In the previous article, we explored whether you can have it all as a working mum. In this article, we’ll be looking at common challenges working mums face and the solutions to each.
This is the second article in a series on working mums. Here are the other articles in the series:
Is it possible for working mums to have work-life balance?
As the fight for equal rights for women in the workplace continues around the world, working mums remain the most affected lot. You face the daily pressure of raising children, taking care of the home, and becoming a high performer at work.
Due to these responsibilities, working mums end up being discriminated during promotions, awarding tenders, higher salaries and new career opportunities. Basically, being a mother becomes an unnecessary professional risk.
And according to a recent international study on working mothers, only 12% of people believe that mothers should work full-time. The rest think that mothers should work part-time or not work at all.
This issue of public opinion and judgement is just one among the many challenges working mums have to deal with.
Related Article: How to Create Time for Yourself
5 challenges working mums face and what to do
1. Work-life balance
One of the biggest challenges among people in the workforce today is achieving a balance between work and life. You want to be your best at work and still have time for yourself and your family.
As you are one person, being at work and showing up for your family becomes impossible. You have to pick a side now and then, a decision that will always disappoint one party.
Because you love your job and don’t want to lose it, the family tends to take more hits. You miss your child’s sports day for a work trip. A birthday is forgotten due to a demanding project. Family time is reduced to a few hours spread throughout the week.
- While 100% work-life balance is not possible to achieve, you can have some control when you focus on the most important aspects of your life. For example, you can consider quality over quantity when deciding which event to attend or miss.
- If your absence will cause a negative ripple effect in your family, make it a must to attend the event or spend time with your family. And please don’t try to follow other people’s rules when making choices. What is important will always vary from one person to another.
- When you do evaluate your priorities, you’ll be surprised to find that not all work-related meetings or projects need you. Sometimes all you need is to delegate some tasks or roles. Other times, you may find that you’ve taken up other people’s slack at the expense of your family.
Related Article: 5 Steps to Get Unstuck and Live Your Dream Life
2. Going back to work after having a baby
This is another nightmare for many working mums. With only 3 months of maternity leave provided for by the government, you have to rely on the goodness of your boss for an extended leave. And, if you love your job and are not used to being away, you’ll constantly be stressing over work.
No matter your greatest worry – whether work or baby – the reality is the same: going back to work after having a baby will not be the same.
You will be judged for leaving your baby with the nanny. You’ll be overlooked for big projects. Many people will expect you to fail at doing your job. Others will expect you to fail at being a mum. Sadly, the pressure to excel will be twice as much in many cases.
- To get through this period unscathed, focus more on your mental health now than ever before. Understand that it’s natural to worry about your baby. Learn to ignore judgemental looks and comments in the office and be OK with the frustration that comes with having to express milk when you go back to work.
- At all times, allow yourself to go through the emotions that go with being a new mum who is not with her baby full-time. Don’t let people’s negative comments or ideas get the best of you.
- Get support within and outside the workplace. Talk to other working mothers about their experience, join groups that allow you to vent, and read every material you can about surviving the getting back to work period.
Related Article: How to Handle Difficult People and Reduce Stress
3. High expectations to be superwoman
As a working mum, some people will expect you to be superwoman. Because you are already judged for choosing work over raising your kids full-time, tending to your child is no longer an excuse. And yet, sometimes you can’t avoid it.
After some time, your boss will expect you to take random business trips like you did before getting your baby. Your lunch hours will shift back to normal like everyone else, even though you need to breastfeed, express milk and run to your child’s school. Some of your clients will not understand that a child’s emergency or event takes precedence over the client’s work.
If you have a partner who expects you to take care of him, the family, and your job the same way that you did before, then you’re in trouble.
- See high expectations for what they are – high expectations (or demands) and not reality. Don’t beat yourself up for needing time to manage these expectations or demands. And, if you need more time with your child, consider negotiating flexible working hours.
- You can also ask for telecommuting if this option works for your type of work. Other mothers in your workplace will thank you for this! This is also a good option if your child is sick and needs your attention for a longer period. You can negotiate a better working arrangement or find a better employment opportunity that provides flexibility for mums.
- Your personal relationship has a huge effect on your personal and career performance. Negotiate with your partner so that he takes up some roles or relaxes his expectations.
Related Article: How to Get What You Want in Your Relationship
4. Feeling guilty and constant overwhelm
Guilt is a constant for working mums. You feel that you are not giving your best at work, that you are not being a good mum, or that your child will grow to love the nanny more than you. This guilt becomes worse when your extended family parents or in-laws think you work too much or neglect your child(ren).
There is also the constant overwhelm and tiredness. This comes about when you try to do everything yourself. You drop your kids at school, work all day, cook dinner, iron yours and your spouse’s clothes, help your children with homework, and clean your bedroom and bathroom on weekends.
Remember that you’re not superwoman and being a supermama will not get you any accolades and rewards. It’s time to slow down, delegate, or drop some tasks.
- To overcome this, understand that you are not perfect and that your children will love you no matter what. It’s OK if you miss a few events or come home late a few times.
- It’s also okay to ask for help with house chores so you can create more time for family bonding. Hire someone to take care of housework. Also, consider adding an extra househelp if you can afford it so that your regular one doesn’t burn out.
- Take time for your own self-care. This is a must and not an option, even if it means 10 minutes of ‘me-time’ when you at lunch time or when you get home.
Related Article: 5 Reasons Why You are Overworked and Overwhelmed
5. Constant reminders of your duties as a mum
You will be in your office and a colleague or client will start a conversation about your kids. If you recently had a baby, this is likely to affect you and you may get tempted to brush over it.
Also, if you missed an event in your child’s life to complete a strenuous project, this innocent (or not so innocent) inquiry about your kids may hurt you.
Other times, you may be the one that slacked off on work because of family related demands or crises. It’s not easy knowing that you are the one holding back your team, even though you’re trying hard to catch up with everyone.
It’s also not easy if you work in a high-stress or male-dominated profession or office. In some cases, your colleagues may end up sidelining you when they think that you can’t handle the work.
Working mums deal with this constant reminder every single day. Learn to be okay with all your decisions and choices and make no apologies about this.
- When people talk about your children directly, acknowledge it and say something nice in return. Remember that this is not the time to pull out photos of your baby and manipulate the conversation!
- You may feel guilty when you aren’t able to keep up with your colleagues. Acknowledge it if you are the one holding back a project and ask your colleagues for help. If you’ve made a habit of helping others when you’re able to, you will find them wanting to help you back.
- Being a mum is no reason to stop your career growth. Work on your professional goals within the time you have. If this is not possible, then get back on track when your children are older and you have more time for work.
- BONUS TIP: If you’re planning to have a baby in the near future, start helping out other mums in your organization without taking on too much of their work. These mums will be of great help when it’s your turn.
Related Article: How to Achieve Your Goals Effectively With 90-Day Goal Setting
As a working mum, you will face a lot of barriers in your life and career. You will be judged by both men and women. Men will not understand your struggles. Some women, especially single and older women who sacrificed family time for their careers will hold a different opinion to yours. You must be stronger than your challenges if you want to succeed.
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What have been your biggest challenges as a working mum and how did you overcome them? Share your experience and tips in the Comments.