We recently published an article titled To the working moms out there – we really can have it all, giving a few examples of women who have worked throughout their pregnancies and gone back to the office soon after. This after Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand prime minister, announced her pregnancy. In a statement she said she would be “fully contactable” during her pregnancy and would resume “all prime ministerial duties” after her maternity leave of 6 weeks.
We also mentioned Benazir Bhutto, the then Prime Minster of Pakistan, who was also pregnant during elections and gave birth to her second child soon after taking office. In her autobiography she wrote that the birth of her daughter was “a defining moment, especially for young women, proving a woman could work and have a baby in the highest and most challenging leadership positions.”
Some of our readers did not, however, agree with that sentiment and wrote in to share their experiences. One reader felt moms who managed to have it all only must only make up “0.01% of the population”:
“I doubt work-life balance and having it all is for the majority of moms”
"I had a bit of a chuckle when I read the article today about the working moms and having it all.
"I do congratulate every mom out there who is working and finding a balance between raising a well-behaved young citizen. But I do think many paint this picture of the happy family life. I suspect they are either pretending or they are the 0.01% of the population.
"I am a working mom, I had 2 months' maternity leave and no benefits of having my child nearby. The 2 months was too short to properly recover (I had complications during birth) and I am still struggling to regain my strength almost 2 years down the line.
"My husband is a very hands-on, stay-at-home dad and overall he does well. But unfortunately, there are some things that only a mom can do. Only we can do the shopping for groceries to ensure a healthy little human, we think of all the types of tea, drinks, snacks, foods, medicines that they require, and if you are trying to make things as healthy as possible, food cannot be bought too far in advance. Couple that with ensuring there are nappies, bum cream, toiletries, the correct clothes and shoes (which are required almost monthly), there isn’t really time to do anything else.
"My days now consist of waking up, trying to have a cup of coffee, while making a bottle of milk without trying to spill the powder all over the place, changing nappies in my towel if I manage to get a proper shower, only to run late to office while I hear the crying of my baby in my ears, because mommy cannot play anymore.
"My afternoons are a mess of doing the shopping, getting home, cooking, doing the washing when I can, bathing the little one and hopefully, getting a few minutes of quality play time. By 8 she goes to bed and I pray each night that she will just fall asleep quickly and stay asleep for the night (unfortunately my prayers have mostly gone unanswered over the past 2 years). I finish the day by cleaning toys, clearing dishes, washing bottles and ensuring healthy meals are prepared for the next day. Ultimately, by 11 pm I am shattered.
"You see, it is not the physical exertion that gets to a mom, but mentally your brain is in a 1000 places all at once. You truly learn what you are capable of. As I lay down, hoping to get a good night’s rest, the little one is awake and calling mommy and so I get up, tend to her and manage to sleep from 2am to 6am. There is no snooze button.
"So when people talk about balance and exercise and all those wonderful things, I want to punch them in the face and say, 'That is a luxury no-one can have unless they have nannies, day care etc.' If you are a working mom and doing everything for your little one, because you want to do everything yourself for them, that will be the only time you have and they grow up so quickly.
"I feel that in South Africa, companies (small and big) have a long road ahead to accommodate working mothers. Currently my employer doesn’t have a maternity leave policy in place at all and the luxuries of finding that balance is for but a few. I think more moms feel like me and some, especially single mothers, have it even worse.
"But that is just my take on things. And I doubt work-life balance and having it all is for the majority of moms who struggle, tired through each day like I am."
- Also read: Can single moms have balance?
"Sometimes quality time is better than quantity time"
"So I thought I would give my take on parenting and working full time.
"I left school after grade 9 to help pay the bills. My mom is a single mom of 4 kids and we had to make do. So I have worked for longer than most people my age – I’m 23 this year.
"I have two perfect angel babies who I would do anything for and love more than words could ever describe! My daughter is 2 now and the busiest body who cries to play outside and wakes up around 5 times a night to breastfeed. My son will be 7 months old on the 5th of Feb and he is the definition of the perfect child. He sleeps well and wakes up max twice a night, plays with his toys and eats his solids.
"With my first I worked (with her with me) from the time she was 2 months old until she was about 1 year 2 months and she could walk. The only reason I stopped working was because I was pregnant with my second child and it was getting a bit much for me to handle.
"But I must say, it was 100% doable. When the phone rang I answered; she was a happy baby so you'd never call in and hear a crying baby. She would nap as often as any other baby so I was able to supervise the staff in the factory when needed and she had her pram she loved sitting in and a space on the floor for her toys and play time. I was thriving, I loved my job and my moral was up because I had my baby girl with me. Her smiles got me through the day!
"Then I had my second and I couldn't wait to go back to work. It was mind numbing, I missed filing, emailing, dealing with other human beings that can speak. So when my son was 2 months old, both kiddies went to crèche and mommy went back to work.
"He is now 7 months old and the time I spend with them both now is QUALITY time.
"They're so happy at school. I’m low-key jealous when my daughter asks for her teacher on the weekends. But they are happy, I am happy, and all round it works. Moms tend to forget to take "me" time. They forget that if they are stressed and overwhelmed by trying to be the perfect mom, trying to get their kiddies to eat only organic and fresh veggies and trying to get a balanced meal (meat - my worst nightmare! My daughter won’t touch that stuff!), raising a child is so frustrating. They're fussy, busy, and defiant.
"But above all, they're human. They're also tired of seeing your face all day, they're adjusting to rules, routines, people, tastes, smells – they are also overwhelmed. And the more stressed you are, the harder you are on your child. That's why crèche and a full-time job works for me and my family.
"Sometimes QUALITY time is better than QUANTITY time. I’d rather be happy in the 3 hours a night I spend with my kids than annoyed and shouty in 9/10 hours."
– Victoria Jane Jamieson Botha
*Letters have been edited for length and clarity.
Are you a working mom? How do you cope with balancing parenting and working? Tell us your story by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish it as well.
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