I started a new contract this week, and it is interrupting my routine. I’m grateful to be able to earn an income but when you are a mother, wife and working full-time – things tend to get ‘interrupted’ for want of a better word. This also applies to single parents – male or female, who valiantly do this on their own.
I know many other working mothers probably feel the same but it’s more than just being interrupted. It’s about the stigma and attitudes towards working mothers that is difficult for me to contend with. As a working mother, in full or part-time employment – you never cease working. You wake up in the morning and get your child(ren) ready as well as yourself, make sure they have everything they need – are up, dressed, fed, as well as yourself before you head out the door. When you return from paid employment, you start your ‘night shift’ which may comprise of homework, reading school notes, preparing dinner, washing up, bath time, bed time, making lunches, cleaning up and preparing for the next day.
In the mornings, once you have left home, you have to either face the peak-hour traffic (as I do) and Sydney traffic is notorious for it’s negative stature. Otherwise it’s peak hour on the public transport system which doesn’t fare much better. You may not have to deal with other drivers on the road, but will have to deal with people in your personal space. One concession is that it may not be as tiring because you don’t have to remain as alert as when you are driving. You have the choice to plug into an iPod or your music on your mobile phone, or read whilst on your travels. This may be the only time you may have as your ‘me’ time.
Although, as you know, no matter how well you plan – your time may be interrupted by phone calls from the school as your child has had an incident or is unwell that may warrant you to pick them up. On the flip-side, your time may be interrupted by other passengers talking too loudly on their mobile phones so that you know exactly when, where and who they are going to go out with on Friday night. Back to being on the road – your time may be interrupted by drivers who are not courteous – on bikes, cars, taxis, trucks or buses. Or there may be an accident which delays you and triples the amount of time you spend travelling! And then you get home to start the ‘night shift’.
Now, you may say – but you choose to work, you choose to earn an income and yes, while this may be true for some – for others, it is not a choice. It is a necessity. There are bills, school fees, expenses, extra-curricular activities and groceries to be paid for – just to name a few. It should not matter what the reason is, the fact is many mothers will be in paid employment, either out of choice or necessity – who are we to judge? We do not know someone else’s situation until we have walked in their shoes. It’s hard not to be judgemental, I struggle with it as much as the next person but checking yourself and taking the time to think about it in the other person’s point of view may help broaden your thought processes.
The stigma I am referring to for working mothers/ single parents – is the way comments are made and the looks you may receive when you say you need to leave work early to pick up a sick or injured child, or call in sick because your child is sick and then come to work unwell yourself because the time you had off with your sick child leaves you unable to have time to be sick yourself. There should be no difference to that of a male employee who needs to leave work early because they have a dentist appointment or need to service their car. There should be no difference but reality proves differently. Attitudes are hard to change – that’s one of the things you learn very early on in the Learning profession. You can modify behaviours, improve skills and add to working experience but attitudes are hard to change because they are internalised. We have the choice to choose our attitude but until this happens en masse, our time as working mothers will always be interrupted.
Time allocated to paid employment, time allocated to spending with your family, time allocated for domestics, time allocated for leisure and relaxation (we should be so lucky!) and just time, interrupted. There are never enough hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a year – we know this but it doesn’t deter us. As working mothers, we are resourceful and find time somehow but it may come as a cost to time allocated elsewhere. In this sense it is time, interrupted. I’m also not saying that mothers who aren’t in paid employment don’t work – as a mum, you are constantly working! It’s an underpaid, under appreciated role that has no sick or annual leave, and you are required 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Apologies for my vent, but hopefully it has also highlighted an important issue that greater society needs to consider. Granted, it’s not the only important issue in society but it is one as there are many others that has perplexed us and continually eluded a solution. Equality is a never ending battle – for women, children, under privileged, same sex, elderly, race and religion. Educating others about these issues will help to change attitudes. Hopefully, in my daughter’s time, if and when she and her friends may become working mothers, attitudes will have changed.