I had the (slightly terrifying) privilege of doing a talk at The Future in the RDS at the start of this month. In it I spoke about the difficult decision I had made to take a chunk of time off work to look after my daughter who has Cystic Fibrosis, and also start a blog and campaign for the funding of CF wonderdrug Orkambi.
While a lot of the talk was centred around the ‘YesOrkambi’ campaign, I felt I couldn’t discuss my own story without touching on the broader issue of why taking a break (or in my case, Carer’s Leave) feels like a career suicide risk. There seems to be some kind of assumption that if Mums take a time-out, their ambitions have clocked out for good.
This is a total crock of shit. If someone goes travelling for a year, that’s acceptable. They’re finding themselves. They return, seen as enriched and brimming with transformational life experiences to bring to the table. But if Mums want to enrich their family lives, engaging in such transformational life experiences as keeping their little people alive and happy, while multi-tasking as nurses, educators, referees and psychologists, they are somehow less on their return?
Unintentionally, we don’t help ourselves either. Because we are getting less sleep and have less headspace, less patience and less time for ourselves, we often see ourselves as less than we were.
But becoming a mother doesn’t make you less. It makes you MORE.
You are more insightful, you are more considerate, you are more in tune with the world.
You have more humanity, more compassion and more sense than to tolerate bullshit.
You have more passion, more commitment, more drive and more resilience.
You have more intuition. More moral ambition.
You have emotional intelligence like no others on this planet.
And you are STILL all the things you were before.
Contrary to popular belief, our children don’t actually erase the contents of our brains.
It’s time to start questioning how others perceive us.
It’s time to start questioning how we perceive ourselves.
It’s time to change our language and focus on the positives.
We don’t need to apologise for having families.
Or for those families taking time and dedication.
We need to see parenting as upskilling.
It’s ok to have loves outside of the office.
We need to speak up.
Talk ourselves up.
Stand up for ourselves.
And we need employers to see the benefits of mothering up.
We need to tell them how damn lucky they are.
Because while mothers may be nurturing and caring, like any protective species, we are also fierce.
Don’t be afraid to show your teeth.