Being a mother is a beautiful thing. However, for many working mothers, especially in recent years filled with global pandemics, and political and economic difficulties, motherhood has been challenging. It’s not easy to associate motherhood with the word “hard.” It’s a reality that we try to soften with cute videos and funny stories, but it’s still there. After the COVID pandemic, many women are turning to a “softer” approach to motherhood, one that is less stressful, more joyful, and more authentic.
Many women are feeling exhausted and burnt out, and they are bravely acknowledging it. By doing so, they are sending a message that things cannot continue as they have been. Although the world needs more gender equity, diversity, and inclusion, what it doesn’t need are mothers who are too tired to fulfill their potential in and outside of the home. Companies need to step up and support working mothers by implementing work-life balance measures and promoting diversity efforts. We need to stop glorifying the “hard” path to working motherhood and instead reimagine a softer way.
Taking a “softer” approach doesn’t mean we’re being less effective
In a society that values over-performance at the expense of effectiveness, we tend to equate “hard” with “effective” or “worthy.” However, when it comes to motherhood, being “hard” can erode the foundation of healthy mothering. Hard motherhood lacks flexibility, barely survives, and is not full or complete. When mothers are under unbearable pressure to perform without adequate support, they are set up for failure. And when mothers fail, families, communities, and entire societies fail.
Our modern society focuses on productivity and results, it’s a tall order. Yet, it’s a change that can occur gradually starting with a few underrated, yet so effective principles:
Changing our minds about what it means to be a working mother
It all starts with a mindset. For many, if not most working moms, motherhood has become an endless performance. From the wee hours of morning to late night, they’re performing and giving of themselves without so much as a respite. The tiredness, the exhaustion, and even the resentment have become a badge of honor, and the source of many acclaimed social media memes. If you’re a working mom, you must be tired. If you’re a working mom, you must not have time for self-care. If you’re a working mom, you must deny yourself, day in and day out.
This journey towards softer motherhood begins with a changed mindset around what it means to be a working mom. It means redefining working motherhood in terms of better work-life integration, and increased fulfillment and purpose. No, we don’t have to look like we’re on the brink of burnout to be approved as good mothers.
Reframe our careers and lives
The next step is to reframe our careers and lives around this mindset of fulfillment, purpose, and fullness on our own terms. What are our non-negotiables? How do we take better care of ourselves in order to take better care of others? What can we take off of our plates rather than adding in? Where, and how can we get the support we need? These are a few questions to begin and continue the conversation.
Reframing our careers and lives is a matter of re-envisioning what a sustainable schedule looks like, from work obligations to kids’ activities. It is creating margins and boundaries in otherwise impossible timetables. Sometimes, it may be a matter of getting rid of the entire timetable altogether.
Taking back our power
Last but not least, softer mothering is about taking back our power to live fuller, more authentic lives that do not reflect a fraction of our potential, but as close to its entirety as possible. It’s about reclaiming the time that is so freely given away and under-estimated, and requesting the infrastructures and support needed, whether it’s childcare, flexibility, or equity in the home.
It’s about getting rid of the creeping, generational, overwhelming fear that keeps us from prioritizing our needs and regaining the confidence to be the mothers we were created to be.
At the end of the day, motherhood was not supposed to be hard. Not this kind of societally-imposed, artificially-made “hard”. Is it bound to be challenging or is it supposed to be easy? But this hard shell of modern motherhood that seems to be offered on the platter of “having (and doing) it all”, is not it. Rather, re-imagining a softer, more effective, and more sustainable approach to modern mothering is a better path to creating and sustaining societies that can thrive, and not just survive.