This week on my 3 hour commute into London, I got chatting to a woman who sat next to me (as us Northerners do) and we just kind of hit it off. Conversations about career, family, juggling all of the balls and trying to enjoy the ride were had, in amongst some interesting and insightful debate around gender equality in the workplace (seriously never sit next to me on a train).
Without even knowing her name and without her meaning to, I came away feeling really inspired by this woman; a mother of two, who like me was choosing to work harder at her career after years of part time hours built around the children.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I met this perfect woman who had all her shit together because like any of us, I am sure she had her issues. What really stood out for me though, is that despite all of complexities of being a working woman and mother, there she was, at 6am on the commuter train to London, quietly coping, getting on with it, texting her husband to check he had remembered the kids packed lunches and after school schedule, all the while putting up with the annoying chatty blonde next to her. To me, she felt like she was doing a really good impression of having it all just by taking one step at a time and quietly getting on with it.
You see, I find that when I sneak out of the house at 5am without so much as smelling the top of my baby’s curly-haired, sleepy mop or without wishing my biggest a good day, I do question what I’m doing and why. The ever-present guilt does gnaw away at me, waiting for me to have a bad day / moment where I have slipped up and forgotten something important. Usually it’s the time that I am driving away early for another day at work or a business trip, where I play the torturous “what if” game in my head. What if I were to jack it all in and be a stay at home mum. What if I scaled back my hours at work. What if I go freelance and work around the kids. What if I just took a far less demanding role. Etc etc. I think it’s fair to say that for the majority of the time, I do struggle to “just get on with it.”
With or without the realisation that this is all part and parcel of being a working woman, one of my coping mechanisms has always been to seek solace in the story of someone who has been there, done that and successfully worn the t-shirt before me. As humans, it’s our nature to want to fit in or relate in some way so finding someone to walk the path before me, gees me up a bit and lets me know that whatever the struggle of the moment is, it’s probably going to turn out ok in the end or at the very least, it’s doable.
Usually I would turn to the online world to find these kinds of women to emulate but if I’m honest, I can’t name one that I ever fully resonate with and I think deep down that is because I don’t relate to shouting about my successes or failures in the way the online world encourages. I’ve definitely tried to be that person whilst building a blog, but often, I just don’t have the time or energy left at the end of the day to broadcast to thousands of other people in the way I once did. Maybe because of this lack of commonality, I more often than not come away from the online world feeling a bit flatter, more distracted and deflated than before I picked up my phone to scroll and search for the answers. Not to mention there are so many stay at home / work from home mums in the online space that it often just compounds the feelings of guilt I have.
However, after meeting with this woman on the train, it became apparent that I’m never going to find the inspiration I’m looking for by following the top influencers or celebrities because after all the scrolling and emptiness, it was this random stranger who actually provided all the inspiration I needed to get through another day.
It is here in the everyday world that I am beginning to find my inspiration for motherhood and in particular for working motherhood. She was just like me or like you, a normal, relateable mother, someone slightly unsure whether she was doing the right thing but smiling anyway – someone quite unassuming and steady, working and parenting as hard as she could. Just seeing her getting on with it provided a much-needed boost to my day and reminded me to unfollow all of the people on social media whose content makes me feel worse about myself, is too polished or just lacks that authenticity and grit that comes along in our lives. I don’t want to read about someone who is quite literally having their cake and eating it because I cannot relate to that.
So the lesson for this week that I’ve learned is to surround myself with mums who are just quietly getting on with it all, who address the good, bad and the ugly, who plod on regardless. I guess these women are the quiet, unsung heroes of working motherhood and will be the ones who I turn to for motivation when the going gets tough.
How about you, who do you turn to for inspiration when you’re feeling unsure? Let me know in the comments.
Have a lovely weekend in the meantime