ARTICLES

WORKING LIVES & MOTHERHOOD
A perspective on the shift required

Setting the scene: Many women put themselves under enormous pressure when deciding whether or not to have a family. Often she feels her work defines her and this dichotomy can cause confusion and deep anxiety as she may not feel she can, or wants to, relinquish the reins on a career she is enjoying, one she is good at, which gives her a sense of achievement and which may also significantly contribute financially to her family's life. She may also feel she should have children. If she doesn’t, will she regret it? She might be under some pressure from her partner. Unfamiliar feelings creep in. She sees herself as a capable business/career woman - she wonders if she will also be a good mother? It is not only career women who put themselves under pressure - or feel pushed (real or imagined) - to start a family.

Whether we are focused on a career or not, motherhood isn't for everyone and it is vital that we are completely honest with ourselves about this important issue.

There appear to be three main issues here which typically affect working women about motherhood today:

1. How to really embrace motherhood and make the mental, emotional and practical adjustments required, especially when we have defined ourselves by our careers.

2. How to accept at a deeply personal level whether or not motherhood is right for our needs; and how to have the strength and courage to talk about this with those it affects.

3. How to adapt, cope and thrive as a single mother.


Our work cannot, and does not, define who we are. As women, we have the ability to wear many different hats and some of us are able swap from one to the other more easily than others. Sometimes we feel more alive and worthwhile when we are working either in business or doing something we perceive to be of value for others. Perhaps being part of a team, being the manager, being in a position of responsibility enables a woman to feel that she is the linchpin, the glue that holds it all together and the vital cog in the wheel of their workplace and/or commerce.

It is true that women are extremely capable beings but this can also be a downfall.

None of us can or should believe that we are indispensable, or that we will not get an equal sense of purpose and satisfaction from home life and being a mother. Intellectually, we do know this, but emotionally some women do fear feeling that they are somehow lesser beings if they are not in the workplace.

Over the past 20 years or more, there has been an immense increase in women believing they can have it all and, more to the point, do it all. However this has come at a great price to many professional women who strain to juggle children, husband and the huge mortgage in the constant quest to reach the next goal and the lifestyle they think they require in order to be ‘happy’.

In reality, what is being achieved more often than not and in addition to the material gains, is deep seated anxiety, unhappiness, chronic fatigue, repetitive illness, depression, resentment, anger and feeling as though they are somehow missing the plot of life? "Is this it?" Personal relationships begin to show cracks as the pace of life becomes untenable due to lack of time, focus, energy and passion to put things right or even care about the other person’s feelings or point of view. Our emotions become distorted through repetitive stress inducing behaviours and before long, if this goes long enough without being resolved, these new unsupportive patterns of behaviour are formed which affect all those around us.

In spite of it all, intelligent women continue to lead this destructive way of life and will continue on until something, often physical or mental health – their own or that of their loved ones, forces them to STOP and give attention to what needs addressing and adjusting in their life.

Life has a forceful way of bringing to our attention the things we are determined to ignore!

Can we happily combine parenting and motherhood with a fulfilling career? Yes of course! There needs to be honesty, self awareness, open discussion and team work. It is possible to achieve ‘balance’ - balance IS the objective here - but if we take our eye off the ball, which happens all too easily, the balance goes and either work, personal life or health suffers as a consequence. It is unrealistic to think that life can be exactly same after having a baby. Without taking this fact on board we are setting ourselves up for emotional difficulties and failures.

If you are a single parent, it is even more important to manage your work with home life - to support you - by ensuring that your employer respectfully knows and acknowledges your commitment to your dependent children. Life is more of a balancing act for a single parent of course and, for this reason, I cannot stress enough the importance of strengthening and quietening through meditation for the clarity and peace of mind it brings.

How can we avoid setting ourselves up for emotional difficulties and failures? Well, we begin by using meditation as a regular practice. This helps us to quieten the mind the monkey mind, the chatter that so often clouds reality and clarity of thought. When we are in transition we are often, as a result, also in a state of flux and our internal conversation can distort rationale. Secondly, through proper communication with partners and pre-baby planning, we begin to realise how life will alter and how we can best accommodate those changes together. You lead the way and organise your pre-baby planning time with your partner. Why not bring some of the business skills you have to this? Organisational and scheduling skills come to mind.

Meditation is a healing process. It is an on-going process that literally strengthens us at soul level, keeping us grounded on a daily basis and enabling us to recognise and be true to our own needs, thus helping us to make better decisions for ourselves and others.

At the other end of the parenting spectrum will inevitably come the day when our children leave home. ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ is very real and not surprising considering all the years we spend dedicating our lives to raising our family. It is another way women define their identity.

When our children are small, at school and even when doing senior school exams, it is hard to imagine that they will be competent enough to live independently - without us! We, over the years, have equipped our children with the skills they require to do just that when the time is right. We then have to learn, as parents, not to hold the reins too tight. We have to ‘let go’ and allow our children to learn at their own hands.

Now it’s time for the next phase of our own lives.

Life can never be the same and there is undoubtedly a real sense of loss akin to bereavement. We all hold on to what is, yet by letting go we allow ourselves to begin afresh and move forward to the next phase of our lives. We have a freedom we had forgotten existed but whilst feeling exhilarated by that fact, we are also daunted by it. It's not familiar. What to do next? How to use all the time we now have? Too many questions going around in our monkey minds!

Don’t panic! Give yourself time and space!

Meditation brings in peace and heightens intuition helping to bring clarity for the next steps. Perhaps this is the time to focus on adjusting your personal relationships, whether with your husband/partner or family and close friends. Maybe returning to a forsaken career is an option or beginning a completely different one. The horizon is wider than ever and as we strengthen and move forward we continue to set a healthy example to our now grown children.

Meditation helps build our confidence and our intuition - our guidance.

It would be a grave error to dismiss the fact that men too can be control freaks. We are not alone! They too will be going through a grieving period when children leave home and embark on their own lives. Again, good communication is important as we need to share these feelings and help each other with what is a massive alteration to our lives.

Moving forward in life is to understand that the shape and texture of our life can change and that to allow/permit this change we need also, through meditation to lose the fear of change, thus relinquishing the need to feel we must control every aspect of our lives and the lives of those we love.

It is paramount for emotional health and happiness, through meditation we learn to have enough faith to let go the reins.
Our vision is limited – there is a far bigger picture of which, from time to time, we are given a glimpse.

Most of us have fixed ideas about how things should be, the way they will happen and what is best for us and everyone we love. There is a fairly definite shape to our vision, but if we could take a step back from it, just for a moment, we might see that there could perhaps be another way. The shape may well not be exactly what we imagined according to our own inner vision and plans but, nonetheless, it is perfectly fine in its own very different way.

Life is fluid and we need to be flexible and willing to adjust. Rucking against the inevitable only causes deep unhappiness and distress and more often than not to no good end. We certainly don’t know it all and our way is not necessarily the only way or even the best way.

Meditation strengthens, brings in clarity of thought and real focus. It enables us to deal with any situation in a far more measured way. ‘Meditation is a Tool for Life’!

For best results, make 30 minutes of Peace of Mind Meditation a daily ritual.

Click here to purchase the CD.

Copyright: Sonia Wynn-Jones and Sue Blake 2010