I read that being a mother is like holding down two and half fulltime jobs.
“Taking care of children really is a full-time job; in fact, it’s two and a half, according to research which has found that the time mothers spend on parent-related tasks equates to a 98-hour working week.”
……98 HOURS A WEEK!!
No wonder then, when I asked a group of Mothers – what do Mothers want, what do we really need? – that many responded with:
“A day off.”
“Time off being mothers!!”
“To not always be the one in charge…to have someone to bear the load from time to time…a day/week/month off.”
We are the bosses. We are the directors, the managers, the creators, the production line and the cleaners. The ones making all the decisions throughout the day. If we make a mistake our appraisal is a harsh one. There are no uninterrupted tea breaks, we go to the toilet with an audience and our lunchtimes consist of left-over half eaten rice cakes. Plus, all of this is achieved and endured after having very little sleep.
We have been up all night with our babies who want to feed and cuddle, or to sooth our toddlers with a fever, or perhaps reassure our older children after a bad dream. In the middle of the night we tactically and with true stealth manage the full change of a bed. We are then up, just a few hours later, pouring coffee into our cereal and answering the door with our boobs out. We are to continue the day bleary eyed and foggy brained, but still require quick wit and a strong will to keep our small balls of energy cared for and entertained.
So, hang on, what is it that we need? Oh yes……
These comments from the collection of mothers I asked gives us a glimpse into the simple, but relevant things, that could help them thrive.
“Happy, healthy children. Closely followed by sleep, endless cups of tea, fat free chocolate, cleaner, more hours in the day. And so much more!”
“Someone to cook and bring me food.”
“Someone they can rely on to do stuff, without having to feel guilty about it. And someone to tell them (in a way they believe) that they’re doing a decent job and not f**ing everything up!”
“Support. Whether it be from other parents, friends or family, having someone to talk to/ask questions/offer a helping hand is so so important. It can feel very isolating and scary being the one charged with keeping tiny humans alive, and support with it is so so precious.”
“I’d also like sleep, time to eat/shower undisturbed and a lot less of the guilt every parent feels about almost every decision they make!”
“Sleep, support and someone to help with housework!”
“Someone to look after the kids so that they can take care of themselves when they are really sick!”
“A power team to silently and efficiently do the ironing, hoovering, cleaning, paperwork and shopping, so that a parent’s time can be freed up for career, self-care and engaging in a fun way with the kids (who won’t be kids for long!).”
“Support from partner/husband and from family friends, a bit of TLC, to be told it’s ok to not be ok, a listening ear, a good giggle, coffee and lots of it, oh and some sleep would be amazing (16 months of very little has almost broken me!)”
“Someone to tell them it’s ok not to be perfect and that they need to do what’s right for them and their babies…….not what everyone else may tell them to do!”
Oh, my goodness yes! We are surrounded by an overwhelming amount of ‘experts’, books, diagrams, advice and judgement. When, what Mothers actually need, is support, love and reassurance that they will find the answers, that they can find their own way, that they are doing just fine.
Yet, we very often finish our days without any sort of pat on the back and a ‘job well-done’. A couple of mums noted how “recognition” or “a thank you would be nice!!” We can regularly end our days questioning every decision we made, riddle ourselves with guilt that we didn’t maintain the calm and patient matriarch we so long to always be. Therefore, as Mothers we all agree, that friendships are essential in this challenging journey.
“A strong network and stable work life balance when possible.”
“Friends, sleep (pa ha ha), and lots of outside space – beach, woods etc!”
“Being asked ‘how are you?”
“Connection with other mums.”
“Normalising it all.”
“I had had the worst day. My friend came over to check in and, after weeping about feeling like the worst mother ever, we were laughing and sharing stories. She made me realise it was all completely normal.”
Motherhood can be one of the most isolating and loneliest times of our lives. Research has shown that loneliness is more fatal than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Studies at the Oxford University say that –
“Having a large, well-integrated social network has a significant impact on both physical and emotional health.”
Nurturing our friendships and our community is a significant factor in our health as women and mothers. Because when we have a network of people behind us cheering us on, we feel much stronger, more confident and, therefore, achieve so much more.
Finally, we identified that a huge part of becoming a confident and happy parent is keeping in touch with who we are. Many mothers experience the struggle of not being the women we once were. It takes time to recognise and appreciate our new selves.
Acknowledging that it is ok to want to have our careers as well as our children can feel like a big element to overcome.
“I, personally, need my career. I had tremendous PND due to lack of identity, which was alleviated when I returned to work. Not for everyone, but I’d be lost without it.”
“Recovering lack of identity. My experience was some years back, but it is vital.”
“Exercise … I don’t feel like me and lose my identity and my head without it!”
It is incredibly important to recognise these needs and to voice them to ourselves, and to those around us, so that we can get, not just more support, but the right support.
We know that it takes a village to raise a child. Therefore, it is vital that we build our teams and know what resources are available to us. We don’t have to do this alone; we must accept and ask for help more often. Our team, our tribe, our village will look different for all of us, but the more we reach out and connect the more we will get back.
I wish that all Mother’s may be given the gift of sleep, cups of tea, cooked food, a clean house, time with friends, time for yourself and time with nature this Mother’s Day and beyond.
Know this though – you are ALL doing AMAZING – be mega proud of yourselves, go easy on the tough days and, above all else, you are not alone.
Sources: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/mother-equivalent-2-jobs-full-time-childcare-98-hours-work-mum-survey-a8258676.html https://www.southernliving.com/healthy-living/spending-time-with-friends-good-for-you