WHEN KIDS ARE YOUR GUILTY SECRET
Recently I made a difficult decision to knock back an amazing job in an amazing company.
While all the spoils of a corporate high-flying job tempted me, I just couldn’t reconcile in my mind how I would balance the pressures of the job against the pressures of being a mum to young children.
The company persisted, declaring itself family friendly.
“We can be flexible. We don’t mind how you work, as long as you get the job done,” they said. But I wasn’t convinced, because my own experience tells me that no matter how hard it tries, big business is incompatible with parenting. Like mercury and water, milk and orange juice, sandals and socks – they just don’t mix well together.
In fact, the gap between these two worlds is so wide, some professionals feel compelled to hide the fact they are parents in the workplace.
This lesson was first served up to me when I returned to work fulltime after having my first child. A few weeks back behind the desk, I received one of ‘those calls’ from the daycare centre to inform me my son had a temperature.
With my ‘nervous-new-mother’ heart in my mouth I quickly blurted to my colleagues that my baby was sick, grabbed my bag and hurried to collect him.
The next day a female colleague inquired after my son and then whispered her advice over the partition: “Next time, don’t say your son is sick. Trust me. Never tell anyone you have to leave because of your children. Make something up – you, your partner, your dog – but never say it’s your kids.”
I was stunned. I was even more stunned when I asked other female colleagues whether I should refrain from referring to my children at work, and the majority of them agreed with firm silent nods.
Think about it. If you work in a corporate environment how often do you hear people openly talk about leaving early because they have to take their child to the doctor? The dentist? The specialist?
These things, these guaranteed features of parenting happen all the time, but are often disguised as something else.
And admit it, the ones that do openly declare they have to leave early to listen to little Johnny sing his heart out in the school choir are sometimes branded as ‘switched off’ or ‘disengaged’.
I know, because I’ve dished out this attitude to other working mums when I was a ‘before-child’ ambitious corporate bitch. Because I just didn’t get it what it was like to be a parent trying to hold down a fulltime job, while being the best parent possible.
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