By Christina Wedgwood, Director of Intelligent Ink and mother to two boys – Levi, 22 months and Nico, 1 month old

As I sit here writing this (with just one hand on the keyboard), my breast pump is whirring…
This is the very raw reality of what it means to me to be a working mother. To sum it up in a
word, it means multi-tasking.

Working women come in all shapes and sizes – from different backgrounds and hold
different roles within organisations. A large proportion of us, however, are also mothers.
More, in fact, than ever before. According to Statistics New Zealand, in the 20 years
between June 1994 and June 2014, participation of mothers in the workforce increased by
just over 30% So, what does this mean for us women who not only want to continue, but
advance our careers, while also raising children and growing our families?

The juggle is real

For many of us, it means constantly trying to balance differing demands. Working mothers
are real-life jugglers, having to constantly try to balance the demands of our job with the
important role of supporting, and being present for, our families.

However, multi-tasking comes with its trade-offs. There’s the nagging feeling that while
we’re battling away doing two (or more!) things at once, we’re not really quite doing either
of them justice. This is, in part, where the term “mummy guilt” comes from – and while this
isn’t solely the domain of the working mother, working outside the home is definitely
another source of exacerbation for the problem.

However, it’s not all dire. Working mothers, take solace… There are some silver linings!

1. Our children benefit
In direct opposition to the assumption that fuels at least some of our ‘Mummy guilt’ is
research that has found that children actually benefit from having a working mum. The
study – performed by Kathleen L. McGinn, Mayra Ruiz Castro and Elizabeth Long Lingo –
found that women raised by mothers who worked outside the home were more likely to
have jobs themselves, were more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and
earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time.

Additionally, men raised by working mothers were more likely to contribute to household
chores and spend more time caring for family members. The Harvard Business School article
that cites this research even goes so far as to say that “there are very few things that have
such a clear effect on gender inequality as being raised by a working mother.” So, you could
consider yourself a pioneer!

2. Model mothers
With more mothers in the workforce, we have more working mother role models than ever
– both in high-profile positions and our own circles. Not only that, with so many of us in the
same boat, comes camaraderie, support and shared understanding, which can be

Not only are we seeing more great networks like Professionelle that cater for working
women (including mothers, of course!) both myself, and many of my friends have
commented that we’ve encountered kindnesses that we’d never come across before since
becoming mothers. I’ve heard it said that one of the joys of motherhood is the other
mothers – and yes, while there can be judgments and unsolicited opinions aplenty when it
comes to parenting, if you’re lucky, there’s also the incredible comfort of knowing that
other mums have your back.

3. We see how strong we really are
Nothing tests us quite like the relentless task of mothering. Throw in work outside the home
too and you’ve got some fairly character-building stuff. When you manage to find a spare
moment, and take the chance to reflect on all that makes your days, weeks and life so full,
you’ve really got to marvel at how exceptionally strong you are… And that’s rewarding!

4. Pushing progress
While the plight of working mothers is not new, this year it appears to be more firmly in the
public domain with the extension of maternity pay in New Zealand and our currently
pregnant Prime Minister. Not only has that news attracted international attention and
opened up further debate around the issues facing working mothers, we’re seeing more
organisations open to – and exploring – ways that they can better support working mothers.
There’s still work to be done, but all of these signs are encouraging.

Join the conversation
Join us on April 24th for the first event in our Working Mothers event series – ‘A Mum’s
Perspective’. The panel – which consists of Broadcaster Toni Street, Chief District Court
Judge Her Honour Jan-Marie Doogue and Air NZ’s Chief of People Jodie King, facilitated by
Hannah Ockelford – promises to be entertaining and insightful and there’ll be opportunities
for wine, nibbles and mingling too. Click here for more and to buy tickets.

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