In 2012, Anne-Marie Slaughter made waves with an article published in the Atlantic where she said; “the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich or self-employed.”
Contrary to this, in a recent survey among the top corporate giants around the world, women have proved their remarkable presence in almost every industry and in huge numbers. We are doctors, lawyers, decision-makers and lawmakers. We are strong, smart, competent and courageous; we are the 21st century women who want it all.
But the question is; can working mothers have it all? We ran a poll on our website to ask your opinion and majority of you said that while possible, having it all means doing it all with a smile.
Can working mothers stay up all night caring for their children and still be exceptionally charged for work the next morning? Can they juggle important meetings and deadlines while making time for sports games and theatre performances? Can they prepare meals and read their child to sleep even when more pressing matters are at head? I am all for equality but equality then means equal responsibility.
It is actually sad that working fathers are not asked the same questions. Maybe they aren’t because a working mother’s job is much harder than that of an average father. According to research, as women do more paid work, men have not increased their childcare and housekeeping tasks to the same extent.
Working moms don’t only want to excel at their career, but also outshine at their home duties. That is, women don’t just want a career and a family, but also want to be a role model mom operating at a super human level.
A mother always wants to be there for her children, and working mothers can suffer from exceptional guilt over fear of either having let their kids down or their profession. The work-life balance is much harder for women who have little control over their schedule. Research shows, that working moms feel pressure, even if it’s self-imposed, to keep up with other moms. When Monday hits, their concerns at home continue to mount as they resume their duties at the office.
We are constantly reminded that our mothers and grandmothers changed the world. They campaigned, they marched, and they fought for women’s rights, including the equal right to earn a living for their families. In many ways, they were independent, successful and strong. But no previous generation has applied more effort in creating a harmonious co-existence between work and life than us. Mothers now spend more time and money on childcare. They feel more pressure to breast-feed, to do enriching activities with their children and to provide close supervision. With technology significantly changing the way we work, it is increasingly difficult to separate the two. Our ability to respond to emails late into the evenings and weekends augments the need to be available all the time for everyone.
Even as conversations about being a working mother and work-life balance become more common, many women feel they must choose between work and family. It is not surprising as they often feel stretched too thin or are overcome with guilt that they’re not giving 100 percent to both areas. Ultimately, many women feel they must sacrifice one or the other.
I know some very strong and independent working mothers. Some work from home while others pack up and leave for work every morning. And almost always, while choosing between staying at home and working outside, mothers tend to analyze what’s best for their children.
My own sister has a highflying job with the United Nations in New York. She has zero family support except her spouse and spends many weeks at a stretch in remote poverty stricken countries where she has little communication with her family. What helps her, apart from the support of her husband, is planning every day of her life 3 months in advance. Not only is her life planned, but also her husband’s – to stand up where she falls short.
What I have learned from these women is that deciding to be a working mother isn’t a one-time decision, nor is how you structure your work-life balance. As your children get older, your career advances, and your family’s needs evolve, working mothers need to change their arrangement to find one that fits.
The biggest issue for working mothers is the idea that they must be available around the clock both at home and the office. Unfortunately they will only be successful if employers and managers who shape office policy and work culture support them in all aspects of their life, at home and at work. Similarly, the role of supportive partner is perhaps the most important driving force behind a harmonious work-life balance.