Tag Archive | Juggling Motherhood

Working Mum’s Network by Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated

Working Mums’ Network by Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated


By Sandra Beck


It was definitely harder to set up play dates with the workings Mums. It was less ‘see you at Club’ and more ‘let’s check the calendar’.  However, I found that the time pressure seemed to put the friendships on fast-forward. When I ‘clicked’ with someone, we quickly progressed to ‘come to my house on Saturday afternoon’ – rather than shyly circling around each other ‘see you same place next week, I chocoguess’.


My closest mum friend is a lady from my company. We briefly spoke when we were both pregnant with our second. She went back to work quite quickly – but her occasional phone calls were always a treat. Our kids went to the same nursery for six months – and constantly nag us to set up play dates. When we do get together, the kids go and do something destructive in the corner, while we drink strong coffee and share scandalous office gossip. She was disarmingly frank about the challenges of working motherhood – we don’t need to feel defensive of our choices around each other. 


I like to think of my working mum friends as an underground network. We don’t have clubs, schedules, groups or premises. We sometimes go for six months without speaking – but pick up seamlessly where we left off.


We’re not visible as a group.


Occasionally sighted but only in pairs. Communicating electronically with late night emails and the occasional one liner from a palm top computer. I’m sometimes amazed where my friends networks go – hierarchy gets forgotten when you have children the same age. I wouldn’t be without them. They’re an invisible net of support – feeding me crucial information when I’m out of the office, generously sharing childcare anecdotes when I’m in the office. We watch each others backs – we always hear about it if a mum gets discriminated against, or when a working mum does well. Mummy mafia? Perhaps…





What’s Cooking? By Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated

By Sandra Beck



It’s ironic. Cooking is meant to be the ultimate domestic goddess occupation. Why is it that the aftermath makes my kitchen look like a hovel?


I’d lovingly plan, chop, sauté, and present the food attractively. The kids would push it around their plate. “It’s a bit spicy for me” my som would comment “and today I don’t like peppers. Can I have just bread instead?”. My effort would have earned me the sound of ‘scrape scrape scrape’ into the bin, and a kitchen full of dirty pans and chopping boards at the point of the day when I just needed to lie down.apples


Then I found it. The cheapest, scruffiest part of my kitchen armory, costing less that a decent saucepan. I love it so much I’d kiss it, if it wasn’t generally full of scalding hot stew. It’s my little secret shortcut – the ‘wife’ I’d love to have. “Come by for dinner tonight” I can now boldly say. These days, I’m not inviting people to watch me sweat in the kitchen, keeping toddlers away from the hot oven by pushing them back with my feet. It’s the working mother’s best friend – the slow cooker!


I’ve learned to plan my meals in advance. It saves money and it helps me eat healthier. Most of all it means I can cook on auto-pilot without using any of my scarce spare brain capacity. When I’m up in the morning, I know what’s meant to be for dinner. I can start the ‘Slocker’ (as we affectionately call it) straight away. I’ll put some chopped onions and celery in there with a teaspoon of oil, and leave it on ‘High’ for forty minutes while I go upstairs to dress the kids. I’ll come back, chuck in some tins of tomatoes, tins of beans and a few flavorings. I turn the dial down to Low, and leave it for the whole day. I arrive back home ten hours later to the homely smell of fresh three bean chilli. Pure comfort food.


It does take a bit of trial-and-error, it’s true. I wish my model had a timer, because sometimes the food can taste a bit ‘stewed’. In particular, meat needs to be sealed in a frying pan first. However, I’ve discovered something about my kids’ tastes. They just LOVE bland and mushy.






What is Your Parenting Style? By Sandra Beck, Motherhood Inorporated

By Sandra Beck



          Attachment parenting – just for hippies?

Attachment parenting recommends that, for maximal emotional security, the child co-sleeps, breast-feeds, is carried in a sling, and in all possible ways not forced to be separate from their family adults before they initiate it themselves. Impossible for a working mum? Nicola Horlick – the London fund manager mother of 5 – practiced co-sleeping and breast-feeding. She said that after a long day at work it helped her re-bond with her babies during the night.folwer


          Routine based

Reassuringly well planned routines can give you some predictability. You know the baby will sleep for 2 hours at a certain time, so you can plan to do some work or a business phone-call. Routines promise unbroken nights – always a boon for overstretched parents. However, it can all go out the window if your childcare does it differently to you. A little bit of flexibility can save a lot of sanity.


          Child centered parenting

Will you ever get out of the house?


          Listening to your mom

You might have turned out OK – but bear in mind that many health recommendations have changed.


          Internet parenting

You can get some great, realistic, modern advice from the internet. However, unlike a book, the internet is written by many different authors – some perhaps not so scrupulous about ensuring accuracy, others who recall what they did with their own kids, but jumble up ages and stages – so advise you to to do with you 3 month old what they did with their 8 month old.  Your kids risk becoming little guinea pigs for incompatible theories.


          A bit of everything

Your baby doesn’t sleep. You read a book with a snazzy title like ‘Sleeping through in three days’. With messianic zeal you fix the blackout blinds and massage your baby’s tootsies. Four hours later crying mummy is still going back and forth to a crying baby. The next day you buy a new book and decide that you will carry your baby everywhere in a little papoose, perhaps with some womb noises to reassure him.


          Just doing your best

It’s what it all boils down to in the end!


I find that if I have given my best, done all that I could do, no matter what the outcome – even if I did throw nappies at the dog to get him out of the kitchen, I did my best and that is – as we all need to agree – enough.





What is the Hardest Age to Balance With Work By Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated

By Sandra Beck


The baby is so small, your body still remembers it. It breaks your heart to leave it. The baby squints vaguely at the light, before reaching its arms out… mmmm, milk.


The baby starts to move. He understands the hazards of the world a bit clearer now. He’ll make his disapproval known if he’s left – whether you’re going to work or just to the bathroom.poppies


The baby is walking around; getting palpable pleasure from hitting other children with his teddies. He leaves you quite happily – but on your way out you catch a faint… was that a new word? You squint through the hinge of the closing door until the tip of your nose gets pinched.


You’ve now got a fully fledged preschooler. As they jabber to you about Alison and Maxwell and Simon’s red fire truck toy you jot down the names. You really must get to the bottom of who these ruffians are. Really, some parents don’t instill any manners in their three year olds.


Then they go to school. It’s a rude shock to find that, as parent, you’re no longer seen as the customer. More like the secretary-chauffeur, Your child is also less of a guest and more of a pupil.  You vaguely consider changing careers to become a classroom assistant so that you can make sure your child uses the bathroom regularly and wear a hat outdoors.


Then they hit the Tweens. They talk in long sentences alluding to their friends parents who are apparently in every way more accomplished, kind and liberal than you are. You are torn between applying for a position on the Board in order to set your kid a good example, and chucking it all in to stay at home baking cookies, vetting all their friends with a 100 point questionnaire.


Finally teenagers. Is it blissful to have someone who sleeps in in the mornings? The life of ease, to not need to help with their bathing or toilet. They even eat direct from the fridge you say? And don’t say a word for hours on end? My, you must have it so easy!


Take your pick, according to me – every age is hard while you are trying to balance your work with your life.






The Ages of Working Motherhood By Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated

The ages of working motherhood by Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated


By Sandra Beck


The age of Innocence:

“The baby is due in Spring, so I’ll have time to get back in shape before bikini season”

”I have email, don’t I? Babies sleep all the time, don’t they?”

“I never understand why women let themselves go after they’ve had a baby”

The age of Enlightenment:

“Listen, people, why did no one see fit to tell me about the …. (Leaking! From everywhere! At the worst possible times!) … LOVE. “pickettulips

The Reformation

“I love you – and I’ll do anything for you – but from now on you’re doing all your own shirts”

“I love you – and I’ll do anything for you – but frankly (darling) neither of us is at their best at 3 a.m.”

The Great Inquisition

“Sure, you’ve twenty years childcare experience. I hear you – sole charge of triplets. Just hypothetically, imagine that Lillibette had fallen asleep in her pram twenty minutes before allotted nap time, and Brown Bear had been left at home. What would you do then, huh?”

“I’m terribly sorry to bother you – I can see you’re enjoying a quiet coffee. I just wanted to ask your views on the local nursery. You don’t think the staff are awfully.. young?”

The Cold War

“ I’m utterly committed to this job. However, in the absence of the company providing me with a private helicopter – or a chauffeur escort to collect my child from nursery –  I’m afraid my finish time is non-negotiable.”

Civil War

“I understand that you feel uncomfortable leaving work early – and that your boss hadn’t left yet. Now do YOU understand how I feel the other four days of the week?”

“Yes, you’re tired, and you need your sleep. I hear you. I feel your pain. I do.”

The Arms Race

“Sure, would be great for the kids to have a playdate. Let’s find a time slot… no, that day’s French lessons… nope, music and movement… can’t miss Suzuki violin … she does so enjoy Macrame… preschooler jazz is on Fridays … junior hockey Beedle Bugs next week… how are you set on the 15th?”

“A lovely day to spend with the children! Here’s my quality time schedule – divided into 30 minute timeslots of developmental activities. Darling – no, sweetheart, not the blocks. It’s time for finger painting now. No – I said NOW – otherwise we’ll be late for the Baby Yoga”.





On the Joys of the Family Office Party by Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated

By Sandra Beck



My sons think that their Uncle is very brave. He works with pirates, you see. They saw them with their own eyes at my office children’s party.


For one day, the office and the family called a truce.  For too long, ‘his Uncle’s work’ has been seen as a monolithic grey monster that inexorably and mysteriously swallows their uncle for sometimes months at a time. The party has given them some fantastical images about what happens between the times their uncle visits.sailboats


The corporate dining hall crackled with good tempered anarchy, The disheveled suits enjoyed the chance to be ‘humanised’ by their families. For that day only, their children became a great leveler. Parents of babies bonded over sleep loss; parents of toddlers bonded of shamefaced apologies for their little ones over enthusiastic participation.


My company had a family party too – but it was all women, great food,  and a lots of laughs. On the one hand, I’m regretful that my kids and I missed on a barrel full of laughs with my co-workers and their families.  However, I tremble at the prospect of showcasing the ineffectiveness of my legendary hard-nosed negotiating skills in the face of one of my son’s tantrums.


For a business, I think that inviting families into the office gives all the right signals and support to your staff. Too many social occasions focus around late nights and alcohol. These can be great fun for those who are able to give up an evening of their time, and able to enjoy the free flowing drinks. Too often, they will exclude responsible parents – whether its the father or uncle who is expected to look after the children at night, or the pregnant woman who abstains from alcohol. However, for a business, it is often the family minded employees who are the most motivated and settled. A family office party is a way of saying ‘thank you’ to them.


It is a lovely idea. The kids are left with magical memories. The adults feel appreciated and understood.




On Staying Connected As a Working Mom By Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated

By Sandra Beck


A few years ago I was taking my kids to the park on my day off.  I glanced over enviously at the group just ahead of us.  Three mothers pushing their prams, older children swirling around them so that you could not tell which child belonged to which mother.


When I was on maternity leave, I made sure to get myself out to at least one social activity every day.  Little by little, I picked up people who I enjoyed talking to.  In an emergency, I had some phone numbers of people who I’d trust to babysit. When we went out to the adirondackschirsgroups, my kids and I had a bit of a change of scene: there were other adults who could field her ‘Whyyyyy?’ questions. There were spare hands about to pick up her baby brother if my younger son was really wanting some uninterrupted time with me. When the baby didn’t sleep, my other son’s toilet training regressed and I was losing a grip on things,  I could spin it into a funny anecdote for the other mums. We’d all end up laughing together. I didn’t feel so alone any more.


When the time came to go back to work, I took great care to balance time spent with my children, time spent at work, time spent on domestic chores.  Stay-and-play and baby music was left behind as the time-fillers of my old life. I was no longer available during the week, and I presumed that I would have plenty of adult conversation at work.  I figured that home time was for gazing into my children’s eyes and doing wholesome activities together – not drinking coffee with other Mums.


It only took a few months to see that it wasn’t working. The challenges of my life had changed – but  it still felt like trying to hug an eel.  My mom patiently listened to the fourth retelling of the issue of the day.  It might be ‘do you think nursery appreciates the kids creative personality’. On another day we’d have ‘when my co-worker said motherhood suited me – was there an unwarranted subtext that he thinks I belong in the kitchen?’

 My mom and dad tried to meet the challenge – so did my sisters and brothers – all listening to all the circumstances and trying to put themself in my shoes, however, their views often seemed to boil down to ‘You work so hard. I wasn’t there, but I’m sure you handled it just right. The kids seem happy and well’.


It’s odd how, from another mother ‘your child seems happy and well’ feels like a qualified assessment, rather than sentimentalism.  ‘You work so hard’ sounds like empathy not exasperation. ‘I’m sure you handled it just right’ neatly morphs into ‘and you’d never guess what that so-and-so girl did when that happened to her’. Reassurance, sympathy and entertainment – never let your mum-friends and family go.