There’s a lot of things I do in my life that I’m not proud of. I’m not proud of the way I eye off other passengers as I’m boarding the train to make sure I have a good chance at a seat on the way to work, ‘cos I’m exhausted after getting up at 5am, 4am or even an ungodly 3am with my one year-old daughter who maybe needed milk, or maybe woke up because she was too hot, or maybe lost her grip on her teddy in the dark.
I’m not proud of almost never having time to brush my hair before I show up at my desk, because the morning rush of showering while my daughter tries to feed herself Weet-Bix in her high chair and then scrabbling through the laundry for clothes has taken longer today than I calculated, or because I forgot to take the bins out the night before, or maybe my little girl wouldn’t eat her yohgurt yesterday so today she needs a new lunch made for her. I’m certainly not proud of the wide variety of substances on my shirt that I usually notice only after a big meeting with important people in my work day, substances which can include pumpkin, vomit, snot or something I now call ‘miscellaneous baby bodily fluids’.
But there is something in my life I’m proud of, something that few people seem to think I should be. I’m proud of being a working mum. I’m proud of being a working mother because my career has not diminished in any way my ability to love a child.
I’m proud of the fact that I’m tough enough (with the help of a magnificent husband) to get out the door each morning and on to a train, crazy hairdo and dirty shirt be dammed. I’m also proud of what I do in my career in media; the incredible skills I have won after much hard work and many hard lessons, the amount of might it takes to work each day in the fast-paced, high-pressure media world, the wit it takes to keep your footing steady when the ground around you is moving hourly.
I know there are people who would seek to take that pride from me. Just recently, when I appeared on a Channel Seven news program about the rising cost of childcare, I was trolled online by a woman saying, “Child care LOL! Parents used to take care of their child. Confused!’ as though when I went to work I left my child abandoned in a gutter to fend for herself.
Just this week, a well-known columnist wrote that a woman is defined by her family and that working is selfish.
Here’s the thing: I’m not defined by my family any more than my husband is. Only I can tell you what defines me, and yes, in part it’s family and my love for them. But it’s also my love of work, the joy I take in listening to a really excellent podcast while doing the washing up, my love of crazy huge doughnuts and terrible musical theatre songs that I insist I know the words to, even though I don’t. What defines me is what I decide defines me.
But there’s one other thing I should mention that I’m proud of. I’m proud to be in a tribe of working women with heart and soul and fight in them- a tribe that includes heroes like 2Day FM radio host Em Rusciano, who herself is a rare kind of fighter, the kind who battles on each day with endless humour, sass and sequins.
She mic-dropped a rant on radio about working mothers just this week, and it spoke to the rest of our tribe, the women on the train without makeup, the women staring into space as they think about heading home for a hug, the women who love their kids and love their work too.
As they said in the US election, Em, honey, #imwithyou.
I’ll take some of your sequins, if you don’t mind. Make mine extra sparkly.