumsters” – other working mothers who felt like you pose a threat to them and their established reputation and status as most successful working mum. Mothers who – in many cases – already have older kids, allowing them to better accommodate business travel or late meetings and who wouldn’t leave out a single opportunity to point that out to you, and to your boss. In addition to “working mumsters” I also wrote about the rivalry between full-time and part-time working mums. Almost 2 years later, I decided to publish my post but to delete this entire section from the initial blog because I had the feeling that maybe I was wrong about stigmatizing other mothers. And after all, we should support and compliment each other – right? Because – let’s face it – who else does?
As such, I feel even more saddened about the fact, that after all my subjective interpretations may not have been so wrong after all. The reason why I decided to publish my posts, is that I want to encourage an exchange of opinions, frustrations and create a feeling of unity, as many times you feel like it’s you against the rest of the world. Parenting is (unfortunately or luckily?) not a course you can study at university to prepare you for what comes after. Most of the times I have no idea what is right or wrong and reality is that people may judge you and your (parenting) decisions either way. Some of the several groups and forums that I have now joined have confirmed this. And they have also confirmed that mothers are in competition with each other. And I argue that it is our society in general that actually wants to stigmatize and label the different groups of mothers. And everybody follows. And worst all, all of us mums follow. So we end up putting ourselves in to a category just as much as everybody else. I couldn’t believe how many Google hits the term “stay-at-home-mother” generated. As a matter of fact, I was even shocked that this term exists. Subsequently, you find a vast number of different articles and forums where the different mum groups are mostly badmouthing each other. The “working mums” agree on the fact that staying at home turns you into a boring person and vice versa you find in the other groups equally unqualified comments about mums who choose to have both, family and a career.
And I bet we all have one thing in common – guilt.
It is the guilt that is ruling us and we consequently question whether the decision we took is the right one. I only just gave birth to my second child 4 months ago and already started to work again, for the beginning only for a few hours per week from home but when he turns 1, I have confirmed to return back to work full-time. In most countries this is anything but unusual, but in Germany, it is quite uncommon to return to work this quickly and subsequently, I am not exactly receiving enthusiasm and high fives from people around me. But believe it or not, there is not a single day on which I am not questioning whether what I am doing is right or wrong. But I like doing what I do – does that make me a bad mother? The “stay-at-home-mother” on the other side of the fence may ask herself, if it makes her a boring or lazy person, if she decides to “only” take care of family and household.
Callout to all mothers – stop the wars, please!
The point I am trying to make is, we all have so much on our shoulders already, shouldn’t we all be supporting each other to master our daily challenges, however these look like, instead of competing over who hosts the best birthday party or who can go on more business trips? Seriously, when was the last time, that someone told you what a great mother you are? Thanked you for making sure there is always food in the fridge, something to eat on the table and clean clothes in the wardrobe? If we don’t break the stigmata, how do we expect the rest of the society to? Besides, it is tiring to fight and defend your decisions all the time, and I don’t know about you, but I already feel chronically sleep-deprived. So my appeal to all mums, stop these needless mommy wars and let’s redirect this energy that we undoubtedly have to our kids and be a good mum to them – after all, this is all that matters. And don’t let guilt lead our actions but love and respect for each other. I could use a bit more positivity at times to get through my days and I am sure it is the same for the rest of you. And who knows it may even get us a “Thanks” from our husband or kids – for sure it will at least earn us a lot more happiness and that’s gotta count for something.