Confessions of a working mum (by Zaidah)

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Confessions of a working mum (by Zaidah)

We're excited to publish our first guest post by Zaidah. I happened to come across a blog article written by Zaidah a few weeks ago and loved it, so I asked if she would do a special guest post for us. Thankfully she kindly agreed and has written an excellent piece on life as a working mum. Enjoy! - Mel
“You can’t rely and depend on a man entirely to provide for you and your kids because they can leave you anytime”.

Is this all too familiar to you? I am not an exception to this; growing up, I was raised to prioritise and value independence. So it was only a given that I would end up working at some point in life and earn my own living. If only being born with a silver spoon in your mouth or marrying into money were choices…

When I found out that I was expecting after six months of tying the knot, I was awash with sadness and fear, and felt this pregnancy was a prelude to a massive failure. Never mind that I had no prior experience of handling a baby—how am I, a career woman who harbours so much ambition and hope to break the glass ceiling or at the very least reach for it, able to “have it all” with motherhood as another full-time venture? This is an unpaid venture, one that requires you to work round-the-clock, and a thankless job at that?
I am a civilian personnel working alongside the military, so you can say this job requires precision and accuracy and without a doubt we cannot afford to make mistakes, even the slightest. My typical work day is characterized by the routine of replying to work emails and doing research, but some days demand more: meeting people from different agencies and foreign counterparts, delivering presentations and briefings at odd times, and work travel if I’m lucky enough. Other days, it means preparing and poring through documents. Some evenings, I have to make time for networking at work-related events.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do— I have always viewed public service as a noble calling. Not only does it put my six years abroad as a student of international affairs and security in perspective, but also, I have come to realize that this job has enabled me to support my husband in our effort to live comfortably. With the current economic climate now, being employed in the public sector is a blessing I should remember to be grateful for every time.

The downside to it all?

Having a full-time career comes at the expense of my ability to fulfill my duties a wife and mother. Now I’m not callow enough to think this experience only applies to me. Most women who I know work full-time, be it in public or private sector, have, to an extent, experienced something like this. I have to hide mommy guilt at work, but at the same time I have to hide my guilt for being out of office for family-related matters, all the while with a growing list of pending tasks to complete. Then there’s that unhealthy toxic part of work life, when politics and gossip permeate across different departments.
At the end of the work day, I find myself coming home with more things to complain and rant and vent. I come home not being able to commit 110% of my energy to the remaining hours with my son before he calls it a day. Because all the energy has gone to keeping everything together and staying sane in the face of all sorts of adversity at work. While some have been blessed with a wonderful helper, I have to embrace the supermom role whether I like it or not, and my 11-month old son goes to daycare during weekdays. I come home with a brief break before my mommy/wife duties start. Normally, I get home sometime after 5pm, and if work demands more of my time, dinner meals may either mean eating in a rush, or eating out. Knowing how indecisive I can be, dining out is a pain.

There would be days I start feeling low, seeing my friends having better social lives and actually have time for fitness set aside for themselves... all which I had before baby came into the picture. Several of my colleagues tell me to “take it easy” and remind me to take a break, to which I could reply with an eyeroll and a sigh behind their backs. Work always needs to be done no matter what. At home, forget about “proper rest”—the exhaustion is real when it comes to the broken sleep, keeping a home and a career. There would be moments at work where I feel I’m a bomb ready to detonate, but in reality I would come home crying to my husband who has been my strongest pillar of support, ready with a hug and a shoulder for me to cry on whenever I needed it.

It hurts me to say this, but this balancing act is killing me. Never mind that my boss thinks I'm difficult at work since becoming a wife, what more a mother. This constant and daily juggling act breaks me into pieces. Oh, how much easier life was pre-baby!

Often I ask myself if a glorious career is worth sacrificing family for. I keep telling myself that someone else can always do my work at the office if I’m missing for a day or when I am gone, but no one can do the work I do for my family. Then again, I wonder what purpose my college and graduate degrees would serve if I chose to stay home indefinitely. I could have stayed home and not kill myself for the sake of getting two fancy pieces of paper, you know?

Eleven months into motherhood, I still can’t answer myself. But there is one thing I know for sure: I have to be able to take care of me first and foremost before I can take care of everyone else.

This guest post is written by Zaidah. Zaidah is a policy wonk on weekdays and had long been a believer in work/life balance... until her firstborn arrived. Her new role at home brought her to instead embrace a work+life fit. She writes occasionally on her blog.

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