A few weeks ago I was sitting in my usual sofa spot during Hazel’s afternoon nap. She’d been grizzly all day (teeth, leap, growth spurt… one of those) and I was knackered. But instead of sitting scrolling Instagram and mainlining Diet Coke like I should’ve been, I was simultaneously working, adding my upcoming study dates into the family calendar and texting my mum about childcare. I was staring down the barrel of serious overload – working practically full-time, studying for a degree and rearing a ‘spirited’ 9-month old. That week, I was the epitome of a hashtag MumBoss.
“Actually I can… say no to stuff”
As women, we’re used to giving 110% percent at work – we’re constantly fighting against the pay gap, sexism, discrimination and for women of colour, working class women and women with disabilities, racism, classism and ableism respectively.
But the notion that you should be ‘working on your brand’ all day every day, running multiple ‘side hustles’, keeping your Insta game on-point and visually merchandising your desk every morning leaves us at risk of serious burnout. And it seems things don’t let up when you have a baby – you’re expected to move seamlessly from #GirlBoss to #MumBoss.
In 2017, maternity leave isn’t just for sitting around on your arse during naptime and going out for lunch with your NCT group. You should be starting a freelance craft business and promoting it via a beautifully-curated Instagram. You need to resurrect your long-forgotten blog and share wise words on motherhood punctuated with soft focus shots of your immaculately-dressed baby. If you’re going back to work, get your Keeping In Touch days sorted asap and don’t forget to pick up your emails – you wouldn’t want to be forgotten. And why not do some studying while you’re at it – you can write your essays when baby’s in bed! Who cares if baby doesn’t actually sleep ever and you’re permanently exhausted! You’re a #MumBoss, you got this *biceps emoji*
In reality, the #MumBoss movement stems from idea that mums should still ‘have it all’ despite a working world set up to systematically fail them. There’s no room for rest and relaxation here. No time for taking your shitty company to a tribunal because they fired you while you were pregnant – just start a ‘network marketing business’ instead. I’m generalising, of course – there are loads of amazing women doing amazing things while juggling childcare and thoroughly enjoying it. And more props to them – if you can find the balance, that’s fantastic. But so, so many mothers can’t find that balance, and they’re left feeling one of two ways – lazy and old-fashioned or overworked and overstretched.
For me, things came to a head last week when I was seriously considering taking on a house renovation project alongside my freelance business, my degree study and my kid. I can do it all! I thought to myself as I wondered if we could live without a kitchen for a few months. Eventually I realised that actually, I can… say no to stuff. I can wait a bit. I don’t have to achieve absolutely all my goals and dreams within a year of giving birth, just to prove that it’s possible. Maybe it is. But not for me.
So I’ve deferred my uni place until next year. I’ve sacked off the house renovation (after a bit of gentle common sense talk from Rob). Hazel will be at nursery from November and I’ll be picking up a my freelance business again – I don’t think I’ll ever work at the same level as I did before she was born, but I’m hugely privileged that my job is still there and can be as flexible as I need it to be. I know a lot of women don’t get that break.
I’m not a #MumBoss, but I am a working mum juggling a job, a baby and some semblance of a life. It’s not always successful, rarely Instagrammable and won’t earn me a a legion of social media followers, but that’s cool. I’m happy with it.