Labour for love

Every mother is a working mother.

Regardless of her title,

Or how much time she does or doesn’t spend with her children each day,

Or how much support she may or may not have.

The mother who is in paid employment.

She is working away from her children for (sometimes) large parts of the day.

And when she gets home she works some more.

There’s care drop-offs and pick-ups.

There’s getting everyone out of the house by a certain time with everything they need for a day without her.

And then there’s everything she needs for herself too.

There’s trying to fit all of the quality time into smaller windows, when everyone is feeling a little tired and over the day.

Then she packs in more of the paid work she didn’t get a chance to finish after cleaning up and preparing lunches for tomorrow.

And finally when she gets to bed, she may not be there for long.

She’s still on-call at night.

And no matter how many times she’s woken, she still has to go back to her paid work tomorrow.

It doesn’t care for her labour of love duties.

Then there’s the stay-at-home mother.

She doesn’t get paid a dime, but lives off the kisses and cuddles she receives throughout the day.

But it’s not all kisses and cuddles.

Some days they hardly happen at all.

There’s tears.

And tantrums.

And being touched all day.

There’s having to keep going on little energy.

There’s having to regulate her own emotions constantly.

There’s having to try really hard to eat more than crusts for lunch some days.

And although she’s not at home predominantly to clean and cook, that’s what can happen.

Between play and presence, she’s on her feet.

It’s juggling the house, the garden, the life of littles who make lots of mess, and who require her to stop and start everything which doesn’t involve them.

It’s relentless.

And tomorrow it’s the same.

Then there’s the working from home with her children mother.

She has her children to care for during the day, and her work awaiting her at night.

She’s the mother who can’t always switch off and be present with her children when she wants.

Because her mind is always in two places, her phone in regular contest for her attention.

Because of the anxiety she has around how late she will be up trying to meet deadlines.

Because it’s hard trying to have the best of both worlds.

And sometimes the paid work just can’t wait until late at night.

Deadlines need to be met.

Or she’s just too tired to carry on as she has been, the tired ridding her of her sanity.

So she puts her children in front of the screen for longer than she wants, or allows them to turn her house even more upside down than normal, so she can finish that one thing she needs to while they are awake.

Then guilt strikes.

And stays for far too long.

These three versions of mother, are all mothers, mothering differently.

And that’s normal.

There is no one size fits all.

We all have different circumstances.

But no matter how a mother mothers, she is working.

Not the conventional type,

Because there is no pay.

And no pay would ever be enough.

Not for how much work is involved,

Or how much she gets out of it either.

But it is her time.

It is her love.

It is her sacrifice.

And that isn’t free.

It’s tiring.

It’s all-consuming.

It’s heavy.

It’s labour,

For love.

Because it’s the sort of love that money can’t buy.

So she works.

Day in, day out.

Night after night.

She chooses work.

And hard she works.

We all do.

Read next: The cost of kindness

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