Let’s face it: these days, women, and especially mothers, are spread thin. Probably the best way to summarise the million things weighing on our shoulders would be as follows (in no particular order):
- An excellent employee: smart, attentive, strategic, friendly but not too friendly, responsible, etc.
- A good mom: a perfect example for her kids, happy, relaxed, playful, wise, caring, loving, knowing how to heal a wound, feed the hungry, calm the worried, teach the curious, etc.
- A beautiful wife: always smiling and happy, beautifully dressed and taken care of [hairdo, manicure, pedicure, massage, fitness], attentive to husband, etc.
- An efficient housewife: a good cook, an efficient cleaner, an inspired house decorator, a warm host, etc.
- A perfect friend: always there when you need her, funny, caring, available for long telephone conversations and crazy nights out, ready for a deep personal conversation over tea and cakes, etc.
- A loving daughter: caring for her ageing parents as well as her in-laws by staying in touch with them, remembering everybody’s birthdays, planning visits, etc.
The core question is: can any normal person combine all these daily responsibilities and stay sane at the end of the day? Or a month? Or a year? Try lifetime?
The simple answer is: Hell No!
What’s worse, our current societal trends suggest that newlyweds (if they get married at all, that is) are to live away from their parents, i.e. they are to form a so-called “nuclear family”. A woman is left to her devices to find a way out of this gamble.
An average European story
Little wonder European statistics are blinding the eye with the naked truth. (By the way: send me a message if you want to see the details – I will be glad to oblige). Let me help you take those pink glasses of…
Since 2009, the number of newly born children is in decline. Of those babies that have been born, the ones outside marriage are on the rise, while those in a marriage are in decline. Moms are gradually getting older, too, which causes them to have more difficulties with post-natal recovery. To spice it all up, two out of five European married women will wave goodbye to her partner at some point.
Want more drama? In many countries, women have only three (3!!!) months of a maternity leave, after which they must drop their child at the nursery and run off to work.
Sure, she can stay at home with her newly born child longer, but guess what? She either needs to have a rich dad or a good-earning husband, to be able to afford staying away from work those additional months while her child learns to hold their head, sit in a chair, or (for those luckier ones) even crawl and walk. She also needs a strong nerve, to be sure that she won’t be made redundant while she is watching her child become autonomous.
Mothers are pushed to do what the society has set out for them to do (ie give your child away to the nursery before they are even able to sit properly), against all instinct.
Can you relate?
The twists and turns of other people taking over your children…
The other day I was hit by the realisation that my four-year-old daughter always asks whether it’s a school-day or not. At the beginning I was happy for her to love school so much. I thought it was a good thing. Until I saw things from another perspective.
Why does she love school so much?
The answer turned out to be very simple. The cook is preparing her lunch with the food was delivered by a delivery man. The cleaning lady, paid by the state, is taking care of the cleanliness of the place. The child-minder, administered by a director of the school, is playing non-stop with her and other kids in the class until they cannot take it anymore. And then they go play all together in the courtyard until they are picked up by us, parents.
There are six different roles played by at least six different people before the kid is picked up by his or her parents. Everybody has a role, and no one has a problem with it.
Now compare this with her regular weekend day at home. Her mom is running around from the early morning cooking, cleaning, ironing, tending the garden, food shopping, cooking again. Trying to spare some time with the daughter… But the daughter is so bored with her mom’s chores that she even lost appetite for most of the meals.
How can one woman compete with a whole system of a school or a kindergarten? Impossible! [shakes hands in the air]
Something clearly has to give. The accumulated fatigue from this rat-race is draining our resources. A “young” mother has little energy left by the end of the day to dedicate to her kids and her family. I am not even talking about taking care of her own body and soul.
The saddest part is that instead of living in a community of like-minded people who are happy to help, share and support, we pay endless amounts of money for baby-sitting, for house-cleaning, for pre-packaged food, and so on. The “so on” part can be rather dramatic for some, because it can also include – God forbid! – intoxications, depressions and all kinds of prescription drugs.
This kaleidoscope of obligations, expectations, pressures and bills started getting the better part of me, as well. Like literally! I will never forget the moment I was sitting at my GP’s office after the MRI scan, when she told me that I have an arthrosis of the fifth Lombard vertebrae, and a degeneration of the two discs above and below it, as a result of deformation. An irreversible condition, worsened by carrying heavy objects (read: kids) and sitting for prolonged periods of time (read: working at the office). This was my wake-up call. It is then that I knew I was literally carrying too much on my figurative shoulders, and that something needed to change.
For what it’s worth, I tried to find ways to simplify and streamline my daily life. I wanted to remain sane!
Several things helped me along the way.
One of them included sitting down with my husband and agreeing on fairly sharing responsibilities. I am blessed with my husband, who is ready to help me out. At the end of the day, it is in his own interest to see his wife happy and healthy rather than in a wheelchair.
Another important change that helped me was letting go of some perfectionistic ideas. Some examples:
- As my son started walking, I could accept to clean the floors every other day, or even every third day, instead of every single day.
- Letting a close friend of mine take care of one or both of our kids every now and then while my husband and I spend some quality time together. Even if that means having a walk somewhere nice or dining out. Or even better – taking a swing on the dance floor!
- Involving my eldest in the chores: playing with the little one, laying the table while I finish cooking, putting her own clothes on, helping me hang washed clothes for drying, etc. She might not do it the way I would, but it would get done, and that’s what matters. Plus, she is having fun while learning!
- Better planning ahead with the knowing of what needs to be done when and who can take responsibility for what. Rigid planning does not work with little kids, but flexible planning does!
But the biggest game changer in my life was a decision to completely revamp my professional activity. Stop the 9-5 and do my own online business. Work on my own terms. Of course, it implied an investment of time and some money in parallel to the regular daily routine, but it was oh-so-worth it! If you are interested in what I am talking about, then watch this space, as the story is to be continued!