Statistics NZ states that I am far from alone in being a working mother. In 1986, 42% of children in two-parent families were living with a full-time employed father and a stay-at home mother. By 1996 this had dropped to 27% and I’m willing to gamble this figure will continue to decrease. As a married, mother-of-one, working part-time, I now find myself contributing to these statistics and I’m becoming familiar with the juggle of trying to achieve work-life balance.
My Work-life Routine
Achieving work-life balance is a relatively new (and luxurious) quest. Juggling the demands of work, family, friends, interests and health, I like to think of myself as a modern woman trying to ‘have it all’. I am sure my working day will sound fairly typical to many working mums: my day begins with the morning routines – breakfast and getting myself and my toddler ready in less than an hour. Next is the (normally happy) pre-school drop-off and commute to work. I spend six hours at work before grocery shopping, the commute home and pre-school pick up. The late afternoon is spent packing lunches for the next day, doing housework, prepping dinner, and fitting in a quick trip to the beach, before performing the toddler evening routine – dinner, bath and story time. Once my toddler is in bed, I am sure I join most mums in a collective sigh of relief as I find a bit of time to relax. During my evening, I’ll eat dinner with my husband, watch a bit of catch-up TV, check my social media, and sort any bills or plan a weekend trip away. This window of ‘me-time’ feels relatively short-lived as I make sure I head to bed before 10pm to get enough sleep. Exercise usually has to wait for a day that I’m not working.
Of course this is all well and good when things go to plan. Add in a sick child and things can quickly turn to custard. These are the mornings when I get that sinking feeling in my stomach. I go to pick up my son from bed and find that he is grizzly, possibly running a fever with a snotty nose that wasn’t there the night before. It’s that terrible conundrum – do I let my boss down again and stay at home to look after my child? Or, do I become one of ‘those’ mothers that drop of my child at pre-school pretending that he has nothing more than a ‘simple cold’, while secretly knowing he’ll share more than just his toys around that day? I am sure many parents have found themselves in this awkward position.
Working Mother Guilt
Regardless of the decision, feeling guilty is somewhat inevitable, and no doubt, a common feeling amongst working mothers. And it can even happen on a good day. I regularly find myself wondering if my son is happy during his day, while I am enjoying some ‘me-time’ at the office. Getting back to work for me has not only allowed me to continue my career, but I enjoy the opportunity to do something just for me. Even a quiet cup of tea is a welcome treat.
As a new parent, working part-time does mean I experience the work-life balance juggle, but I’ve personally found achieving it possible and even enjoyable (when everyone is healthy and there are no life-emergencies). However, it does call for a greater level of planning and organising. I know I am lucky to have a degree of flexibility in my job and home life, as well as a good network of supportive family, friends and understanding colleagues, but it is a constant juggling act!
Are you achieving work-life balance? What would make the juggle easier? What could your boss or HR team do to help?
Reference: Statistics New Zealand
Posted by: Chantell Bramley