Nine months ago I was part of a leadership team. I had responsibilities, people looking up to me, younger people to mentor and a platform from which to, very visually and audibly, lead others. I never questioned once whether I was a leader. Nine months later and I don’t do any of these things in an official capacity, I don’t have a job title and on my recent mortgage application I swallowed hard as I saw the words ‘unemployed’.
Last year I decided to stop working outside of our home, partly to enable my husband to grow his business and partly to support our family life more. I’m aware that I’m privileged in even saying this, so many people would love to quit their jobs, this truth is not lost on me, not one bit.
The months that have followed have been surprising, challenging, joyful and hard. Of course the biggest question in my mind has been ‘who am I now?’.
I was born in 1985 which means I just sneaked into the millennial generation. Growing up there was never any assumptions put on my generation that once we had children work would come to an end. Those before us fought many battles which meant it was not only normal, but expected, that you would be a working mum. I forget the number of people who asked me ‘when are you going back to work?’ whilst I was on maternity leave, a question I’m pretty sure our parents generation weren’t asked so easily.
While there are many amazing things about this (I will champion working mums until I’m blue in the face and I myself will soon be working ‘officially’ with my husband) I worry that we have been sold one picture of how to do life. The ‘do it all’ and ‘be it all’ messages thrown at mothers is exhausting! It’s exhausting for working mums, but for those who choose to stay at home it suggests that they are somehow ‘less than’.
There are a multitude of reasons a woman might decide not to go back to work; finances, child care costs, opportunities, health, personal conviction or heck, maybe they actually enjoy it! No matter the reason I’ve spoken to countless women who have chosen to leave positions in the workplace which gave them power, authority and leadership clout and now find themselves anchor-less. What’s more the idea of an ‘earth mother’ type who stays at home with her kids because she loves it 100% of the time is both untrue and deeply unhelpful for most women who find themselves in that place.
We need to redefine the role of motherhood for a generation which is in danger of being sold a lie that it is merely another tick on the ‘have it all, be it all list’.
Motherhood (I know this is true for fathers, but hey, speak to what you know and all that!) is the most powerful leadership role I will ever have. My children are constantly looking to me for the leadership they need. They are watching me. Goodness, they are turning into me in ways that I’m not truly comfortable with!
Raising children who are kind and loving, who have generous spirits and bravery in the face of challenge – that is a worthwhile and worthy endeavour. Of course working mum’s can absolutely do this too but today I’m speaking to the mum who has given up a place at the boardroom for a place at the craft table. I’m speaking to the mum who thrived on performance reviews and now feels no one sees her efforts anymore. I’m speaking to the mum who thinks ‘is this it?’ more than once a day. I’m speaking to myself.
I’ve addressed rooms packed with people, do they remember most of what I’ve said? Probably not. What I do know is that there are currently two pairs of eyes who follow my every move. They see how I treat people, they listen to my tone, they watch how I love their Dad, they take it all in. I want to be the kind of leader in my home that I would want to be in the workplace. One who leads with integrity, kindness, joy and hope. One who inspires, lifts up and encourages.
Am I totally fulfilled in my role as a mother? Of course not, no one role will ever totally fulfil me, but can I change how I view my role as a mother? I really believe I can and I should. Motherhood is not a break from a ‘real job’ or from leading. In fact the more I talk to other parents I’m convinced that for those of us who find ourselves with the gift of children to raise, it can be the most real, important and life-changing leadership role we will ever have the privilege of being given.
I love how Lara Casey puts it her book ‘Cultivate’;
“The greatest achievement I make to the Kingdom of God may not be something I do but someone I raise”.
This is a truth that I know I need to sink deep into my heart today.