Work like you are not a mother and mother like you don’t work

In Australia, term one is coming to an end and the holidays are in sight. The end of a term is such an exhausting time for parents, students and teachers. The excitement and enthusiasm of a new year and everything it will bring is wearing off and the routine that started so beautifully is starting to fall apart. For some children and parents the reality of the learning or behavioural challenges they are facing and the difficulty of schooling is taking its toll. Everyone is in desperate need of a break so that they can reset and start again.

I was offloading to a friend on the weekend about the amount of work the end of a term brings not only to children but also to parents and she told me of a saying - You are expected to work like you are not a mother and mother like you don’t work. That was a light bulb moment for me and it is exactly how I feel - my children do need me to mother like I am not working. They aren’t the type who can go off to their room and study. They easily feel overwhelmed with what is required and they need help with reading and planning what they have to do. So what can we do so that we can mother like we have all the time in the world?

In my household the year started off perfectly with amazing packed lunches, children using routine charts, a weekly schedule easily visible on the fridge. Shopping for the week was done on the weekend and dinners were planned. As the term progressed work became busier, the children had so many activities that weekends were no longer relaxing or a time to organise for the week. If this sounds like you here are some helpful tips that I turn to when life feels overwhelming.

Lower your expectations

Are the tasks that you are running around desperately trying to do essential? Do the bed sheets need to be washed this week or can they wait? Is spending the time tidying up the toys that you know are going to be played with again tomorrow a good use of your time? It feels wonderful to have a clean house and to be organised but during busy times we need to lower our expectations.

Write everything down

I used to pride myself on how good I was at remembering all the extra little things that crop up every week but sometimes my mind is too jam packed. Things like a child has to bring in $2 on Wednesday, play date on Thursday afternoon, bake cupcakes for Friday, and bring oranges for the game on Saturday. If I don’t write these things down something may be forgotten.

Accept your children for who they are

My biggest lesson was to stop comparing my children and my mothering to others. It is hard when you see other mothers who work full time, exercise regularly, maintain an active social life and have children who behave beautifully and excel at schoolwork and sport (well on social media anyway). It doesn’t feel fair and you may feel you are not strong enough to handle the children you have been given but you are. Rather than being frustrated and annoyed that you are having to spend longer than normal helping your child acknowledge that at times it is tough but accept that these are the children you have been given. While they may not shine at school they are here to do amazing things. 

Ask for help

It is not a sign of weakness to admit that you are struggling. Talk to a friend, ask family for extra help, search social media for likeminded groups or see a counsellor. Seeing a counsellor is like talking to a good friend who you know won’t tell anyone but not only do they listen and empathise with you they brainstorm and come up with strategies to help you move forward. 

There are so many expectations placed on mothers these days to do it all but rarely is it possible. While it would be wonderful to be able to take your work hat off once you walk in the door or take your mothering hat off while you are at work, sadly this is not the case for a lot of women. Instead we need to be kinder on ourselves and be proud for what we do achieve each day.


Written by 

Jo Larcom 
Counsellor & Author of 'Ben's School Daze'
Owner Motherhood & You
Co-Director Magnetic Moves


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