Things are tough in the workplace too. A study conducted by Regus, an international provider of flexible work spaces, reveals that the number of companies in South Africa planning to hire mothers dropped from 51% in 2010 to 31% in 2011. The reason for this is negative perceptions that persist in the workplace regarding the dedication, reliability, adaptability and skills of working mothers. Commenting on the findings of the survey, Joanne Bushell, Regus’s Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, says: “It is not surprising to see that prejudiced attitudes come back into play with economic belt-tightening, and some businesses are evidently still guilty of applying old-fashioned misgivings to the contemporary work environment. While the vast majority of firms agree that barring the door to working mums means shutting out valuable staff, there is some concern that family commitments may hinder working mothers from giving their job full attention and commitment.” Yet, many women are exceptionally committed to their work as well as their family, but struggle to find ways to balance it all. This tension is what prompted Claire Minnaar to launch www.momtrepreneur.co.za.
Claire explains that there are a number of websites where mothers can get information about parenting, but she wanted to create a site that provides work-related information and advice for working mothers. She herself is a wife, mother and business owner, so who better to be sharing what she has learnt. “I wanted to be able to help other moms who are facing the same challenges I face every day, and what soon became evident to me is that so many women are going through exactly the same challenges.” Claire explains that one of the most common challenges facing working women is time management. “Before you have kids, you can work as late as you want, and, if you want to do some work on the weekends, there is nothing standing in your way. Kids definitely put a new spin on things. For me, I often feel that there just isn’t enough time in the day, and many of the women I speak to feel exactly the same.” Another very common problem is mother’s guilt. “I don’t actually know any moms who don’t feel guilty at one point or another,” says Claire, “although some feel guiltier than others – it very much depends on your personality and who you are as a person. However, I believe that it is totally natural to feel this way, and, strangely enough, mother’s guilt is part of what makes you a good mom. We instinctively want to protect and nurture our kids, and we want to put our kids first. Having to work takes your focus away, and that’s when the ‘guilt gremlin’ steps in.” So, what is Claire’s advice for mothers in terms of finding the right balance and managing mother’s guilt?
Every morning while you are drinking your first cup of coffee or eating your breakfast, write down a list of everything you want to tackle or achieve that day. Once you have finished the list, review it, put the items in order of priority, and get to it! Items you don’t manage to finish should be moved onto the next day’s list.
Learn to Say ‘No’
“Like many women, I’m a pleaser by nature, and to say ‘No’ takes a lot,” says Claire. “So many people battle to say ‘No’, and this is often the reason for added stress (and added guilt) at the end of the day.”
Be Present with Your Children
Claire is adamant on this one: “Make sure to put your laptop and cellphone away (far away!), and be present with your kids. And, when I say ‘present’, I mean physically, emotionally and mentally present.” Claire suggests interacting with your children in a way they will enjoy, based on their age. “For some, this could mean going for a walk in the park, having a chat, swimming or playing a game your child loves. There’s nothing more satisfying and rewarding for me than seeing my
kids happy and smiling and having fun, and achieving this is sometimes surprisingly easy – it just takes a bit of dedication.”
Make Time for Yourself
Claire explains that when you are relaxed and happy, you areable to give so much more to your children. “But the key is that, when you do something for yourself, you must not feel guilty! Go to the mall and have a coffee by yourself, or get a facial or a manicure. Do anything special that you enjoy, and this will give you time to
relax, unwind and have a time-out from everyone. We all need this every now and then, even if we don’t realise it.”
In this day and age, few women can afford to take a sabbatical from their job and stay at home full-time when
they have children. Many women don’t even want to stay at home – they enjoy the challenges and recognition
of aspiring to greater heights within their business or workplace. But how does one balance having a job with
having a child, and what do you do when the ‘guilt gremlin’ comes to visit?
Working mothers face a number of challenges, both at home and in the workplace. And, if you think it’s easy to be supermom, think again. A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reveals that working mothers in South Africa spend only 45 minutes a day with their children, compared with the 79 minutes a day spent by nonworking mothers. And this isn’t necessarily quality time either – it includes all the primary-care activities needed to tend to a child, including feeding, changing nappies, helping with homework, and so forth. (As an interesting aside, the same study reveals that working fathers spend only eight minutes a day with their children, while nonworking fathers ironically manage even less at only seven minutes a day.)
Moving Beyond Mother's Guilt
by Salome Smit