Once upon a work day, a friend, fellow mother and esteemed colleague much wiser than me made a statement during lunch that has stayed with me: All over our world, women having children is seen as a problem.
Now, my yang side can find some truth in this statement. It is a disruption to office proceedings, certainly to family life, often a reduction in income, and it brings forth a change of relationships with others. Some friendships stick, some are left behind, some are formed, and some grow. All this change happens in a fairly short time space.
My yin side, however, has developed a different view over time. I find that having children becomes a problem because we are still being molded to fit into the role we had pre-motherhood. Raising children is now a part-time job reality for many women, including me, which means we need the unyielding support from our partners to ease the workload and increase the chances of a successful outcome. Relationships start to crack and fall apart when we lean too much on the other playing the role of the cleaning lady, baby sitter, clothes washer, lawn mower and handyman, all in one handy little package. Co-workers get left in the lurk with important deadlines as you are tending to a baby or toddler battling a stomach flu, throwing up over every textile in the house every ten minutes. We wear the apron, the little black dress and the office suit all on the same day, and our shoulder bags are filled with dummies, laptops, diapers, work phones, powder, snacks and nylons, all items rubbing shoulders in one confused, entangled mess. We run precariously on kitten heels to our cars or the metro to pick up our children from nursery, panting as we reach the door, quickly shape shifting into our motherhood role wondering how we could ever leave it behind because it feels so much like our true selves.
Why is change so difficult to embrace? Even though I hold on much less fiercely to the personal image I had of myself pre-motherhood, and have accepted little to no career progression in exchange for more family time, I do find some elements more difficult to let go of. Work identity, built up over more than a decade, is one of them. Taking a break longer than a year is not looked upon with kind eyes in my society, which practice a one-size-fits-all approach to motherhood. If you let go, you have to be prepared to free fall, and it generally needs to be accompanied by a dramatic change in lifestyle. Financial security is another, even though there is no everlasting security in any kind of job. We don’t have expensive habits or needs, but it is a wonderful feeling to be able to meet one’s expenses and then some, enjoy everyday life, have a pension plan, and be able to enjoy family outings in the city.
I suppose that I, like every other human creature in the universe, resist change for fear of exclusion. If I were to embrace the ultimate change and shed all pre-existing roles in favour of wearing only one; the full-time mother, the biggest game changer would be loneliness in my choice. I know this is not fitting for all cultures but it would be for me, in my circumstances, in my circles. And loneliness and separation are what I fear the most.
The question, every day, is the same. Should I jump?