Once you become a mum you open yourself up to a world of new labels – mumpreneur, stay-at-home mum, working mum and even the new stay-at-home-working-mum.
And with many of the these labels comes the seemingly inevitable judgement – are you being the right kind of mum (whatever that is)?
But should being a mum have to define us? And worse, force the world to re-evaluate our talents based on our new identity? Ruth Thomson reveals why she was tempted to hide her mum status in her professional life, and why she’s finally ready to out herself – and shake off the labels for good.
Does being a mum HAVE to define us?
In September 2014, I became a mum – and I love it. (Though maybe not the seriously smelly nappies or the sleep deprivation.)
But since finding out I was pregnant, I have been scared of being solely defined by or limited by being a mum. Some of this fear is in my head, but a lot of it is very real.
For example, the male colleague who told me I wouldn’t care about work once I’d had a baby (I do, and in fact I’m more ambitious than ever) was certainly very real. As was the new colleague who told me not to worry if I couldn’t get a simple task done. He’d understand… I had had a baby.
And the other colleague who said I ‘didn’t look like a mum’. He meant it as a compliment but I wonder what he expected me to look like – dirty hair, stained clothes and a stressed expression? I was insulted on behalf of us all.
I have become a stealth mum
I have been letting this fear drive me to hideout. Force me to become a stealth mother; carefully not sharing that I am a mum with anyone connected with my career.
It feels safer that way. I’m more comfortable being below the radar – as if it could protect me from being discriminated against by future employers, being underestimated by current colleagues and contemporaries, and help me avoid being passed over for exciting opportunities because people think I won’t have the time or the energy.
And maybe it will even prevent me from being made redundant, like so many of my female contemporaries, during or straight after maternity leave.
But by keeping quiet, I am missing the chance to connect to a fantastic new community of women who are not hiding out. Amazing women who are blazing a new trail for us all. Mothers Meeting, Digital Mums, Startup Mums… too many to mention. They are reclaiming the description of ‘mum’ as something positive, exciting and entrepreneurial.
Maternity leave was the most creative time of my life
I’ve have been too scared to say out loud that my maternity leave has been the most creative and entrepreneurial time of my life.
I have studied with MIT professors and got my head around economics. I have set up a new networking group for parents who have the desire to create new projects and businesses. I am learning social media marketing. I am volunteering, working, mothering and having a great time. And my son is happy, healthy and coming along for the ride.
I don’t fit into the mum stereotypes
I feel like an oddity; I don’t fit any of the mum stereotypes out there. I’m not a stay-at-home mum, a resistant mum, a career-first mum, an earth mother, a hippy mother, a cool mama, a mum boss or mumpreneur.
I don’t know what mum I am but I know I don’t want to be a stealth mother anymore. Here I am, out and proud and ready to challenge those want to tell me what I can and can’t achieve. Ready to make my own luck, find my own opportunities and become my own kind of mum – whatever that might be.
What kind of mum are you?
And what about you? Are you a stealth mum, hiding your secret mum status in case you get relegated to the ‘mummy track’ (or worse)? Or are you happy to wear one of the many mum labels with pride?
We’d love to hear about – and share – your opinions and stories too. So if you’d like to tell the world what you think being a mum means to you, please get in touch and tell us.