Last week one of my good friends resigned from her corporate job. She had been there for a number of years and is now going to pursue a career in natural medicine. We caught up for coffee and were talking about other people’s perception of you when you resign and you are also a mum. We were laughing at how the response from colleagues is often “it will be nice for you to rest at home with your kids”. Clearly they have no idea, as no mother who is at home all day with her children is ‘resting’! My friend certainly won’t be resting, as she will be studying full time, raising children and setting up a business. How exciting!
I had a very similar experience when I left the corporate world to set up The Tenant Company. Most people assumed that I was leaving to be a full time mum to our then one-year-old daughter. I almost viewed it as a game to see the reaction on people’s faces when I informed them that I was actually setting up my own business.
Quite a number of people that I have come across in my career seem to think that most working mums are only there because they have to be, not because they want to be and this is not always the case.
Here are five other misconceptions about working mums:
- They always take sick days. There seems to be a kind of loathing towards parents who have to take a sick day to look after their child, and I cannot understand why that is. I have worked with colleagues who have taken days off work because their dog had to go to the vet, they needed to wait at home for a delivery or even because they had a hangover, and no one batted an eyelid but the moment a mother takes a day off work to take care of her sick child people are up in arms. Women don’t choose for their children to get sick forcing them to take time off work, society just seems to notice a lot more when they do.
- They come in late and leave early. As any mum will tell you, you learn a new level of efficiency the moment you have a child. Whilst a working mum may not always be in the office for as many hours as her childfree counterparts, she will be astoundingly efficient in the hours that she is there. No more long lunches or gossip sessions by the water cooler, she wants to get as much done as she can so she can head home to her family.
- They only want to work part time. For some parents, working part time can make a big difference, especially if you have a partner who travels or you need to pay for childcare however not all mums want to work part time. I work full time (actually as a business owner, it’s more like 24/7) but I allow myself the flexibility to work around our daughter, which means I am often working weekends and at night. Perhaps we should be looking at ways to allow women to work full time hours with flexibility rather than a nine to five mentality.
- They don’t care about the work anymore. This is insulting to working mums everywhere. To suggest that we don’t care about our work simply because we have a child at home is unfair. Yes, our child is a higher priority but it doesn’t mean that work has dropped right down to the bottom of the list; something has just slipped in above it.
- They will just have another baby and leave. I once had a boss tell me that he was disappointed that a colleague of mine was pregnant with her second child as “she promised me she would wait three years”. Within a few months of that discussion, two other colleagues left to go to other employers but nothing was said of their departure going against any promises. There is never any guarantee that anyone will stay at any job, irrespective of him or her being a parent.
What other misconceptions do you think people have about working mums? What have you experienced in your workplace? Most importantly, what do you think we can do to change these perceptions? Let me know in the comments below.