The Never Ending Story of the ‘Superstar’ Working Mom
I’m astounded by what a little bit of wisdom can do. One’s mid- forties certainly come with some of life’s little treasures. That gift of introspection, the pearl of reflection and the beauty of inner debate gives a person a sound foundation on how to approach the future. The gift of celebrating successes, admitting defeat, but most importantly, that pearl of acceptance and being ok with it, has been the greatest revelation to me.
I’ve really struggled with being a ‘working Mom’. I’ve been desperately interested in the topic of ‘women in the workplace’, seeking continuously to find the answer to exactly what a successful working mother looks like? I even wrote a dissertation on the subject of “Women in the Workplace, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”. It was most interesting to see the study I came up with, when researching the top Fortune 500 female CEO’s and corporate heads in South Africa. A stay at home husband was the way to go, and the attributes of a typical female were the desired behaviours of future management styles. But when one looks beyond the pages of research, it is somehow not enough – it was certainly not enough for me.
I drove very carefully to hospital, trying to show the world who was boss. I was that superstar, or so I thought. My friend Lana insisted on talking to me the entire duration of the drive, worried I would have my baby in my car. Yes, I drove myself to hospital in labour. That gift of reflection comes in very handy at this stage. Words like ‘stupid’ are far too complimentary to describe how I feel about the situation. However with the joy of inner debate I’m forced to asked myself, “what was I thinking” and what was I trying to prove and to whom?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Last year as I put my two and a half year old to bed, my little Hannah-Beanie made a startling remark to me. She said “you know Mommy, I don’t know you, I don’t know you Mommy”. Those words will haunt me forever, but ironically they have been a gift. Earlier this year, I had a lot on my plate and had missed putting my children to bed quite a few times that month. One night I returned home from a business dinner and as I got into bed, my husband said, “Guess what Hannah asked me tonight”? “What” I replied. “Does Mommy not want to come home Daddy?” was his response.
The final nail in the coffin was when I attended my sister-in-laws 40th birthday party in the Natal Midlands. It was a weekend getaway of pure party and fun. I remember being introduced to Craig on the Friday night. I said “Nice to meet you Craig” . His response was “We’ve met. I met you on the beach in February. You were sitting on the beach working on your laptop”. I don’t have any recollection of working on my laptop on the beach. If I ever saw anyone sitting on the beach with laptop, “pathetic” somehow comes to mind. I was mortified and so embarrassed. It was such a pertinent moment for me. “What on earth was I thinking”?
Regrettably, there are many more stories similar to the ones I’ve just told. But I was forced to ask myself “What am I doing and who’s approval am I trying to seek”? Those moments of wisdom and reflection are pure gifts and opportunities for the future.
My decision to leave the corporate world shortly after these occurrences happened quite quickly, and in no time I found myself reflecting on my burn-out, family sacrifices, health issues and the many more things I had given up trying to be that ‘superstar’. I have been home for four and a half months now and it is the simple things that have fulfilled me the most. Quality time with the family has been the greatest gift, fetching my children from school, helping with homework and being a present, approachable Mom has been an exhilarating experience for me.
Do I have regrets? Yes, but I’ve gotten over that now. That’s the beauty of acceptance and acknowledging fears and insecurities, enduring and celebrating the journey of life. Do I love my work and discipline – yes, very much? Can I change things going forward – definitely? Can balance play a bigger role in my next job – yes? Can I change my work ethic going forward – absolutely?
The gift of introspection, the pearl of reflection and the beauty of inner debate has really given me a new solid foundation for the future. I’ve accepted my failures and mistakes, of not being there for my children and I’m ok with that. For the other working Moms out there – I really don’t have the answer to how one becomes a ‘superstar’. I’ve seen too many girls like me along the way and I suppose the only advice I have to give is that when that moment arises to take control of your life – go for it. You will not regret it.
As the comedian Lilly Tomlin said “if I had known what it would be like to have it all, I might have settled for less”.
It has been a pleasure sharing my story with you. Thank you for the reflection. I’ve loved every minute of it.
Till next time,
Follow Ursula on Twitter or email her on email@example.com