Everyone struggles with competing challenges on their time. For working parents this is heightened and it seems especially so for working mothers.
As the child of a mother who worked, I come with good news for parents: it is perfectly fine not to be there for every assembly, class presentation, sports carnival or extra-curricular activity.
Because my mum worked, when she was there it was even more special. There is a distinct age-gap between myself and my two older siblings so by the time that I entered this world my parents were both in full-swing back at work. This meant that I spent a lot of my early years in childcare, with relatives or with mum at work behind her desk.
At the beginning of every school year, mum and I would have a similar conversation. She would tell me that she wasn’t always going to be there but that she would always try her best. This was a mature conversation to have with me and one that I valued greatly.
When Marina Go wrote about how she is struggling with this on Friday, I was reading the familiar stories of a mother under pressure.
I know that my mum and dad were working to give me and my brothers as many opportunities as they could. While we are all very different people, we have all pursued our goals with zest. Why? Because each of us saw our parents putting in hard work which instilled in us a duty to do our best at whatever we invested our time in.
I remember when I was elected a prefect in my final year of school, like Marina’s son. The parents had been notified prior and invited to attend. Neither of my parents could make it.
Later in the day I texted mum the significant news and she responded with a typical “OMG” message. The next night we went out for dinner and celebrated the good news together.
Mum always used what resources she had to make me feel special. Sometimes she’d go out of her way and do something just for me, other times that meant having my grandparents attend for her.
When mum could make it to different school events it always made me the proudest kid. It might have been for only for 10 or 15 minutes, but that was damn special.
I knew that she had made time for me and that she couldn’t always do that. Her time was valuable and that coming to school was not the most convenient thing. I used to struggle with articulating that, but I get it now.
There is no point for women to be agonising over every event that happens for their children. No working parent can make every event, no matter how hard they try.
Being guilt-ridden isn’t helpful. If you can’t make it to the next school function, do not stress about it. Let your kids know that you do want to be there but won’t be because of other pressures.
It is important to empower your children to be independent and confident to have these experiences on their own. Be interested and support your children every way that you can.
Perhaps one of the reasons I back women so much is because mum was so honest with me. She always told me why she couldn’t be there, invariably that had something to do with work.
Everyone finds a different balance to manage their professional and personal lives.