Parenting as a Working Mother
Updated: Jan 4, 2019
Parenting is a big challenge and one of the questions I’m often asked is how I managed being a mother and having a surgical career at the same time. The truth is I didn’t over think it at the time. When you have to, you find solutions. The hardest part of being a parent is remembering that it is not about you. It is about enabling your children to grow into independent, free thinking adults who understand the process of choice and consequence so they can accept responsibility, handle the outcomes of both good and poor choices, deal what life hands them and make the most of it. The biggest error is to underestimate kids… they see, they know and they understand a lot more than often given credit for. At the same time it is important to remember that they are kids. Unstructured time to play, imagine and get bored are important parts of childhood. The role a parent plays transitions quickly from one of protection to one of confidante and mentor.
Now, as a mother of adult children, I can look back to what worked and ask for feedback from them. Based on this, here are a few tips:
The most pleasantly surprising feedback my children gave me was that until I went through divorce, they never realised I worked often more than 80 hours a week. They felt that when I was with them, I was with them and that provided a sense of safety and love. Turn off your phone and TV, get down and play, eat together and don’t worry about housework and washing, it will still be there tomorrow. Be with your kids.
Outsource as much as possible the stuff that is not quality. Get a cleaner, someone to do the garden or pool, or get help with the washing. Buy cloths that don’t need ironing. I haven’t owned an iron for over 10 years. Your time is the best gift you can give your children.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Don’t make a big deal about things that are really not that important. In a normal household, things will get broken, clothes will get torn, mud will come inside, floors will get marked, bags will get left in the hall and lunch boxes will at some stage contain mouldy food. Getting upset is a waste of time. Instead teach them how to clean up the pieces, mop the floor, patch their clothes, get up when they trip over their bags and hold their noses when emptying out the lunch box.
Teach them to think rather than say “No”
As a mother during the teenage years, one of my biggest wins was in learning not to say “no”. Instead, if the idea was to go to out somewhere, we would walk through the scenario: how were they getting there, where were they going, what would they do if a, b or c happened, how would they get home and so on. 99% of the time the conclusion was the same as mine … it wasn’t a good idea. I learned to keep a poker face and reluctantly agree whilst cheering on the inside. When they could complete the scenario, they could go out or undertake the activity. As a result, both my children now give me lessons on catching public transport and safe traveling with taxis and Uber!
These may not work for everyone, and goodness knows that there were definitely some parenting ideals I didn’t deliver on well, but I have a great mother-child relationship with both my children, they are independent and have tools to work out their own life plans with the focus on thriving rather than success. I am truly a blessed parent.