“MUMMY, don’t go to work!”
How many times have you heard this before?
How many times have you wanted to quit your job because of it? I’ve seen too many women give up their careers after becoming mums, and I feel the need to address this, being a working mum myself. I may get criticised but this is my journey and maybe some of you can relate to it.
We’ve all heard the cliches – be strong, be tough, think of the bigger picture. I believe that while these cliches have helped me through mum guilt, I need to write this article at the peak of it.
I was on a flight to London recently, the first time I left my husband and two children for a week. I was headed to London Fashion Week. It was crucial for me to attend to network and represent FashionValet and dUCk. Our labels were also at a trade show and we had some events to host with our customers.
I questioned whether or not I needed to be there many, many times.
How did I feel? Well, my eyes were swollen, my nose was red, my FashionValet.com sweater had stains of mascara mixed with tears. I cried from the moment I kissed my husband goodbye. Someone even whispered “Eh, that’s Vivy Yusof right?” and her friend went “No way, she looks terrible.” Self-esteem — level basement 5, thank you.
I was extra emotional this time because I left my 4-year-old son while he was sleeping and I knew he was going to wake up looking for me.
I had told him several times that “Mummy is going to London” to prepare him mentally, but he’s the type who wakes up in the night to look for me so I could imagine his hurt when I wasn’t there. My 3-year-old daughter on the other hand is Daddy’s girl — she’s the kind who won’t notice I’ve gone somewhere.
It was also their school holidays so instead of taking them to the zoo, I had to video-call them from kilometres away.
How did I feel you ask again? Completely awful. My Guilt-o-meter was at Level 10.
That’s the thing about guilt. It’s a useless feeling and you can do absolutely nothing about it. So why do we do this to ourselves? Guilt is self-inflicted and we like to entertain it which makes it even worse.
LEAVING THEM BEHIND
I remember this one time I felt awful leaving the children while they were crying and calling out “Mummy, don’t go.”
I had a meeting to chair and I was already late so I couldn’t stay to comfort them. As I closed the door behind me, my heart broke into pieces. Should I cancel the meeting? Mummy guilt slowly tried to take over. I knew I had to rush to the car, but something told me to hang around the door a bit to eavesdrop.
I heard them still crying for mummy, but then a miracle happened. The crying stopped. I suddenly heard laughter, them running around the house and Lego blocks being poured onto the floor. My kids were fine. I felt like God wanted to show me that if I had caved in to cancel the meeting, I wouldn’t have realised that the crying was temporary and it was not the end of the world.
I went to work feeling recharged and I came back that night greeted by two happy kids running to me with open arms, excited to tell me about their day.
That day changed me. It changed how I looked at mummy guilt. It changed the way I looked at motherhood. It changed the way I looked at my job. It revived me and I became a happier working mum.
If you think being a working mum and leaving the kids is challenging enough, try being a mum entrepreneur. When the weight of the company is on you, when you are responsible for salaries, to steer the ship to success-ville, when people leave you and you have to quickly fix things yourself, when every decision you make makes or breaks the company, that’s a load of pressure. Do I feel like giving up after having kids? My honest answer is, heck no!
I wake up every day and the first thing I do is look for my kids to give them the biggest kiss because I’m grateful that I’m alive today and I’m lucky enough to experience this happiness. We get ready – them for school, me for work. We have breakfast together, we get in the car together and we sing songs and talk – that’s the happy start to my morning every day.
I go to work, I hustle, I have good moments, bad moments, and then I come home to tell my kids all about
it. Whether or not they understand, I tell them anyway and I swear, I feel like they’re listening.
WALK THE TALK
I want to be the kind of mum who shows her kids that we have to work hard to get what we want. The kind of mum who teaches her kids to face future challenges on their own. The mum who teaches them to appreciate their education, respect their careers and honour their dreams. Most importantly, I want to be the kind of mum who walks the talk.
I choose to work, first and foremost for myself. It’s from my heart. It’s the burning desire to make the best with whatever skills God has given me. It’s the passion that drives me to go through the thrilling roller-coaster ride. I have a dream that I want to chase, and I don’t believe motherhood should dim my light. In fact, the light shines even brighter because whatever I do, I have two little pairs of eyes watching and learning. If I give up on my dreams, I’m only teaching them to do the same.
Yes, there will be tough moments – when your babysitter ditches you, when you aren’t performing at work, when you feel like the worst mum ever, when you feel like giving up – trust me, it’s all temporary. Take as much time as you need to sort it out and get whatever help you can, but know that it’s temporary.
Being a working mum has taught me to make good every moment. When at work, I enjoy myself so much when I get to grow the company, build the team, create amazing projects and brands, and see customers’ parcels get loaded onto courier trucks. When at home, I am the happiest mum tickling my kids till they giggle, reading to them in bed, dancing like crazy with them, having sleepovers in the living room.
I’m pro-work because a woman should always have an independent, stable income of her own.
Life is never perfect, but ask yourself: “Have I given it my all with whatever God has given me? Do I make excuses first before I even try? Do I make self-pitying statements instead of trying to find a solution?” Remember, you have little eyes watching you, mummy – so what do you want them to see?
Fashion Valet co-founder and 2018 Women Empowerment Year icon Vivy Yusof muses about the struggles of being a working mum and finding balance as a multi-faceted woman... in heels of course. Follow her journey at @vivyyusof and on her YouTube channel.