The world of work for women has changed significantly over the years. Despite so many changes and shifts in working patterns, arrangements and responsibilities, there remain some very real challenges for women.
If you are a regular reader of the blog, you might have read my article questioning why motherhood was so undervalued. I talked about how women’s decision making power within a relationship is often diminished because they either don’t earn anything as they are caring for children, or they earn significantly less than their partner because they are juggling both the role of working parent and motherhood, to try to find a balance that works for the family.
Once children are born, it’s common for parents to alter the way in which they work. The specific way in which those patterns of work change differ hugely between families, and also change and develop as children grow and also as more children are born into a family, and parents try to work out how to juggle work and family commitments and responsibilities.
Being everything to everyone, all of the time
Often, for many mothers these situations are not ‘choices’ as such but tough trade offs. Whilst these days many men and women share roles equally, and many more at least share the parenting responsibilities when they are not working, based on conversations I’ve had with many women, there are still so many relationships where their lack of, or reduced earning capacity places women in a position where their role as a mother is hugely undervalued. By their partners and others.
Nothing about modern motherhood is simple or easy and that’s the problem with the modern day mummy. There is no longer a ‘typical mum’, or a simple definition of a mother. We are expected to be everything to everyone all of the time, to take on every role in our lives with ease.
Whilst in the past it was a man’s job to provide for his family and a women’s job to care for the family and the home, that is now no longer the case. These days is is widely regarded that men should play a more active role in home life, and women, well women should just be able to do everything all of the time.
There are men still today who will openly say they don’t want children in childcare, but then also want their partners to contribute financially. Many women, want to perform both roles and both raise and support their family. This is where the mass of women working from home kicks in, but somehow, somehow it’s still not regarded as enough.
We are criticised no matter what arrangements we have as mothers and no matter what our work/life balance is.
Now let’s get the stereotypes out of the way quickly. There are mums with businesses working from home around the needs of their children who don’t have to. They don’t need to work to provide for their families because their partners can do that without their contribution. These mums do exist and whilst they may want to work, the pressure to financially contribute is not there.
For the bulk of mums setting up their work from home this is not the case, however, many are treated by others as if their business is a little hobby to keep them busy and not a proper job. To say that is grossly insulting would be a catastrophic understatement.
Women who care for their children full time at home and work from home around the needs of their family suffer negative comments and criticisms, just like mothers in other situations.
Often the men who insist that women care for children full time instead of using childcare, are also likely to be the men who are the least supportive of any working from home venture.
Women without the support of a rational partner can end up in a situation whereby they are being pressured to perform and ‘produce’ financially in their new homeworking role, whilst still caring 24/7 for the children and the home.
Bizarrely this seems somehow a backwards step from the traditional role of a women – how can we have come to this? If you need to make money from your homeworking business, discuss expectations with your partner in advance. Freelance working or even a franchise or new business is not an exact science, there are no guarantees and your income is likely to be inconsistent. That is often the price you pay for flexible working around your children.
Carving out ‘work’ time
This can be one of the hardest things to do when you work from home. If your children are in school or playgroup for part of a day then you can dedicate time to work then, for many mums in this situation though, work time is when the children are asleep.
That’s OK if you are blessed with good sleepers, but when you are not that can make things even tougher and the pressure can be even greater. This also leaves very little time for any relaxation, exercise or sleep of your own.
Working from home also leaves you open to being taken advantage of by others, largely because your work is not valued as ‘real work’ and because you are adopting a flexible approach to meet the needs of your family, so why can’t you be flexible to their needs as well? If you aren’t careful you can get involved in helping others out and leaving yourself even more tight on time.
If you have a supportive partner and you go into your working from home business with your eyes open and aware of some of these potential challenges, it can be fantastic. Many women report amazing success and ‘balance’ from working in this way. Just keep your eyes open!