It doesn’t have to be an “either/or” between motherhood and your career

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“Women can have a job and a family, it is okay.” At the P&G APAC #WeSeeEqual Summit 2019, guest speaker Tiffany Dufu (L), Author of Drop the Ball, and Priyali Kamath (R), P&G Vice President, Skin & Personal Care talked about re-evaluating expectations and engaging others for assistance to flourish at work and develop more meaningful relationships at home.

Most mums, maybe including you reading this, feel guilty for just about everything. From the food you give to your child, the lifestyle you are able to give them, and the amount of time you spend with them—in all these, mums often feel like they are not doing enough and being enough.

Whether it’s something you did or didn’t do—or perhaps, didn’t do enough of—there is always that nagging feeling of guilt mums carry on a day-to-day basis.

This is especially true among working mums which has resulted in a number of women leaving their careers to focus on parenting at home, while other women choose to not start a family at all.

In the recently concluded Asia Pacific #WeSeeEqual Summit organised by multinational firm Procter & Gamble (P&G), the key theme was the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles.

The conference, now in its second year, brings together private and public sector leaders to discuss gender inequality in the workplace, as well as the stereotypes around women in the workforce—particularly mothers.

The day-long program featured influential personalities and leaders from around the world, including former Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, and UN Women Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Mohammad Naciri. Drop The Ball: Achieving More By Doing Less author, and Tiffany Dufu, and 4D Performance chief executive officer, Dr Indigo Triplett were also in attendance. These women shared their experiences in overcoming bias, spearheading greater diversity and equality, and being equal partners in the workplace and at home.

It doesn’t have to be an “either/or”

Assumptions such as the negative impacts of having a career to a woman’s motherhood and how motherhood affects a woman’s commitment to her jobs still exist today.

And because we have, time and again, heard and read about women who are discriminated against for their motherhood or pregnancy status—for stereotypes that dictate what women can and cannot achieve—we asked some of the panellists what it means to have a career and a family at the same time. We also asked how they have overcome the “guilt” for being a working mum, and what they have to say to women who have yet to break free from the “working mum guilt.”

One of the panellist at the summit, Dr Indigo Triplett said: “We have to give each other, as women, permission to choose what we choose. If a woman chooses to stay home and be a stay-at-home mother, give her permission. And if a woman chooses to have a career, give that woman the same permission and don’t criticize her for making that choice. It’s about giving her permission to make a choice.”

But Dr Triplett added that the choice doesn’t have to be between having a career or having a family. “It doesn't have to be a choice between [having a career or having a family]. As women, we have to start working out of the ‘either-or’ and start working in the space of ‘and,” she said. “Women can have a job and a family, it is okay.”

The right kind of being present

The reality, however, this working mum guilt lingers and will only make you feel worse. And the only way to combat it is making peace with the “arrangement” that works for you and your family—and understand that even though working means spending time away from the kids, it all boils down to what you make of it.

So when you feel bad that you’re missing your child in the times you spend at work, you must remind yourself that it is not in the number of times we are with them, but the quality of time we spend with them.

In fact, spending time away from your child can sometimes be a good thing—believe it or not.

Case in point is a story shared to us by P&G Vice President for Skin & Personal Care, Priyali Kamath at the summit. During a one-on-one interview with theAsianparent, she explained how that time away from her child has helped cherish the time she spends with him more.

“The fact that I do not get to see my child 24/7 makes value the time I have with my child so much more that I am very switched on when I come home,” said Kamath, adding that what matters is not just being present, but the right kind of being present.

“I spent the first six months making sure I attend to my child personally because of the idea that I have to be there 24/7—washing his clothes, make sure I iron them myself, and making the baby puree myself. And then I realised, doing all of those has made me so exhausted that I wasn’t actually talking to him—I was not relating,” she tells theAsianparent, adding that when it comes to spending time with children, it’s about being there and relating with them.

“And that’s when I gave it a thought that perhaps doing the things that I thought were for him was actually keeping me away from him. So really, it’s about giving [our children] the best we can by relating [with them]. In my case, it was being mentally switched around him,” she concluded.

Making the choice

Ultimately, as women—whether you’re a mum or not—whatever choice we make affects us and the people around us by what we make up of these choices. What matters most is that the choice we make are of our own and not of what we think people around us will find acceptable.

“I think not enough mothers take the time to actually make the choice—they often default to societies' expectations and choice. But if women take the time to intentionally make the choice for themselves, it becomes different. They will know that they are coming from a place of their own power as opposed to feeling pressure from expectations of people around them,” said Dufu.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that the ultimate judge as to whether or not we are good parents is not the society, it’s not ourselves, it’s our children. Whatever we do, as long as we do it out of our love for them, is what they will remember and live by.

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Written by

Nikki De Guzman