I dislike the term balancing act because it suggests from the outset that you are not in control but are part of some amusement park game. But as a working mother, this is my reality.
I am yet to find a working mother who doesn’t feel like she is juggling several balls without any training or one who doesn’t feel guilty about having to leave her children in the care of others each day as she leaves home to provide for her children.
As a mother of three young children – I have one-year-old twin girls and a three-year-old son – I am often wracked by this guilt. My children are a blessing and since having them everything I do, I do to benefit them. But it still isn’t easy to rationalise the compromises I have to make each day.
I’ve toyed with the idea of being an unemployed but available mom. It would be lovely to take morning walks to the park or make a hearty breakfast every morning, but realistically, in our family, these are things reserved for weekends. I work because I love my job but I also work because I have to.
Being a working mother is an emotional roller coaster. As I write this post I can hear giggles as my kids play in their nanny’s room. They spend a lot of time together and have become very close, and sometimes it hits a nerve. It’s hard sometimes to fight back the feelings of jealousy that bubble up over the relationship they share. Should it be me they’re giggling with while they play? When that happens I try to remind myself that I am working to provide a good and secure life for them.
Parenting blogs and new sites are flush with the false dichotomy of the working mom vs the stay at home mom, as if women always have a choice in which of these paths to choose. The truth is, that those who are able to make this choice are the lucky ones.
For many of us, there is no choice but to try to balance work and family life, and very rarely do we manage to achieve the balance that we seek. The see-saw usually leans more to one side and it is only for rare and brief moments that we manage to find the horizontal line.
Like so many other mothers, I too am guilty of bringing work home or asking my nanny to cook dinner because I won’t be home in time to do it, or getting home to find my children already fast asleep.
It’s taken a long time but I’ve realised that beating myself up about it does no one any good. So I’ve decided to enjoy the moments we do have and to steal precious moments when I can.
My son knows that he can still give Mommy a kiss while I am typing vigorously on my laptop and that he can always ask me to read Thomas the Tank Engine, even if it is for the seven hundredth time and even if I have to skip a few pages to get to the end. My twins enjoy our jumps on the bed just before bedtime and the kisses and cuddles that accompany this tradition.
When everyone is fast asleep, and the house is quiet, I get to sit down again and put in another two hours at my laptop and prepare to do it all over again the next day. I can’t stop juggling my little balls but I can at least try to stop feeling guilty about it.
Karabo Keepile is the editor and co-founder of ChiLLimag, an online entertainment magazine with over 10,000 monthly readers. She holds an honours degree in journalism and has worked for some of South Africa’s top media houses. But more importantly, she is a mom to Nkosinathi and her twin daughters Naledi and Lesedi.