Motherhood expectations: career

I’m interested in writing essays on expectations but I am conscious of how the topic has been covered by so many writers. I read ‘The Year of Yes’ by Shona Rhimes recently and found her refreshing viewpoint resonated with my changing views about motherhood. My aunt gave me a copy of a book called ‘The Stay at Home Martyr’ which initially bristled my feathers but upon reflection, I recognised her good intentions. I don’t feel like a martyr but then again, I could identify with a lot of the points of the author.

My generation (borderline X and Y) were brought up to believe that you can have it all as a woman. You can have the career and the baby, travel and be successful, have money and volunteer to help the needy. The reality is so far from the truth.

As a couple we have found our way financially in terms of home ownership and have a good start on a lot of people our age – but our house is filled with second-hand furniture, mostly things I’ve picked up on eBay for just a few dollars. Our clothes, kitchenware and artworks are almost exclusively from op-shops. There is nothing wrong with this, and of course there is a certain creativity to it, but sometimes I visit a friends house and see a beautiful Marimekko wall hanging and I start to dream…

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But of course, most things are like demand and supply, yin and yang; you can’t have one without the other. Because I don’t have beautiful and expensive things, I have less debt. But it is hard, I’d really like to buy a caravan or go on more holidays but we just can’t afford it. But luckily, I can afford to work very little and rely on Centrelink at this stage of my life – when working with a child who is so up and down, and in and out of childcare, so that is a wonderful situation to be in.

But at the end of the day, while Ben excels in his university course, I am playing the role of mother, stay at home parent, homemaker. Not a role I see myself playing permanently. One way of balancing my need to use my brain is through my blog and I also do a bit of volunteer work for the reflux association we are a part of – www.reflux.org.au.

Longer term I do see myself working again amongst co-workers, talking and laughing and setting plans and having deadlines. The endless days as a mother blend into one and provide a feeling of never accomplishing anything. It is that exact feeling that is so dangerous. As a mother, you are accomplishing something every second, of every day. You are keeping someone else, or multiple someone elses alive. Little, tiny or not so little and tiny, humans that need your love, support, to be fed, clothed and cuddled, holding hands and singing songs, walking to ease them into slumber or cuddling and feeding at 2am.

But for the generation who were raised to have endless choices of career, to be encourage to attend university, to work in corporate offices that are so focused on sales targets and promotions, to slow down to the snail pace of a baby or toddler is so jarring.

Women of my generation now have the choice of what type of mother to be; a stay at home, crafty and domestic goddess (which is essentially impossible anyway, especially with a refluxer), to work from home (another difficult choice), or a blend of everything. If you have the funds, hiring a cleaner can provide more time for other things; such as playing with your child, or pursuing a hobby while they nap (if they nap!).

But it’s not at all a bad thing to admit that you are not fulfilled 100% by being a mother. Some say that motherhood is a full-time job, others don’t want to define it as a job. Shona Rhimes says being a mother is “who she is”. She doesn’t see it as a job – she writes hit television shows for a job. But others see motherhood as the only job that matters. I’m not sure what I think; I just know that for me to be happy, I want a balance of brain usage and time with my son. Back to playing for now…

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