This article is by staff writer Amanda.
So my eldest child went to camp for the first time today.
He has been away from home before, but he has only ever been in the care of family – except for the odd sleep over at a friend’s place – and what I found amazing was how quickly I transitioned back into ‘that mother’.
You know the one – the ‘I forgot to pack tissues’, ‘I should have bought him a new suitcase’ (the Powers Bitter bag is 20 years old, was free and is perhaps a tad inappropriate for an 11 year old to be carrying around), ‘I want to wave him off but I’ve really got to get to work and they did say they didn’t want parents hanging around.’
Maybe if I just stay a minute more it will ease that lump in my throat… I hope he doesn’t think I’ve left too early… the other mothers are staying… but I know they don’t have to get to work… hey there’s Sarah, she works but it looks like she’s taken the day off… maybe I should have done that… bad mother??? Arrggghhh! Some days it’s all just too much.
It got me thinking about an argument that my mum has had with her brother over the years about whether being a parent is selfless or selfish.
I never know quite which side to take because both arguments make a lot of sense.
On the one hand I think it is selfish – you want a baby, you fall pregnant (or at least do everything in your power to), you have a baby. Pretty selfish. The human you have brought into the world didn’t have any choice in the matter did they?
On the other hand – how immediately does all that change when your beautiful human being arrives and you realise that for the rest of your life you will only ever come second place to them. I’d definitely classify that sentiment, and the subsequent lifelong actions, as selfless.
Both sides can also be argued for the mother who returns to work: is it a choice or a necessity?
The mothers considered ‘selfish’ seem to be tarnished with the need to create excuses such as, ‘Well I was just not being challenged at home’, ‘I just needed more adult conversation in my life’, ‘ I had to go back to work because of the mortgage/rent/credit card/holiday coming up’.
Mostly the excuses are created to appease the other mothers (or even your own parents) who don’t return to work and/or the work colleagues who don’t want a ‘mother’ back in the workplace. “You know they get to take extra leave because of the kids.” “I don’t even reckon her kids are sick she just needed a day off to do the Christmas shopping.” “Leaving early again. I wish I had kids so I could have an excuse to leave early.”
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a working mum described as selfless but you know what, I’ve met many that are.
The ones that go back to work because their workplace won’t give them a part time option, the ones that don’t think they are good enough mums and their child would learn more if they were in kindy, the ones that simply want to keep food on the table and a roof over their head, the ones that aren’t coping and think that everyone in the family will be better off if they go back to work.
Our work and our career are often how society defines us and how we define ourselves. It’s how we become adults after being children for so long. We work hard and get pretty good at what we do and then – we have a baby.
Another human being is now completely dependent on us – how on earth can we be good enough to do this properly when yesterday losing a Word document was considered a ‘disaster’.
We have to learn about ourselves all over again. About who we really are as adults and who we want to be as parents. Work was a piece of cake compared to raising a child and occasionally we even got recognition for what we did.
Returning to work – selfish or selfless?
You decide, but I like to believe that every woman does her best to make the best choices for her family. We might not always get it right but we do always think of others in our deliberations.