Back To Work: How To Balance Being A Working Mum

Juggling motherhood, recovering both physically and mentally after pregnancy and giving birth as well as staying on top of your job role isn’t easy, but it’s something that so many women deal with every single day. Across the UK, nearly 75% of mothers are in employment to help support themselves and their families.  

In our Back To Work Survey, we spoke to 1,000 mothers to find out how mums really feel about going back to work, from how long it takes to adjust to your job after maternity leave, or whether the long-term effects of giving birth like post-partum incontinence can impact your career.

To delve even deeper into the issue, TENA spoke to two working mums about their experiences. Introducing: Anna Whitehouse (known online as Mother Pukka) and Athena Kugblenu. 

Watch the videos to find out how they balance being marvellous working mums, and read on to find out Anna and Athena’s best advice… 

Juggling roles and taking breaks

When you’re a mum, it’s inevitable that you end up juggling many roles at once. There’s looking after your baby (or children plural), looking after yourself, cooking, cleaning, working, remembering to buy your Dad a birthday card, oh and trying to look fabulous while doing it. Phew. 

Anna describes it as being in “constant conflict about where I need to be” and feeling like an octopus, with tentacles all over the place. It can be difficult to juggle so many hats at once, while performing your role one minute then having to tend to your child’s grazed knee the next.

Athena similarly found it hard because of the amount of support needed to keep on top of everything. It’s normal to feel like you’re constantly asking different people for help – “It's costly so you have to ask for help from your partner, your family, and then childminders and then babysitters.”

There’s no shame in reaching out and accepting support – it’s inevitable if you’re trying to deal with being a parent and working at the same time. Remember to take the time to look out for your own wellbeing too. Athena recommends for working mums to have a guilty pleasure or vice: 

“Go into a little corner of your house and indulge whatever it is. Make sure you look after yourself every now and again.”

Say "I'm not sorry, I'm doing my best"

Many working mums may find themselves apologising for just that… being a working mum. When you’re trying to keep on top of everything that motherhood combined with working life throws at you, you may feel like you have to make excuses, when really you’re just trying your hardest. 

“The thing I struggled with most was saying, I'm sorry I'm going to be late to nursery,” says Anna.  “I'm sorry I can't finish that call to work. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Sorry. And I was like, I'm not sorry. I'm doing my best.” 

What’s the antidote? According to Athena, it’s “do not apologize for anything. Okay?” That applies whether it’s running late, how your post-baby body looks, or simply how you’re feeling. “If you're pregnant or if you just had a baby (and that baby could be 20 years old) don't apologise for that. If you haven't got the snap back then don’t worry about it, it's fine. Giving birth is hard.”

Accept that your body has changed

It can be hard to face, but your body after giving birth is not the same as it was before, and that’s ok. Your life has changed, and your body has too. In Anna’s case, it meant wearing TENA pads to cope with post-natal incontinence while having her breast pads fall out on the bus. For Athena, it meant not having the time (or energy) to run and cycle like she used to, and making no apologies for it.

Love being a working mum

Being a working mum has its ups and downs, but it can be so rewarding too. In order to allow more parents to have fulfilling careers, we need more workplaces to be accommodating of working mothers with understanding bosses, flexible schedules and an inclusive environment.

“Raising the next generation shouldn't stunt your own career,” says Anna, “and that's something I believe wholeheartedly in. But I think that the system needs to catch up and I think just go easy on yourself, becoming yourself, and don't judge yourself by someone else's benchmark.”

Know that having a job doesn’t mean you can’t also be an amazing mum. Athena thinks of her role as mum like a job that she loves – “the idea of being a working mum is oftentimes a negative thing. Oh my mum worked. This is not negative, it is wonderful that I can create a life where I can work and be a mum.” Similarly, Anna says “being a working mum is my something, but my girls are my everything.” 

If you’re a working mum, know that it’s normal to feel run off your feet. It’s ok to make mistakes, or to feel out of control sometimes – it’s all part of the busy and beautiful role of being a brilliant working mum. 

To keep the conversation going, why not take a look at our survey of working mums to get more mums opinions on working life. If you’d like to learn more about incontinence, check out our article on how pregnancy can affect your bladder. If you do need a little help, try some pelvic floor strengthening exercises or find out what TENA products could offer the support and security you need.