Working mum stigma 

I’ll be honest, during my pregnancy I was unsure if I’d want to return to work after my baby was born. I thought I wanted to but I was very conscious that I wouldn’t know how I’d really feel about returning to work until my baby was here.

As silly as it sounds in hindsight, I was worried that I wouldn’t want to go back to my job when I became a mum. Logically, I knew that I’d be happy with either scenario – if I wanted to work I would, if I didn’t I wouldn’t. In any case I would be doing what I wanted to do so I’d be happy. Simple.

But that didn’t stop me from spending nine months worrying about how my life would be. What if I didn’t return to work?  What about the six years I spent studying? Could I cope with being a full time SAHM?

As it turned out, I knew within days of my daughter’s birth that I’d return to work. I love my daughter and my job and there’s no reason why I can’t have both.  But there is a certain stigma that comes with being a working mum.

1. Everyone thinks they should get a say in whether a mum should work

Any by everyone I mean everyone. Even, no, especially strangers.  Strangers – people who know nothing about me, my job, my family, my circumstances – seem to love telling me their opinions about whether I should work, more so than my own family and friends (you know, people who actually know me).

I have travelled to work on the train with my daughter since she was about a month old. Many strangers have made it clear to me that they don’t approve of my choices: ‘It’s such a shame your daughter has to go to day care at such a young age’ or ‘I didn’t return to work until my children were in school. I didn’t have children for someone else to raise them.’

Ahem. Hello stranger-who-knows-nothing-about-me. My daughter doesn’t go to day care (read more about that here). And even if she did, why does it affect you? And when did I ask for your advice? Oh, the gratuitous parenting advice!

2. The assumption that by deciding to work I love my child less 

This one just doesn’t make sense. In my case, I know that working makes me a better mum. Sure, I have difficult days, as do we all, but I have little doubt that going back to work has actually helped me settle in to motherhood so well. Yes, my life has changed drastically, but there are still large parts of my life (i.e. my career) that remain the unchanged. I have no doubt that this consistency has helped me cope.

That old cliché comes to mind: quality is more important that quantity.

But it’s true.  I make the most of the time I spend with my daughter. Try as I do, I just can’t spend hours entertaining her. I’m not one for TV, so the office environment and everything that comes with it (travelling on the train, meeting new people, new environments, lunch in new places, etc) provides an easy form of stimulation for her and enables me to enjoy the one on one time that we do have.

3. No one asks dad if he will return to work

The expectation is that mum will stay home, at least for some period of time, while dad goes off to work to support the family financially. No one thinks that dad loves his child any less because he has no choice but to go back to work.  Oh, that’s another thing, returning to work is always seen as a choice for mums but not for dads. It’s not always a choice for either, many families need (or want) two incomes.

Why do we still assume that mothers will give up their careers?

My husband and I had many conversations about this during my pregnancy. We never started from the assumption that I’d give up my job. Instead, our starting point was to work our how we could both work and care for our baby so that neither of us would have to give up our careers.

I am fortunate that my workplace is very supportive of working mums, but the what/when/why/how of the working mum debate is close to my heart and something I continue to explore.

55 COMMENTS

  1. Leri | 27th Oct 16

    You hit it right on the head! These things bothered me as well before I went to back to work. It is already difficult for me because I didn’t want to go back – I would give anything to be a SAHM. The judgement from people who don’t even know you and think they know better is the worst. In the end, you have to do what is best for your family, and you.

    • Lucy's Locket | 28th Oct 16

      Absolutely! I’m quite good at filtering out opinions that don’t matter to me, but it still bothers me that so many people think they should have a say in your life! Yes, you have to do what is best for your family and you are the best judge of that!

  2. Lydia C. Lee | 28th Oct 16

    It drives me bananas the way people comment on the mum’s working choice but never the dad’s. #StayClassyMama.

  3. barriebismark | 28th Oct 16

    Right on! I’m also a working mom. I feel like people are always thinking I don’t love my kids as much. There is a lot of guilt though…
    #brillblogposts

    • Lucy's Locket | 28th Oct 16

      Don’t feel guilty! You’re doing whats best for your family and that’s all that matters! Thanks for reading, glad you could relate

  4. Honest Mum | 28th Oct 16

    I’m so angry people felt they had the right to question your decision. When will there be equality-as you said no one comments on how the Dad returns to work, usually after 2 weeks x

  5. themotherhub | 28th Oct 16

    Youre right that everyone thinks they have a say in it – its down to each family what works for them. I also think its important to remember that a lot of people dont have a choice – some people cant afford to go back to work, and some cant afford to stay at home! you cant win #brillblogposts

    • Lucy's Locket | 28th Oct 16

      That’s a good point – sometimes day care is just too expensive!

  6. adventuresofmummyandme | 28th Oct 16

    This rings so true to me.

    I’m a working mun, dad is a full time sahd. The amount of comments we get about it is unreal. I don’t understand why people are so stuck on the traditional sense of parenting that they can’t grasp the concept of mum’s having a career, and/or dad’s being a sahp. It’s such a shame really.

    Thankfully my work are also really accommodating and I now get to leave work earlier in order to have family time in the evenings. Hubby’s work weren’t ao accommodating, plus he worked a good hours commute away, so he decided to stay at home. Works perfectly for us; just wish others would see it that way too!

    • Lucy's Locket | 28th Oct 16

      That’s awesome! I take my daughter to work with me at the moment, but when that doesn’t work my husband will stay home with her while I work part time.
      The idea of dad’s as babysitters is so outdated, but that’s a whole other post!
      Don’t worry about others opinions – whatever works for you. Plus you’re awesome for challenging the status quo and doing things your own way!
      Thanks for reading, so glad you could relate.

      • adventuresofmummyandme | 28th Oct 16

        Thanks! Your very lucky in that sense, unfortunately I don’t have that much flexibility with work, but at least I get to have evenings with them which alot of people don’t get. So best of both worlds and all that – shouldn’t complain!

        “babysitters” is actually a topic currently in my drafts! Will get around to finishing it sometime! ????

        • Lucy's Locket | 28th Oct 16

          Haha it’s in my drafts too!! I know what I want to say but I can’t get it out clearly. So it’s still a work in progress. Look forward to reading your thoughts ????

  7. twinkinsblog | 30th Oct 16

    Such a interesting read, and something I am quite worried about having just graduated from university and exploring my career options. I’ve always been highly ambitious, and since having my kids I always seem to worry whether someone (not my kids) will stop me from pursuing the dream job in the fashion industry. I do believe you can do it all, it is achievable, I guess we just need to stop caring about what other people have to say. Their not paying our bills! #FortheloveofBlog

    • Lucy's Locket | 30th Oct 16

      I believe you can do it all too. But we each have our own definition of ‘all’. My ‘having it all’ might look totally different to the next persons. That is why we shouldn’t care what others have to say!
      Best of luck with your new career

  8. Topfivemum | 30th Oct 16

    I went back to work full time after having my first child and I loved being back and feeling like ‘me’ again. I did struggle with this at first though, as even my own mother used to say (she was a SAHM) when I was growing up that she’d never pay for someone else to bring up her kids, what’s the point in having them etc. She’s not around today but I’m sure she would question my choice like so many others do. I’m off again with my second baby now and aim to get a better balance by going back part time (if they’ll let me!). But ultimately, I’m doing what’s right for me and my family. And as they say, happy mummy, happy baby. #fortheloveofBLOG

    • Lucy's Locket | 30th Oct 16

      Balance is key, but it’s tough. It changes all the time. The right balance today might not be right next week.
      I’ve had the comment about someone else raising your kids. It’s just a throw away line from someone who thinks they know better. Since when were kids ‘raised’ during the 8 hours we spend working? Last time I checked parenting was a 24/7 job!

  9. thealohamummy | 30th Oct 16

    Really good to read this! Particularly nosy strangers butting in. I’m currently on maternity and desperate to remain home with baby. Don’t get me wrong my job is great but for me knowing that Bubs is the final addition to our family I don’t want to miss a thing. Currently exploring options to make this dream become a reality!
    #stayclassymama

  10. gaboutth | 31st Oct 16

    Great post, I agree, it really depends on what works for your family. I have a four year old son and I’ve tried working full time, part time and being a SAHM. All have there ups and downs for sure. No woman should be made to feel guilty for wanting to pursue the career they have worked for, as well as bring up their children. #brillblogposts

  11. min1980 | 31st Oct 16

    It’s number 3 that gets me every time. You are right, no one asks dads when or if they are returning to work, or chastises them when they do. It’s almost always seen as something for mums alone to worry about. I’m a single mum so I have to work full time as my income is the only one, but it annoys me to think that if I was part of a couple, it would almost certainly be me who would be expected to drop hours. And you are right, our choices are no one else’s business but our own. #StayClassyMama

    • Lucy's Locket | 31st Oct 16

      It does tend to be seen as a mum problem. I’ve just had a quick peek at your blog. Good on you for chasing your Bub dreams!

  12. Angela Watling | 31st Oct 16

    Great post! My daughter started nursery at 11 months old and I went back to work before she turned 1. I loved my time off with her but I always knew I would go back. The focus and stamina you need to care for a child the entire day is incredible. Some people have that ability. Others, like me, need a different kind of stimulation. It makes me a better mother because, as you say, I value the time I do have with her. Each family demands a set-up that works for them – so no strangers should ever dole out advice! Glad things are going well for you 🙂 #fortheloveofBLOG

    • Lucy's Locket | 31st Oct 16

      I’m with you, I need the stimulation from work too. I’ve no doubt that taking care of own own needs makes us better parents. Thanks for reading

  13. Jakijellz | 1st Nov 16

    It bugs me that people even feel they have to make a comment. It’s such a personal choice and no one should be made to feel bad for the decision they make. Great post #fortheloveofBLOG

    • Lucy's Locket | 1st Nov 16

      It doesn’t get to me, I just find it interesting that so many people feel they should have an opinion! Thanks for reading

  14. The Mum Project | 2nd Nov 16

    YES yes and yes. The third point REALLY annoys me, husbands / dads never get asked, “how are you managing life as a new dad now that you are back at work?” They just get on with it and don’t even mention that they have a child. I have noticed men do not really talk about their children at work whereas women do. I’m not sure if that’s hindering us but I do know that denying the fact that you have a child is wrong, on so many levels. I really do wish it was more equal and that we, as mums, were not questioned on everything that we do. Oh life! Thanks for this thought-provoking post and sharing with #StayClassyMama!

  15. Peachy | 2nd Nov 16

    I’m pretty sure that people will judge no matter what a mother decides to do. The comments might be different and they would be coming out of different faces, but they would still be there in abundance. If you listen to the advice of other people, when it comes to be being a mom, no woman is doing it right. #GlobalBlogging

  16. Josefine | 3rd Nov 16

    Everybody are always so busy judging! Whether you’re a working mum or a SAHM someone, strangers often, always feel like sharing their words of wisdom! We all do what is right for our families and just because some people choose differently to oneself it doesn’t mean they are more or less right in their way of parenting. Thank you for a great post! xx

    • Lucy's Locket | 3rd Nov 16

      Exactly! If only more people thought this way! Thank you for reading

  17. Sunita | 5th Nov 16

    You’re right, everyone likes to make a comment whether you’re a working mum or a SAHM or a part-time SAHM. At the end of the day it’s our choice and our family life! #brillblogposts

  18. One Messy Mama | 5th Nov 16

    I remember all to well how it felt when I was working. The only reason I am not working now is because I am legally not allowed too. (I’m on my husbands visa) I remember wishing I could be at home and now that I am home I sometimes just want my office back. It’s so important for a mom to do what they feel is necessary for their family. xxx #globalblogging

  19. Hayley Mclean | 5th Nov 16

    All great points! It never ceases to amaze me how complete strangers have no qualms about sharing their opinions on your life choices…I would never dream of making comments like that and it baffles me how anyone thinks its appropriate to do so. #Sharingthebloglove

    • Lucy's Locket | 6th Nov 16

      I think people sometimes make comments as small talk because they don’t know what else to say

  20. katy255 | 6th Nov 16

    I went backwards and forwards throughout my maternity leave on whether I would go back to work or not. In the end I’ve found a different part time job, but like you, I knew that whatever choice I made I would be happy with it. I do remember meeting a neighbour who I didn’t really know but had her baby at the same time as me, and before I’d even mentioned whether I planned to go back to work or not, she came out with the ‘I didn’t have children for someone else to raise them’ line. I have to admit I was quite offended and we’ve not met up again! Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    • Lucy's Locket | 7th Nov 16

      I’m not surprised you didn’t meet up again! I wouldn’t have either. Thanks for reading 🙂

  21. dearbearandbeany | 9th Nov 16

    I’m amazed that people think its ok to make a judgement and comment on someone else life and the decisions they make. No questions the fact that dads get 2 weeks off and then have to go back. Why is that not questioned more? Everyone makes their decision based on what is right for them and their family. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove x

    • Lucy's Locket | 9th Nov 16

      Yep, me too! Raising children is still seen primarily as a mothers job rather than a joint responsibility. Thanks for hosting ☺️

  22. MummyTamTam | 18th Nov 16

    Great post! I can only agree, I do think working, going out, meeting other people make us better mums. My baby is 9 months now and I am looking for a job not because I don’t love her and not because I prefer working rather than taking care of her. I am sure I will enjoy better my time with her when I work. #ThatFridayLinky

    • Lucy's Locket | 18th Nov 16

      I feel the same way. I have no doubt that continuing to work has helped me settle in to motherhood so well. Good luck with the job hunt!

  23. Lucy Grace | 18th Nov 16

    So true! Especially when no one asks Dad if he will go back to work. It’s so expected isn’t it? I’ve tried so hard to balance motherhood and my own business, and I was coping relatively well. Now I find myself pregnant again, which is great and I am of course excited, but a little part of me is wondering what to do about my work. It’s so hard to balance!xx #thatfridaylinky

    • Lucy's Locket | 19th Nov 16

      Sometimes it feels like you’ve just got it right and something changes and you have to work it all out again. Congratulations on your pregnancy xx

  24. Jackie | 19th Nov 16

    I couldn’t agree more about the unsolicited advice. I’m a SAHM mum and the ‘so when do you go back to work’ question used to drive me mad. lt also makes me crazy that the baby is always seen as primarily the mothers problem. There is 100 percent a societal expectation that the mothers entire life should be unrecognisable after birth while for the father it’s business as usual. SO annoying!! #Thatfridaylinky

    • Lucy's Locket | 19th Nov 16

      I think people often say those kinds of things as a way to make conversation, but it is annoying. I’ve become much more conscious of saying these types of things myself since becoming a mum

  25. diynige | 20th Nov 16

    It’s so wrong that people ask this question of mum’s worklife on the other side people question why dads are stay at home dads all wrong let people be and do what they want great post Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

    • Lucy's Locket | 20th Nov 16

      Yes, we should all just let each other get on with it and do what makes us happy!

  26. DadvWorld | 20th Nov 16

    I hate the mentality of the majority of society regarding mums and dads. Other than the fact women can breastfeed if they so choose, once the baby is born someone please tell me what the difference is between a mum and a dad! There aren’t any!

    It should never be an assumption that a mum will do X purely because she’s a woman. Or that dad will do X because he’s the man.

    My wife goes to work and I’m what people now recognise as a stay at home dad, a phrase I got tired with very quickly. We home educate, I run a blog and a parenting network, along with all the joys that come from general parenting. I’m never at home so surely can’t be a stay at home dad.

    Women’s / mums careers are equally as important and strangers should keep their narrow minded views to themselves.

    • Lucy's Locket | 20th Nov 16

      Yes! Perfectly said. I’ve had this conversation many, many times. Aside from breastfeeding, there is nothing a mum can do that a dad can’t.
      I also don’t like the phrase stay at home mum/dad or even working mum/dad, but, like you say, that’s the label we are given and how people describe us. Thank you for commenting; I’m passionate about this topic and like finding others who feel the same.

  27. Twinmumanddad (@Twinmumanddad) | 20th Nov 16

    Before my girls were born, I was sure I wouldn’t want to go back to work, but after 1 years maternity leave I was itching to go back! Great post. Thanks for linking up to That Friday Linky

    • Lucy's Locket | 21st Nov 16

      I wasn’t sure either – you have no idea how you’ll feel when you become a parent. Thanks for hosting

  28. ShoeboxofM | 24th Nov 16

    This is a great post especially point 1. The unspoken (and sometimes spoken) assumption that parents haven’t already wrestled with these questions in making the decision.

    #ThatFridayLinky

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