Mums who work (just not all the time)


"Oh you're so lucky not to be a working Mum," said a grandmother to me last week who had brought her grandson along to a toddler class I attended. I had just told her that I only work two days a week. In her eyes, I don't work. And this is something I've heard often since I returned to work a year ago.

In online communities, there is often a clear distinction between stay at home mums (SAHMs) and working mothers. My two-days-a-week seem to make me ineligible for either clique. So I have to ask, what makes you classed as a working mum?

I have a professional position working for a university. When my maternity leave came to an end, I made a request to work two days a week in a job share position. Two days a week, I could get my head around since I experienced terrible separation anxiety from my daughter. This was denied (no surprises there) and so my husband and I made the decision I would resign. However, when I rang to explain I wouldn't be coming back, everything changed. I never expected that my two-day request would give me a chance to fit in with a colleague who already worked three days a week. I accepted and our job share was approved.

My husband and I are lucky that we didn't have a pre-baby lifestyle that meant my drop in earnings would dramatically impact how we wanted to live (ok, maybe that just makes us super boring!) I have to commute, which is an extra cost, and we had to make sure the hours I worked would bring home more than just the cost of childcare only. I wouldn't have come back otherwise! But sending our little R to nursery was the right thing to do, for my anxieties and her development (I hate having to admit that 😣).

We don't have complex financial obligations, other than our neverending home renovations, and we share our finances 50:50 (rare in this day and age, I know). If we have it, we spend or save it. If we don't, we don't. So why did that grandma make me feel so ashamed? It's obvious really - it's because of my attitude to work, not hers.

I don't talk about my job much outside the office. For that woman's daughter, working wasn't just about money. Apparently she loved her job and couldn't wait to go back (I have yet to find out what she does). I am not one of those women. I go to work to earn money so we can give our daughter the life we want her to have. End of. The benefit is that I get to use the skills I've learnt from my two degrees whilst keeping my mind active, and where I can hang out with my (colleagues) mates! I'm lucky. But it is still work.

After a few months into the job I realised that my attitude to work had changed dramatically. My year of maternity leave meant I had become more confident and decisive. I approached work knowing that there's no point sweating the small stuff, since it's all small stuff really. I still work as hard and as professionally as I did before, but I now know that what I do isn't life and death (when B/C it often felt this way). I no longer worry about how I come across at work, worrying about how to do things or if I'm capable; I simply don't have the energy. I come in, get on with it, and when I leave I put it out of my mind.

Am I still a working mother? You bet your ass I am, but now I emphasis the 'mother', the 'work' is more like a whisper. Why? Because I choose to define myself like that. So to all you mums out there who have to take time away from their kids to earn (and kudos to those who manage it with their kids around!) don't let anyone else try to define you. You can be whatever you want to be, with or without a label.

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