Are Moms Born Martyrs, Or Does Society Make Us That Way?

It was my turn to train this morning. My husband and I alternate days, so while he parented hard and got Carter ready for crèche, I hit a spinning class while it was still dark. I always keep my phone on me when training (because, mom) and at 6 am it beeped with a WhatsApp from my husband. (A bit of context to the story – last night I mentioned that Carters eye had flared up a bit at crèche and his teacher said if it got worse he shouldn’t come to school) So, 6am, me nowhere near the vicinity of my child, the following ensued:

Husband: “What are we doing about Carters eye”?

Me: “So-and so, so and so’s mom, has said she has eye meds (a mom on my WhatsApp group from crèche). She says she will bring to school for Carter

Husband: “So, do I take him to school?”

Me: “Your call, I don’t know how bad it is”

Him: “It’s fine now but it might build up”

Me: “Ok…”

Him: “So how do we get meds?”

Me: “Well, what I would do is to go ask his teacher if so and so’s mom dropped off the meds like she said she would. Otherwise, go to a pharmacy”

Him: “Ok, but if he doesn’t go to crèche then I won’t get the meds”

At this point, my spin had turned into a static as I frustratingly smashed out responses to what I considered to now be the world’s most frustrating conversation.

Me: “I’m leaving gym, I’ll be home in 20.”

And THAT my friends is where we turn into martyrs. Because after 15 minutes of a back and forth conversation that was going nowhere, I felt that unless I went home and sorted it out, it wouldn’t get done.

The thing is, in my husbands defence, he knew exactly what to do, because he’s a magnificent parent – in some ways better than me – but I think, like a lot of husbands, they rely heavily on us to take the guess work out of everything because we just make it so easy for them. Because of course last night I asked a mom group for advice before bed because this is what we do – we plan ahead. All the time.

There is always food in the house, handmade baby dinner is stockpiled in the freezer, toilet paper magically appears on the roll, spices and herbs don’t just finish and there’s always a tin of ‘how did that get there’ dog food just in case we run out of pellets.

I think as women, and moms (and yes, I am absolutely generalising) we take on everything for everyone and because we have been doing it for so long that it’s just become absolutely standard to let us run dry and bleed all over the floor, because we will still get it done.

If I think about the list of every-day items that are on my to-do list, I could vomit. Keeping the family alive aside, scope creep items such as presents and gifts for everything from Fathers Day to birthday presents for that colleague that no-one likes you but you feel sorry for. Dog vet visits, thank you notes, mentally prepping the hors d’ouvres  you’ve committed to making for a party that starts exactly 8 minutes after your work day has ended, restocking the fucking tomato paste. It all comes down to us. Even then, if someone rattled off a list as long as their arm to me I would still then offer to help, because this is what martyrs do.

So, manic bitching aside, what’s the answer? I think the only solution is to just actually trust in someone else to do it if they’ve said they will. But let’s be honest, that is a lot easier said than done, especially when the person (ie me) is an A type OCD control freak who likes things done properly, and done yesterday.

So, starting today soon I’m going to try my damndest to empower those around me to get their own shit done, and to learn to trust in the abilities of other people – because I know that they can do it – I just need to let them. This applies to all aspects of my life – personal and work. No more fixing everything for everyone, no more doing everything when I don’t have to. Except Googling ‘how to clear up a 1-year-olds gunky eye and prevent near-divorce in the processes.’

I feel like that should probably be top of my list.

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10 Reasons Working Mothers Make The Most Valuable Employees

There’s something quite terrifying about going back to work after maternity leave. Despite your hardest efforts, you change a lot as a person during your time off. I tried to keep my brain busy with online courses and adult stimulation, but the change goes deeper than that. It’s an internal shift that happens with or without your permission.

When I was pregnant, I would often carpool with my bestie, Amy, to work. Coming from Fourways, and traveling into Hyde Park, means traffic, always. A stresser by nature, I hated the fact that I was spending more than 3 hours a day sitting on a congested Jan Smuts, when I could be doing something productive with my time. Amy, mom to Ben (nearly 2) would always tell me that my anxiety for things that were out of my hands (read: traffic) would diminish, if not disappear entirely when I had the baby.

She was right. Something in me has shifted, and I’ve found a backbone and will that I never knew existed. My life is no longer just mine, and going back to work means adjusting to a new kind of normal. Do I strive to succeed in the work place any less? Absolutely not, but my priorities in terms of my timings have changed. I no longer have the luxury of dawdling over a task until 6 pm. 6pm is my child’s bedtime. I now steamroll through my work in order to leave at a decent hour and make the painful commute back home, to fetch my baby from crèche.

The past two weeks, of re-learning how to adjust to a full time job, being a mom, and not losing my sanity has taught me some very important lessons. And this is why I believe that working moms make the most valuable employees**. Here’s why:

  1. We are efficient. We keep humans alive, so running a team, managing a client and getting things done comes as second nature to us. Trust me, work is a hell of a lot easier than being a stay at home mom. For any mom who raises their baby on a routine, implementing a similar routine at the office becomes second nature. Timing is everything (just ask the parent who’s been shat on when they took too long to replace the nappy.)
  2. We have empathy. I used to have sympathy for moms when their sick child meant they worked from home, or when they left early to go attend little Johnny’s underwater basket weaving tournament, but now, I totally get it. Sadly, the world does not stop spinning after you have a child (the fucking thing doesn’t even slow down) so getting anything done is twice as time consuming. Just this morning, millions of parents woke up, bathed, changed, fed, burped and played with their kids, before packing their school bags, making their lunches, wiping their nose for the 18th time and shuttling them off to school. They did this all before bathing, feeding and getting themselves to work. I’m not asking for a medal, I’m asking humans to have some compassion towards other humans.
  3. We don’t fuck around. Yesterday a colleague mentioned to me that she’s hardly seen me since I’ve been back at work. That’s probably because I get in, sit down, work harder than hard, and make sure my shit is done before I have to leave for the day. I know that I get 45 minutes with my baby every day, and I need to be able to do that with a clear conscience, knowing that I have achieved my work goals for that day.
  4. We have a zero bullshit tolerance. I no longer have the energy, nor the time, to tolerate bad behaviour. Be it in a personal relationship or a working environment. I will never be rude, but you can bet your ass that your behaviour will no longer go down with me rolling onto my back.
  5. We are patient. Sure, we have a low tolerance for rudeness, but we are possibly the most patience specimens on earth. Any mom of a toddler will tell you that, compared with her child’s “but why” questions 1000 times a day, helping someone with a work related, laborious task, just ‘aint no thang.
  6. We will deliver. Listen up, I have sucked snot out of an infants nose, using little more than a plastic tube and a prayer. That means I am resourceful as hell, and can probably go the extra mile to ensure you get what you need.
  7. We are trustworthy. I’ve kept my child alive this long, right?
  8. We can work under pressure. Having a baby is like giving birth to a ticking time bomb. In the early days, one never knows how long the nap will last, how long the nappy will stay clean, and how long your bebe can go between hunger screams. We live our lives like brave explorers, fitting in hundreds of chores and activities between naps and poos. That means, the more you pile on us in a working environment, the more we can do, You’ve all heard the saying – if you want something done, give it to a busy person.
  9. We are resilient. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in almost half a year. If that’s not resilience, then I don’t know what is.
  10. When we are there, we are there 100%. Having a family means spontaneity disappears faster than your figure. So, when we do commit to something, it means we have lined up a plan in our absence in order to be there. That also means, we are going to take full advantage of the situation, and be present in the moment. Unless it’s a finance meeting, because I mean, snore.

** I’m not saying every single working mother is a win though. I have worked with a mother of 2 who proved more useless than Eskoms delivery promise. I’ve also worked with childless people who couldn’t arrange a piss up in a brewery. So, basically, some people are great, some people are dicks. You can’t win them all.

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