What not to say to working mums
Mums everywhere will know that going back to work after kids is one of the hardest choices you’ll ever make. For many women, it’s not a matter of “Will I?” but, “When will I?”, and even then the timing can be completely out of your hands. Hello, bills. To top it off, many working mums have to deal with everyone else’s opinions about their return to work. We’ve rounded up some of the most frustrating comments made by co-workers, family members and other mums, to give a bit of insight into what working mums really don’t need to hear as they juggle work and kids.
“There’s no way I could go back to work. I’d miss my kids too much.”
Sure, we kiss our kids goodbye in the morning and then show up to work and operate like seasoned professionals, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t miss them. We just get on with it.
“How do you feel about leaving your kids in childcare when they’re so young?”
This is a comment that’s loaded with all kinds of assumptions. Maybe the mum you’re talking to didn’t have the flexibility of choosing exactly when to go back to work. She probably already feels awful about that, as well as being stressed out about money. On the other hand, some women can’t wait to get back into their career and comments like this just make them feel guilty for being ambitious. You’re best to just steer clear of this topic of conversation.
“At least you're getting a break from the kids”
Yes, going to work does entail time away from the stresses of parenting, but you can’t assume working mums aren’t walking straight into stress of a different kind in their workplace. You also can’t assume working mums actually want time away from their kids. Many working parents are actually longing for quality time with their children, because even when they are home they’re often catching up on general housework and cleaning.
“Why do you care about your job so much?"
As previously suggested many mums return to work not out of love for the job and ambition, but financial necessity. But if they have returned to work for the love of it, it’s not your call to make a judgement. They will have made their decision based on what is best for them and their family, or even on what positive impact they can have on their wider community, and that’s their perogative. You don’t need to understand their thought processes; you just need to understand we’re all, thankfully, wired differently.
“Maybe this job isn’t right for you."
Assuming that a working mum can’t perform her job to the same ability as another colleague isn’t just rude, it’s discrimination. And it’s exactly what Natasha Stewart, founder of Business Jump, experienced when she returned to work eight weeks after having her daughter. She was dismissed without adequate explanation, and later found out it was because she no longer fit the (much younger) office culture. Rather than trying to meet unreasonable expectations, Natasha realised that she could make work suit her: she started her own online business. Now she helps other new mums do the same through Business Jump.
“I understand how hard it can be for mums going back to work,” Natasha says. “Sometimes workplaces don’t offer the right environment for mums returning to work and you just need to go your own way.”
Check out Business Jump if you’re interested in creating your own online business.