On the International Women’s Day today I am proud of my fellow women for having come a long way in obtaining much deserved rights and freedoms. While the situation varies considerably around the globe, this post will look at what we face here in North America. Thankfully, my generation skipped the times when being a woman in this part of the world meant you couldn’t take out a bank loan in the absence of a male co-signer or couldn’t apply for a credit card without being bombarded with demeaning questions. Today, if you don’t count certain lingering archaic concepts such as a gender pay gap, for the most part women enjoy equal civic rights with men.
Some of the challenges we face nowadays are around how the traditionally feminine roles fare with the demands of the modern day realities. Do you stay devoted to your professional growth and risk feeling like a bad mother or do you stay home with the kids and miss out on opportunities for career advancement? Here are three things I would like to share in this concern:
- The choice is yours
Humans are conditioned to live up to the society’s expectations and constantly face the risk of being judged. Women are especially vulnerable to this – even without visible external pressure we tend to question from time to time if we are good enough.
When I first started my full time employment after staying home as a young mother, I remember driving off to work every morning in tears after leaving my daughter in child care. I kept asking myself whether or not I was doing the right thing. When she started preschool I spent every lunch break on her playground trying to give her more time with Mommy, until I realized one day that it was actually more in my head than her in reality needing me to continue doing so. She was having fun while learning a lot and didn’t really have much time for me there.
Your heart and not the society will tell you what the right choice for your situation is. If you’ve established yourself as a professional but, after having your little ones, find more joy in staying home with them full time – by all means, go for it, if money is not an issue. But if you catch yourself longing for the office hustle and bustle, no, you are not a bad mother for having interest in advancing your career further or aspiring to build your own business.
As a working mother all you can do is to give your best at work and be your best at home. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, don’t be afraid to show your emotion or vulnerability. Most importantly, remember that no one is perfect, even those who may look like they have it all figured out.
2 The Eyes of Fear See Danger Everywhere
Media are not helping with their descriptions of working mothers as heartless workaholics if they went to work without having a dire financial need. To paint even a more dismal picture, they reference reports linking the hours spent in daycare to children’s behavior problems and many other vices. In reality, studies have failed to provide conclusive results about those links. According to Psychology Today, while some studies linked daycare to behavior problems, others have failed to find any link at all, or even linked daycare to a reduction in such problems. Same is with the children’s cognitive development or quality of parent-child relationships. Surprisingly enough, studies have produced all three types of results: found negative effects, no significant links, and positive daycare effects. Daycare at an early age has been linked to both problems in parenting and to improvements in parenting interactions.
I am not an early education expert, but have personally observed many kids whose behavior improved after attending day care where they learned discipline, cooperation and sharing skills and lost some of their sense of entitlement. The key is for parents to do their homework and find the child care solution that feels right for their family. And once you have found the place, maintain clear communication with anyone who comes near your children to ensure their wellbeing and best interests are taken care of.
- From Hungry Caterpillars to Hungry for More
While rejoicing in motherhood and making that your entire focus may be a most beautiful thing, imposing that on women as their only purpose means taking away their opportunity to reach their full potential.
Having stayed home with my daughter during her earliest childhood I enjoyed tremendously every moment of our interactions and felt privileged to watch her grow and learn. But a moment came when I felt it was in everyone’s best interests to explore the world beyond. Not only had I empathized with every woman who yearned for more than the life where the main players were hungry caterpillars and little engines that could – I had become a firm believer that suppressing your desires for too long wasn’t healthy for anyone. A woman with unfulfilled aspirations cannot make a truly happy mother and you never know what kind of lesson this may teach your child about parenthood.
At the same time we have to consider that there is only so much that a child can learn from one, even the most well-meaning set of adults. Attending a quality early education facility will expose them to a wider range of activities and opportunities to gain skills, develop their talents and expand their horizons.
Fulfilling parenthood and your own on-going development do not have to exclude or contradict each other. To me, being a great parent is more than anything, instilling the right values in your children, preparing them for the adult life and teaching them to follow their dreams. And how to best do that if not through a personal example?