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Just because I’m working doesn’t mean I’m coping

Sometimes I think there’s this assumption that if a mother shows up at work, she’s got her sh*t together. I’m here to assure you that this is not the case. 

The fact is, sometimes I’m not OK. So much goes on behind the scenes that my clients and colleagues don’t see. Just because I show up, doesn’t mean I slept last night. Just because I finish the project on time, doesn’t mean I didn’t work three weekends in a row to get it done (with a toddler interrupting every five minutes). Just because I reply to an email with ‘no worries’, doesn’t mean I’m not in actual fact really quite worried. Can you relate?

The truth is, a lot of us are just pretending. Maybe we’re all pretending. Remember this: it’s OK to not be OK. You’re doing awesome. And maybe you don’t need to keep it all together all the time. Let’s be ‘not OK’ together.

It’s normal to struggle

If you thought being a working parent would be a breeze, you probably didn’t know about the array of challenges it presents:

  • Kids get sick all the time When they do, childcare will send them right on home. And you’re probably the one who needs to take time off work to look after them.
  • YOU get sick all the time – Because of your child’s generosity with germs. But you often have to push through and work anyway. Oh, and if you’re breastfeeding you may not be able to take cold and flu meds which is BRUTAL!
  • You might be getting very minimal sleep – But apparently that’s not a good enough excuse to receive endless paid leave.
  • You might not be operating at 100% – Probably because you’re sleep-deprived, and unwell, or you’re worried that childcare is going to call at any moment and send your kid home. And yet, you’re expected to work at the same level as Pre-Baby You.
  • You… er… don’t care – Priorities have changed. Work is no longer the meaning of life, and maybe your heart isn’t really in it, at least not to the extent it once was. You’d rather be snuggled up watching The Wiggles with your fave person.
  • Everything A lot is out of your control – Like how much energy you have, how many hours you can work overtime, how many days you need to take off, the state of your emotions, whether you showered and put on make-up today or not.

In the thick of all this… struggling is normal. 

You’re allowed to complain

Moms often feel the need to stay positive, practise gratitude, and vomit rainbows every day. Complaining about how damn hard this is can feel taboo. But complaining is a rite of passage – please do it.

Find a mom friend you can vent with over wine. Or have a healthy rant on Mumli – chances are we’ll jump on board and have a rant with you.

You’re allowed to ask for help

You can (and SHOULD) ask for help. You might even need more help when you return to work. And be aware that help can come in many forms:

  • Asking work for more flexibility
  • Asking a friend or family member to look after your child when they’re sick so you can work
  • Relying on meal delivery services when work is flat-out
  • Getting a cleaner to help out at home
  • If you’re self-employed, hiring a VA to help you with admin
  • Asking your partner to scale back their workload so they can take on more childcare and housework

Dropping the ball is actually fine, but if someone can help make things easier for you, just ask.

You’re allowed to break down (but get support if you need it)

Things that working moms are allowed to do:

  • Cry (even in front of kids)
  • Swear
  • Scream into a pillow
  • Stress-eat an entire bag of Doritos
  • Whatever you need to do to get through

It’s totally normal to lose your sh*t once in a while. But if you’re really struggling or think you might have something like postnatal depression, consider calling in some backup. 

I called a doctor at around 4.5 months postpartum and said, “I think we need to have a frank discussion about my mental health – it’s sh*t.” She suggested counselling and some medication. I put it off until about 10 months postpartum, when I found myself sobbing uncontrollably every single day. I really, really wasn’t coping and couldn’t work. Thank f*ck I caved and tried some medication because it has been LIFE-CHANGING! (That worked for me. What works for you might be something totally different. No pressure, and no judgement.) 

Sometimes I’m still not OK. But that’s OK. I know that other working parents are in the trenches with me. And we can do this. That said…

We’re in this thing together

When I find myself getting resentful of other working mums who seem to have this whole thing down pat, I have to remind myself that we’re on the same journey. 

That bad-ass woman in the office looks like she’s got it sorted, but there’s no knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. She’s doing the same as the rest of us: literally tackling runaway nudie kids and wrestling them into clothes every morning. But also, putting on her game face and keeping it together. Because it’s what we all do!

We need to support and encourage each other throughout the mindf*ck that is parenting. Sometimes, that might be getting real and having a cry/rant. Sometimes it might be allowing each other to switch off from mum-life at work and keeping things profesh. Or a bit of both.

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