It’s time for Mothers everywhere to change the image of Mothering.

Mothering is a career. Mothering is a job. It’s time we start treating Mothering as a career, and treating ourselves as professional career women.

Thanks to the internet and, specifically, blogging mothers, I think it is finally beginning to happen. Here is my harsh analysis of what I believe to be the current situation for the state of Motherhood:

I see too many (not all) “stay-at-home moms” running errands, taking their kids to school or activities, and attending meetings in sweats or ratty clothes. They look beaten down by life–heck, they feel beaten down by life. They nag and complain about their husbands and how much work Mothers have to do. They glare angrily and jealously at the “working” mothers who are groomed for work. Then I have my “working-mother” friends who state they couldn’t stand being at home all day just cleaning and running errands, that it isn’t mentally stimulating, and they believe they are better mothers because they can hire out the child-rearing and the house cleaning and really “be there” for their kids when she gets home.

At what point did women—both the “stay-at-home” and “working” women—start disrespecting Motherhood to the point where BOTH think that, if you are at home, it is okay/expected to let yourself go? That staying home means decent (NOT expensive) clothes are a luxury, and that husbands should understand why you are in your sweats at the end of the day and love you just the way you are? That, just because you have constant interruptions from children being children, it’s futile to try to be organized or have a schedule? That it is okay to treat ourselves unprofessionally and disrespectfully?

I think the reason why “stay-at-home” Mothers get such a bad rap — from everyone from “working” Mothers to employers to men—is because many “stay-at-home moms” self-sabotage themselves. When Mothers act as though their work is drudgery, why would others think they are doing anything important or that it is remotely fulfilling? If Mothers do not treat and think of Motherhood like a professional, rewarding career, why should anyone else?

I’m beginning to wonder if women aren’t getting what they deserve after all these years of self-neglect, spouse-neglect, and constant complaining. The marketing image certainly doesn’t look great right now,does it?

Now, every woman on the planet can probably write an entire book on all the ways life isn’t fair to Mothers, how husbands should help more, how few people care about what Mothers do, etc. There are plenty of books out there that do so. I especially like More Work for Mother by Ruth Schwartz Cowan. Sure, we Mothers have plenty of people to blame.

But, here’s the thing: other people are not changing, and Motherhood is still what it is.

The only thing to do is change ourselves; by acting differently, people will hopefully and eventually treat us differently as well.

I am a career woman. My career is my family. I get up early in the morning, shower, dress in a fun outfit, and do my hair and make-up. I then spend a few minutes having coffee, doing any paperwork and going over my schedule. I use Microsoft Outlook to manage my calendar, tasks, and schedule. I then proceed to work—breakfast, homeschooling, housecleaning, etc. If I’m doing something messy,I throw on a (gasp!) apron over my nice clothes (not expensive–we’re far from rich) so my clothes stay nice. I travel with a planner and even have “business cards” with my contact info since it always seems someone is asking for it. Afternoons I schedule gym time and errands while the children are at activities. We have simple dinners, usually something from the crockpot. After reading to children and getting them to sleep, I set things up for the next day, take care of me (facial,nails,etc.), and enjoy time with my husband.

Am I perfect? No. I am by now means a Martha Stewart. Not everything runs perfectly. Sometimes I oversleep or forget something or someone gets sick or the level of children bickering makes me want to run away to a remote tropical island and I lose my temper…. However, by changing my attitude from “What would Rosanne do?” to “What would Bill Gates do?” even crises seem to go much better.

As a professional family manager, I treat the running of the household as though it were a business. To keep our finances in order I think of both the bottom line as well as getting the best return on my investment. For instance, when buying a major appliance I evaluate the cost, it’s effectiveness, and any attributes that will make my job easier. Sometimes a low-end model will meet my needs; other times it is financially prudent to spend a little more to save money and/or time in the long term.

I clean our house from the perspective of a cleaning service. I have few but effective tools kept in a central basket and move through the house as though I am getting paid to get things finished in a limited amount of time. I schedule my cleaning time so the children know not only when it’s time to clean, but when it will be finished. (This is very important to children…the need to see “the light at the end of the tunnel” so to speak. Heck, so do adults!) I wear my MP3 player and work to the music, which keeps me moving quickly and blocks out some of the distractions…I get in the “cleaning zone.”

I have a schedule and routines. As any mother can attest, the unexpected will always happen, especially with children. Children get sick, or they spill something, or a surprise event occurs, or there is a fight, or…. Distractions happen in the business world, too — there’s an unexpected phone call, a boss changes priorities, a customer has additional requests, the company server goes down, etc. Schedules and routines are not rigid timetables by which to live your life, but plans and guidelines from which to work so that, when the unexpected occurs, you have a place/goal to which to return rather than floundering wondering, “what next?”

Time management and planning are crucial. It is not fair or healthy, both mentally and physically, for you or your family to constantly be working from crisis mode. You need to have a meal plan PLUS a couple of crisis meals on hand. You need to know what day to change the sheets, to run errands, to clean the car, etc. You need a calendar, a planner, or a palm pilot with all of such things scheduled. When you are asked, “Can you…?” by a parent or group or anyone, you should be able to consult your planner and make healthy choice for you and them. (That’s treating both you and others with self respect…by managing your time you do not become over-committed, and others see you as someone who has your act together.) By having a time management plan you will quickly know those things which did not get accomplished when the world falls apart (as it will and does), and you’ll quickly know which things need to get rescheduled or, sometimes, dropped altogether.

Most importantly, and above all, you must not put yourself down! We do this to ourselves every single day. We expect perfectionism and beat ourselves up when we do not get it. Guess what? Your life will never be perfect! YOUR LIFE WILL NEVER BE PERFECT! The first best change anyone can make in their lives is to stop going after something you will never get. Think of it this way: if you are at work and your boss has assigned you 100 tasks that can never be completed to 100% perfectly, who do you get mad at…yourself for not getting them done, or your boss for having unreasonable expectations? Of course, you are angry with your boss. Now, think about your role as a Mother. YOU are your own boss. If you are placing unreasonable expectations on yourself, then do not be angry for not getting things done…be angry about giving yourself unreasonable expectations!

The first step to redefining Motherhood is this: RESPECT YOURSELF.

The second step is to not apologize to people for your flaws — you only emphasize them and place that image in others’ and your own minds. No more negative speaking!

The third step is to take care of you. I know the Dugan family states that their family works because they teach “others before self.” However, that only goes so far. You have to have a self to share with others; without that, you are of no help to anyone. Put together a home work look for yourself — something other than ripped jeans or sweats. Do your hair. Don’t say “I don’t have time.” There’s never enough time for anything…but, when you are running behind, you are going to respect yourself more, and others will have more respect for you, if you look clean and put-together. Give yourself a break every day. Teach your children to respect your break. My children know that, when my coffee cup is in my hand, they can only interrupt in an emergency. Speak with confidence — you are wonderful! You will have more respect for yourself, and others for you, when you let them know you are certain of yourself. If you are feeling wishy-washy and let that show in your voice, people will pick up on that and pressure you to bake those 200 cupcakes by tomorrow….

The fourth step is to tell yourself that family management is a business. Your payment is in the form of love, gratitude, and love (can’t say that enough). Do not devalue what you do because you don’t get paid in money. You’ve all heard of Michael H. Minton’s What Is a Wife Worth?: The Leading Expert Places a High Dollar Value on Homemaking — you KNOW what you do is financially valuable. Don’t believe what you do is not important!

The fifth step is to slowly — it doesn’t happen overnight — change how you operate your home. Don’t get stressed out over this. Just start thinking about how you can make something you are doing more efficient.

Treating family management as a business is not to turn Mothering into a cold, methodical practice. Treating family management as a business is a tool to get things done to allow you to love freely and live without stress. Doesn’t every woman on the planet deserve that?

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