I’ve faced many a challenge in my time as an adult and yet nothing compares to the juggling act that is being a full time working woman and being a parent. I do not have the choice to be a stay at home parent at this time, not only is my monthly income required to support our family but because I am my husband’s visa sponsor as well. The juggle is real and today I’m feeling it.
I am someone who tries to do the best they can in everything they do, this includes my career and so I go to the office every day with the intention of giving it my all and showing that I care about what I do. I may not be going to work to become a successful career woman, but being a successful career woman is what has come by default by being committed to my line of work. The travel industry is all I know, I’ve done this all my adult career and I’d like to believe that I am good at what I do because of all the hard work I put in every single day…
… but I am a mother first. No matter how well or not I do in my career, my children will always come first. This means that when they are sick and they need me, it is my parental duty to be there for them and make sure they’re looked after. Today, this happened, again. My little D kept us awake from 1am this morning with her coughing and fever so I had little choice but to stay home with her, get her to the doctor and make sure she has the medication she needs to get better. Never mind that she couldn’t go to school because she would’ve infected all the other children. My husband does more than his fair share but it just so happened that today, he had a meeting in London all day and so he wasn’t available to look after D in her sick state. As her mother, my job is to make sure that she is ok – if that means putting her before my work day, what else can I do?
This is the third day in 4 weeks that this happened, which is why I’m probably noticing the juggling act more than usual. It started with H being ill at home and hubby being at a meeting so I had to stay with her during the day (the next day, J-P was home with her), then last week a school closure due to no water and hubby had started a new job so couldn’t stay off (This turned out to be the day his tenure ended at that specific job, poor timing) and now D is ill. The difficulty is that I’ve always been able to make arrangements so that these kind of emergencies haven’t affected my work, in South Africa we always had Judith (our nanny and house keeper) who was by default our full time back up plan. If she was not available or at home that day, the next back up was family (my mom) or hubby as his work was flexible – now we have to get used to not having a nanny, not having family support and hubby only just getting settled again in his new job… This leaves me to make the sacrifices necessary to ensure my top priorities are looked after, but at what cost?
The costs are plentiful. Never mind parental responsibility leave being unpaid, unplanned and undesirable. The recurring time off work (3 days so far, not really that many but to me feels like a lot) makes me feel unreliable, not a feeling I am good at processing! So many people abuse the right to parental excuses, I told myself I would never be that person who’d use my children as an excuse to stay off work – I never have – but it is extremely difficult knowing that other people may feel you’re taking advantage of the situation. For almost ten months, I did not have my children with me. These situations have become almost foreign to me, to have them creeping up on us and throwing the ship off course reminds me of the struggle that being a working mom can be. The struggle of having two jobs. The struggle of pleasing a workplace and a child. The struggle of satisfying the career woman and the parent in yourself.
Perhaps this is my third in a series of threes and now we will be able to move forward without hiccups for a little while, at least until J-P has settled into his new role and has more flexibility to work from home (and look after sick minions at the same time). My decision to leave my current role and employer is because of the hours spent travelling to / from the office and so on the 2nd of November I start a new job much closer to home, this will enable me to spend more quality time with my children both before and after work and hopefully allow me to better balance the work / home juggling act. I can assure you, I’d much rather be at work with healthy children at their respective schools than at home with SpongeBob on the TV listening to a dog like persistent cough all day from my littlest person for which I can do next to nothing. I sit worrying about the work I have to go in to catch up the following day and the people I have let down by being stuck at home (again). I worry about the financial implication at the end of the month when I get paid less than I budget for. I worry about what people think of me and how people will see me. I worry about what will happen if this happens again (Let’s just say, today I bought a metric tonne of vitamins for the girls to try and avoid this illness creeping up on us in the future) and I worry about worrying so much and feeling so guilty for doing the most important job in the world, being a mother.
I know that many of you know this struggle well, the juggling act of being taken seriously as a parent and a working woman. Fortunately, I do have an understanding employer and for that I’m extremely grateful. I feel sorry for those whose jobs are not as lenient and don’t have the leeway to be both. How do you handle being a working mom (or dad)? How do you handle the balancing act of being great at your job and a better parent?