The pandemic is changing working motherhood

Confession of a working mom

photo-of-woman-showing-frustrations-on-her-face
Photo by Yan

Every day since my children were born, I waver between the desire to be a lawyer working on multiple lawsuits in a reputable law firm and the desire to stay at home, relax on the carpet surrounded by Legos and pirate boats and watch cartoons with my children. Then, the pandemic hits me hard, and I can’t even make choices anymore”. How much does this story resonate with you?

Every woman must be able to choose freely between three options: the first is to work and not be a mother without being judged or accused; the second is to be a mother and make a career at the same time; the third is to be just a mother. None of these three choices should be penalizing; none should be misjudged. In our society, however, women are forced to balance an alternative between the three options, as if they were jugglers.

Whatever the numbers, which still reveal a significant disparity between men and women, the problem lies in the mentality that drives the work market: in this system, the man must work and the woman, on the other hand, may work.

I think that women are always exposed to pressures that often result in a kind of psychological violence. This violence expresses itself in paternalistic attitudes and denies the freedom and ability of every woman to make decisions about her body (and soul) and her working life.

I loved my job. I could work well beyond office hours to complete a task, to satisfy a client’s request or to schedule my team’s work. I was tired but, in the evening, I could recover my energy by playing sports or going for a walk or spending time with my partner or friends. A life that satisfied me completely, or so I thought.

Then comes the pregnancy. So long desired, long sought after, arduously achieved and there I am, crazy with joy, totally immersed in my happiness as a mother-to-be. A thousand dreams: all the things I will do with my baby, all the places I will take him or her, the games we will play together and discoveries we will do. The heart was full of expectations and ready to welcome a new life into ours.

The news: “Ma’am, you’re expecting twins.” Panic. Two kids and no experience? My family was living in another region because I had decided to leave to pursue my job, so I felt lost. But only for a short time. I knew I could count on my husband; I knew he would be able to take on the role of a father consciously. And indeed, he was, a present and active father, I would say a second mother.

My babies are born, and I fall so madly in love with them that I lose my rational brain. I am a lioness ready to attack anyone who can put them in danger, a terrible bear who defends her cubs with claws and sharp teeth. I am a fury of love.

And I bang my head against the wall every night because it’s hard to be the mother of two premature babies, I don’t know what to do, and I learn by trial and error. I’m immensely happy, but I look in the mirror, and alone in the bathroom, I cry. It’s hard. But I keep going because I’m a tough guy, and I don’t give up! I can’t give up.

Then, the time comes to go back to the office, it’s only been five months, and I’m not ready, but mine is a “forced choice”, like that of many women. I have to go back, or I lose my job. I hire a babysitter and start working, then as soon as the children can go to the nursery, I return full-time to the office.

My nightmare begins.

I am exhausted, terribly tired because at night I don’t sleep because my children don’t sleep, and during the day I have to prepare plans, analyze data, develop and deliver projects with strict delivery dates. I can’t concentrate; I feel like I’m going crazy. What are my kids doing now? Are they quiet? Are they afraid? “I abandoned them” this thought always comes back to me. “No, they’re having fun, they’re playing, and they have great nannies.” It’s true, my babies are good, and they have a lot of fun at the daycare; they have toys, support, everything they need. But. They learn to walk without me, they learn a new word without me, they discover a new game, and I’m not there. My guilt gets worse every day. I would like to spend my days playing with my children on the carpet, take them to the park, take a nap with them but I can’t because my job demands at least 8 hours a day.

I can ask for holidays or maternity leave, but I have to give a thousand explanations, record them, count them, measure them, ask colleagues to finish my job; and employers control productivity, showing unsatisfied faces. I have to continually prove that the quality of my work is good, that I am productive. It is exhausting.

The hostile attitude contributes to my sense of guilt; it is the cause of an already nasty mood and leads me to feel inadequate. Not a good project manager and not a good mother. Every time I am late for a business meeting, I feel guilty because I am not with my children. Whenever I don’t go to the office because my children are sick, I feel guilty because I didn’t complete a project or failed the delivery.

I firmly believe that it is not natural to leave such little children in other people’s care to go to the office. And I also think it’s not right to lose or give up my job because I had children. I feel like I’m a victim of injustice. Only later on did I begin to ask myself the question: was mine a real choice? Today I can say no.

Are we really free to choose?

Everyone, at least in the Western world, is convinced that we can determine our own destiny and that we are capable of free will. Even those who are cynical and think that the world is dominated by the choices of others and are convinced that they cannot change their lives are equally persuaded that they have some decision-making power.

The thought of ourselves as intelligent beings capable of making free choices makes us feel alive. But this is not always true: women often do not make free choices, for two fundamental reasons:

  • We are limited by context: our choices are dictated by the historical period in which we live, by culture, education, society, the people around us.
  • We are limited by the invisible: our fears block us. Our negative thoughts, our imposed or even self-imposed limiting beliefs prevent us from making conscious choices. This attitude also makes us vulnerable to influences from the outside world and other people.

What is the way out?

woman on a swing Photo by Artem Beliaikin
Photo by Artem Beliaikin

Awareness. We can grow our action and be aware of the context in which we live, the conditioning and how many external factors influence our choices.

Awareness is a path, which we must build step by step, and following this transformation, we will know when the time is right to make a change of direction.

In my case, the path to awareness has been slow and tormented. I knew I was not happy, and I knew that I was not living my life and motherhood as I had imagined it, but I was not ready to renounce.

In every decision, as an opportunity or necessity when faced with a problem, we make a choice, but at the same time, we renounce to something. I thought that living my motherhood to the fullest meant losing the job that I loved and which also gave me a good income. I felt trapped, and for ten years, I tried to do everything possible (trust me, even miracles!) to give 100% as a mom and 100% as a project manager. The result? Well, you will have already understood it: sadness, depression and endless tiredness, I was completely without energy.

I began to think that freedom, as a condition and experience, manifests itself in the possibility of making conscious choices. The deprivation of this possibility suppresses freedom. I was not free, but there is something else.

Freedom is not only linked to an external condition but above all, to an internal state. What if I do not feel free because I have deprived myself of the possibility of choice? There is always a way out but, perhaps, the right time must come to see it.

And so, after 20 long years working as a project manager, I was aware that I was no longer myself, that I was not the person I had wanted to be; the lack of choice and freedom had turned me into the ghost of myself, tired and sad.

I gathered all my courage. I squeezed every particle of courage out of every cell in my body and decided to take my life back. I chose to live authentically and to build my own business that would not impose on me the limits dictated by others.

I did it not only for myself but especially for my children and my family. At that exact moment when I decided to quit my job, I knew that I would lose a secure salary, but I knew that by investing in myself I would soon gain freedom, happiness, time and then also money.

I started my new career by entering the digital economy and exploiting the potential that the Internet and globality offer us. I understood that we are in an era of transition, the traditional economy is destined to die, and above all, it is not egalitarian. The gender pay gap is still high, all over the world; management roles are reserved for men, in many countries; there are no equal opportunities between men and women; and motherhood is still considered a penalty.

You get pregnant and see career opportunities fade away, while you’re at home with the baby, one of your male colleagues will advance in the promotion and, if you’re unlucky, you’ll lose your job and have to look for another one. I said “Enough!” to this system. And then the Covid-19 crisis proved me right (unfortunately) because it accelerated and emphasized this whole mechanism. The pandemic crisis hit women harder.

When you’re in the digital landscape, there’s no difference in gender, colour or pay. Everything depends only on you. That’s why you can’t jump out there if you’re not prepared.

When I took my first steps, I was totally lost because there was so much information, so many possibilities and I felt confused and alone. I was sceptical, I was afraid, and I knew I was technically very weak. Then, I realized what I had to do first: learn! I found an outstanding program that guided me step by step through the various opportunities and possibilities. A course that gave me not only the tools but above all, gave me a community of motivated people who are willing to help at all times. I found a group of individuals who share my values and with whom I can feel deeply connected.

The change

flower and butterfly_Photo by Pixabay
Photo By Pixabay

My life has changed. I got a new mindset. I started a path of personal development that also leads me to build my business and be successful in my working life. I no longer have to renounce spending time with my children and my husband – I finally have time. Time! It was a dream for me to live my time freely. I used to wish to add 1 or 2 hours to the day to finish all the tasks, and now I can decide how best to use my days. That makes me feel so happy and empowered.

I’m here to tell you to think about it. It’s not too late. It’s not true that you’re not capable and that you don’t have the technical knowledge: that’s what society conditions you to think. It is true that it takes courage, strength and above all, it is true that you have to work hard, because there are so many things to learn and because without working like crazy you won’t be fulfilled.

The pandemic crisis is dangerous because it creates recession and cuts jobs; you need to get ready for the change and reinvent yourself. This is the course that led me to launch my career online, register here to get the Free Training: you will receive a series of emails and tutorials that will explain what it is about, will help you clarify doubts and questions, and will prepare you to start.

If, with this blog, I have helped even one woman to start her new business and a new life then it will be a great victory for me. My torment and my pain were not in vain; they helped me to be aware, to make a conscious choice and to change my life. I know you feel this pain inside too. I’m not saying to quit your job now, but start getting ready, the time will come when you can leave it. If you don’t have a job or you just lost it, start now! It’s the right time.

We (women) must be able to choose and not be forced to choose: where there is no freedom, there is no choice. The Covid-19 pandemic has cruelly offered us this new chance to reshape work and life: at the moment, women are most affected by the economic crisis and, if we do not take up this opportunity today, I fear that we will miss yet another occasion to redeem ourselves from that “cage”. Let us learn to create a position of equality and freedom of choice.

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