I would like to assure women that rearing a family, large or small and working in business is possible.
When a woman has a baby her mind doesn’t shrink, her thinking capacity doesn’t lessen; her pelvic floor might not be quite the same, but her skills don’t diminish. Rather, her creativity and her skills broaden – they have to. It’s an exhausting juggling act and the organisation required is massive, but achievable, and once achieved, the sky is the limit. I strongly believe a woman can achieve great heights in business, and have a happy family as I have.
I have always tried to set an example as a woman who has always worked and been devoted to a family, just as men work and can be devoted to a family. I just think it’s harder for women as the expectations are higher. You can simply never let the team down, at home or at work – at least, that’s been the case for women of my generation.
I am 53. I believe my generation is the generation on the cusp of mothers staying at home or working out of the home. In my mother’s generation few mothers worked; I only knew two and I thought they were amazing. In my generation many worked, but some chose to stay at home with their kids. Whichever decision was made, women, in the main, still did the domestic tasks and organised the children. Observing our five daughters and daughter-in-law, and others near to us, the dads now take a far greater role in both the running of the home and the children, so the load is shared.
Many mums of my generation felt guilty because they wanted to work. I had to work, but I also enjoyed and wanted to work. I couldn’t have stayed at home, but I never felt guilty. My sister and I were brought up by my single aunt who had to work. So I learned organisational skills from her, and we had to pitch in.
What I realised very early on was that our kids would have to be capable, responsible, independent and have great social skills amongst other things.
For those of us who work, there are less hours at home and with the kids, so it’s fundamental that those hours we have at home and with the kids are used efficiently. Efficiency is required at home as it is in any job.
I was, and am, vehemently opposed to takeaway food even as a quick, convenience for children. It’s quicker and cheaper to boil an egg or make a toasted sandwich anyway. I always cooked extra meals at night or on the weekends, so I always had at least a couple of meals ready in the event I was too tired or busy during the week.
The children all had to help at home, everyone had tasks. As a result our kids are capable, responsible, independent and have great social skills.
As a working mum you have to stay one step ahead, organised, and have heaps of fun with the kids.
By Margot Spalding, 2006 Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year, and co-director and co-owner, Jimmy Possum Furniture