30 years on from my own graduation from the same University, Polytechnic as was, an emotional day ahead with lots of reflection on what her working career might hold and whether I’ve equipped her with an understanding of the qualities she needs to succeed.
A recent study has found evidence to prove that children of working mothers and, in particular girls, perform better in their own careers than the children of non-working mothers.
This prompted me of course to feel a bit smug, but also to want to explore what the daughters of these mothers actually felt and what might be the reason for the correlation. So I interviewed daughter no 2, to hopefully find some answers
Hannah is about to graduate from Northumbria University after a 4-year accountancy course, which included a year studying abroad in Nice. She has just started work on a training contract with a firm of accountants based in Leeds.
With just a few prompts from me, daughter no2’s views on working mothers.
Initially we explored the issue of the never-ending guilt which working mothers experience and whether the guilt is justified.
“No, mothers shouldn’t feel guilty, but they always will, there isn’t a right or wrong answer around how much you should work but it is certainly hard. There shouldn’t be a sense that you feel obliged to work, or feel guilty about working because you can’t spend time with your children depending on your children’s age, and whether they have an understanding of why you work and what you’re doing it for.
The bottom line is that you are doing it for them and to provide for them but they may not understand this and this is where the guilt comes from. You shouldn’t feel guilty though because you are doing what you need to do.”
We then looked into what might be the disadvantages of having a working mother from the daughter’s perspective. This generated some interesting revelations around how children may be actually feeling our pain not resenting it, as we may tend to think.
“There are a few and as you get older you understand them more so there is actually less of a disadvantage. From a young person’s perspective though the main thing was the sacrifice of time spent together with early mornings and late nights working taking over that time.
The need to be constantly on call as the owner of the business even when on family holidays is also a disadvantage but more as something which it is difficult to observe and not be able to do anything about, when we were younger the business was in the formative stages which meant that holidays weren’t stress free and it was hard to observe mum’s stress knowing that there was nothing we could do to help.
As we are now older we understand that everything that happened was to enable us to get to where we are today.”
Following up on this question I tried to understand if there were any feelings of personal frustration aside from the selfless disadvantages already talked about.
“You get to a point where you see the value of the hard work and the benefits it brings so you appreciate what the work achieves, the fact that we got to spend time as a family doing nice things made us see that the disadvantages are there for a reason. It gave us an understanding that the work results in a better standard of living “
We then moved on to talk happily and often emotionally about the advantages of being a working mother’s daughter.
“There are many, in terms of what you see, you take as normal. It makes you realise that you need to work hard to have the rewards in terms of the standard of living and it also is inspiring as it makes you be realistic about what you need to do yourself to have the standard of living you want. It makes you realise that you have to put effort in yourself.
It inspires you to work hard and I think if you didn’t have a working mother you wouldn’t be as aware of the link between hard work and rewards. You would be less motivated to work yourself because you would see people not working and living well and would think that maybe you could have a good standard of living without working. You would have a negative frame of mind regarding work if you have never seen it as a necessity.
I’ve seen a single mum raise three children whilst owning and running a business and that seemed normal to us, so I would probably question why people wouldn’t work, if mum could do everything she did then I would see it as laziness if people didn’t work. A lot of people make excuses for themselves as to why they wouldn’t work but having grown up seeing mum work all the time you tend to think that’s just normal, you wouldn’t expect anything else.
There is a massive benefit in terms of the insights we have gained about business, which helps us to understand and be interested in business. Talking to mum at the end of the day and also from the times when we went into work and overheard discussions taking place there, we learnt what was behind some of the day to day business decisions which was really valuable. All three of us have an interest in business because of this, which has helped us with our studies.
We all had the benefit of work experience in mum’s business and this has given us all a stepping-stone to where we go next. We’ve all seen what it’s like to be in work and gained an appreciation of what it feels like to earn your own money from your own efforts so it motivates you to carry on and want to do your own thing. If you can work then why wouldn’t you?
Seeing someone work so hard and seeing what they gain from it also motivates you to achieve something yourself both for the money and to be able to feel proud that you’ve done something yourself. The element of feeling proud of having done something yourself, having seen mum do this; I know its something that I want to feel too.
There are many positives, which, 100% outweigh the disadvantages
The experience of growing up as we did helps you in all aspects of life, even just working for yourself, studying hard. Also as a person you have a better understanding of what you actually need to do to live, basically that you need to earn money to survive.”
Drawing a conclusion, I asked if Hannah was happy that she’d been brought up by a working mother and I’ll leave the last words with her and hopefully banish some working parent’s guilt, at least for today.
“100% happy I had a working mother the positives are as already discussed but also, the positives are there for mum, she has been able to achieve something for herself, which she has obviously enjoyed, and her life’s not just revolved around raising three children. She’s managed to raise three children alongside doing something for her, and she should be really proud of herself for doing that.
I don’t think you should sacrifice doing something that you want to do, when you don’t have to, when you can do it, I don’t think you should sacrifice it, seeing what mum has achieved has made me feel proud of her and I think she should feel really proud of herself for what we’ve been able to do as a family because of it”