This is the first in a series of articles for and about working mothers.
By S. Jinaashini
After eight hours (and usually more) at the office, a working mother’s job is far from being over. In fact, her primary task is just beginning. Now she has to meet the needs of her child (or children), her husband, and the house. What kind of woman would want to put herself through all that stress?
There are two reasons why a woman would want to be a working mother. The first reason has to do with “career”. Some women were already in the workforce before marriage and before childbirth. She was probably doing well and has aspirations of greater success. Assuming that her husband is also gainfully employed, they therefore are able to afford alternative childcare arrangements. The second reason is a more practical one. Some mothers have either remained or re-joined the workforce because they need the second income. As expressed by several working mothers, it is challenging for single income families to cope with the rising cost of living. The challenge is made more daunting with the birth of the first child. This, understandably, makes it necessary for both parent to work. But regardless of the reason for joining the workforce, a working mother is subjected to enormous physical and emotional stresses.
In the process of helping to provide for the family, working mothers sacrifice quality time spent with their kids. And this is a great sacrifice indeed. (Tweet this) In the words of Ms Maria Francis, a working mother herself, “You miss your child’s little developments.” Many working mothers could probably identify with Maria who feels “I’m reduced to a fleeting shadow.”
The lack of interaction between working mothers and their children causes the them to feel guilty; guilty that she is not being the mother that she ought to be, guilty that she is depriving the child of a normal childhood. As I speak with working mothers, there is almost nothing that can help alleviate this feeling of guilt except to quit the job and be a stay-home mom again.
Being a working mother – in other words, being a full-time employee and a full-time mother at the same time – is no mean feat, as you probably can imagine. To balance family and work is both physically and mentally exhausting. Family and work both share the first position in her list of priorities. Mothers, when asked to rank work and family, will always be at a lost for words; “both of them are equal, there is no second position” is their most common answer. But while both are of equal importance, working mothers can only devote to their families less than half the time given to their work.
Working mothers as compared to working fathers seem to posses much more guilt and anxiety when having to juggle between work and family. But why is there this difference? Working fathers are often seen to be coming home after a day at work to wind down and relax unlike working mothers. As for working mothers as much as they want to relax as well, their maternal instincts does not allow for that to happen. These maternal instincts push them to carry out other activities upon reaching home to ensure the upkeep of the house as well as the safety and good upbringing of the children. All these extra work will eventually take a toll on a mother’s physical health. There is only so much a person can physically handle. How many of us even know about all these struggles faced by working mothers? Children, household, finances, marriage stability, career, elderly parents and much more, there is no end to the list of things on their mind.
All these make the words of Amanda, a working mother herself, a hundred percent true: “It takes an amazing amount of strength to be a mother”.
S. Jinaashini is studying Psychology Studies at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore. We had the privilege of having her intern with us from March – July 2015.