Before I had kids, I dreamed about being a stay-at-home mom. I loved the idea of having the whole household under control and making life easy for my husband by rocking the homemaker role. But as it turns out, I am happy in that role about one day per week and otherwise feel totally and utterly stifled.
On Mother's Day, I look at my kids and think how blessed I am. Not just because I've had a chance to raise them, with all of the love, pride and fun that brings to my life. But because doing so has been a joyful experience. I've been able to nourish them, keep them warm, and send them off to school in the morning.
I don't want to read any more arguments about who has it harder, whose work is "real work," who is contributing more to society, or who is doing a better job ensuring her kids become stable, non-homicidal adults. I'm proposing a new form of Internet literature, where one group of moms singles out another group of moms for a job well done.
I don't judge my friends who work full-time (I'm completely proud and impressed by their success) and I don't judge my friends who don't work at all (I'm amazed by their patience and ability to put their careers on hold). The trouble is that moms feel the need to defend their position (myself included) whenever they feel it's being questioned, and sometimes it gets downright vicious. We've already established that there's no "perfect" solution that works for everyone, so it seems wrong that anyone has to compare themselves to anyone else (and feel guilty or insecure), but we're never going to get past it, it seems.
As a culture, we have a weird obsession with women being "selfish." Mothers especially are prone to accusations of selfishness any time they make a choice that doesn't directly and obviously benefit their children. Even when mothers are encouraged to practice self-care, it's often approached with the idea that feeling happy and rested will make them better partners and parents.
Six years ago, my husband Matthew was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiform, the most common and deadliest of brain cancers. As Matthew's primary caregiver, I've come to recognize that coping in the face of a terminal illness is a learned skill, and sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what works.
The point is that working moms need a village to be successful. They need short-cuts and tips that make life easier. With precious little time at home, it's things like swifters and crockpots make a difference. If you don't have a support system that can help you find the things that can help you feel like a better mom, build one. It's worth it.
Children are an incredible paradox. They bring so much joy, so many tender moments, so many blissful times when you're just enjoying them, and they're enjoying you, and you're laughing at something funny your toddler said, or something adorable your baby did. And then there's the other 23 hours and 30 minutes of the day you have to get through.
People, not parents, struggle to find the time and energy to do the things they know they should. Anyhow, it struck me that there are some things I can (and will!) blame my children for, cheerfully, and some things that I resolve I will not blame them for. I want them to know I can prioritise what's important for my own wellbeing, so that they can learn from me.
When Peter MacKay, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, made the comments that "women don't apply to be judges because they fear the job will take them away from their children," and that "children need their mothers more than their fathers," with one fell swoop, he handed successful working women some more unnecessary guilt, and made dads everywhere feel marginal, or even, optional, during the first few years of a child's life.
How many of us knew that we would love our children so much that it would terrify us, but that we would also resent the erosion of our independent personhood, and wonder why our husbands didn't feel similarly eroded? Or how much more often we would dwell on our failures than on our successes as wives and mothers
It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyways. Being a working mother is a never ending balancing act. My children have always had a politician for a mom; I was elected to Toronto's city council before they were born. My chosen career -- and my choice to run for Mayor -- means that my life is, to a certain degree, public.
Work-life balance used to be a straightforward concept: you worked during the day and your evenings and weekends were yours. Today however, mobile technology keeps us constantly connected. In order to promote healthy work-life balance in a wireless world, companies need to create an environment that supports a new model: work-life integration.
When did the term "working mom" come into the popular vernacular? I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why any woman with a job and children would describe herself as a working mom. My husband is a wonderful father, and great business leader, however, he does not refer to himself as a working dad. In fact, I don't know one man who works while raising a family and calls himself a working dad. So why do we?
I know that you seldom have a hot cup of coffee or tea. I know that your attention is always divided, often diverted from a moment to moment basis, and you cannot ever count on completing a task in the one go. I know that you probably don't get any down time when you're on your own at home, unless you have a single child who still naps in the daytime. I know the challenges you deal with daily, usually with no peer support or backup. The toddler tantrums, the toilet training accidents, the food battles, the food on the floor, the crayons on the wall, the sibling rivalry, the baby that never seems to stop crying.
It's a fast-paced world and women work hard. We have homes to maintain, families to care for and demanding jobs. All this takes mountains of energy yet we continue to spend time on things that don't really interest or support us. It's time for women to cut to the chase and do the things that give us energy while getting rid of the rest.
In just a few short decades, the workplace has radically changed. Today, women constitute nearly half of the workforce. There have never been so many women in leadership positions around the world. And there has never been so much talk about being a woman in business. In fact, there has never been a better time in history to be a woman.