We all know the type. The bubbly mum who drops off her kids wearing flashy yoga tights, looking fit. She never seems to be in a hurry, never flustered by the hectic morning routine. We cast jealous looks and swear under our breath: I’d be skinny too if I had time to hang out at the gym, but the boss is waiting.
Can you picture her?
Now, what if I told you, that this mum runs her own successful business. Would that surprise you?
It surprises me.
It shouldn’t, but it does. We’ve been programmed to assume that high-flying career women fit a specific mould: dressed to impress, running around in killer heels and on the phone. All other women must be stay-at-home mums. We make assumptions and what’s worse, we judge. We judge and feel superior.
Believe me, I know. Because I’m one of you. Brainwashed by corporate life, dictating that work defines us and sets us apart. For half my life, I was happily oblivious in that corporate bubble. But the bubble has burst.
Let me explain.
Something doesn’t compute
I left the corporate world years ago and am my own boss today. In my view, the business is successful: it pays the bills while giving me the flexibility to plan my days around my kids, my sports, my life really.
Still, on days I do the school run in my sports gear, I feel uncomfortable. What if all the other parents think I am one of them? One of those… stay-at-home-mums?
Seriously? My own thoughts make me frown. To be totally clear, I salute you if you accepted the job to raise your children 24/7. So where does this discomfort come from?
And it doesn’t stop there. When meeting my freelancer friends for coffee, I’m always conscious of my appearance. What if I bump into old colleagues wearing flip flops instead of my usual heels? Or when mums invite me for a playdate on weekdays, I’m always careful to mention my work schedule.
But hang on, I was never one to look for external affirmation, so why do I care now?
The Painful Realisation That Spurred Me Into Action
I found myself wondering.
Where does this new fear of judgement come from? And why am I always so eager to mention that I work FULL-TIME, in big bold capital letters? Why do I act as if working sets me apart from those who don’t? Because I surely don’t believe it does.
Only then it dawned on me. The painful truth.
I’m a victim of mind-control. My brain had been carefully programmed, thoughts had been planted, disguising themselves as my true beliefs. Me, the person known for her sense of justice, I had become a judgemental working mum.
How On Earth Did I Get Here?
I grew up in a time of feminism and gender equality. We didn’t think twice about going to college, earning a degree and finding a job. Eventually I landed my dream job with a big multi-national, did the hours, got the promotion, got the car.
When pregnant with my first baby, people would ask me: what are your plans after your maternity leave? Will you scale down to 3 days? Will you quit your job and stay home?
Excuse me? I was shocked by the mere suggestion I might stay at home and do ‘nothing’ with my hard earned education and experience. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind. My job was too important. My job and my corporate life.
The Corporate Brainwash: I Work, Therefore I Am
It’s an interesting world, a self-sustaining bubble with its own eco-system. We all know the rules. If you don’t clock the hours, you don’t deserve the reward. Offices globally are jam-packed with people wasting time. Imagine you’d be the first to leave! Besides, it’s not that you have something better to do. Work is your number one priority. Work defines you.
We proudly drive our big cars, boast about our spacious office with the better view. What do you do? we ask each other. Men who mention they are stay-at-home dads are being laughed at, stay-at-home mums were never taken seriously in the first place.
On the other hand, we can’t stop talking about work-life balance. We complain about the long hours and the pressure, devour articles on how to unplug and rewind, dream about leaving this job and spending more time with our loved ones. We all proclaim our most precious memories are not made in the office, our best days not spent at work.
And still we are judgy as hell, it’s the ultimate corporate brainwash.
The Shocking Truth About Leaving Corporate Life
I walked out of that bubble more than two years ago. But let’s be honest. I hadn’t truly left. I had merely changed offices.
I was still chained to their rules and standards. This old programming was still controlling my thoughts, feelings and actions. How could I have been so ignorant! Quite embarrassing, I admit. But I refuse to be the happy victim any longer.
So, it’s time for some serious deprogramming.
I’m Taking Back Control
It’s time to deprogram, live my true beliefs and not act as if I’m defined by my work (or at least not by work alone).
It’s time to stop acting as a member of the corporate world. I identify myself with those who appreciate different ways of growth and fulfilment, with people who choose quality time with loved ones over working late to impress the boss.
I am comfortable in my skin and I fight the urge to explain myself when dropping off the kids in sports gear, or when I bump into old colleagues during ‘normal’ working hours.
I vow to look at other people and genuinely see them for who they are, not for what they do (or not do).
I’m taking back control.
Fast Forward A Couple Of Weeks
There I am, waiting at the school gate. One of the mums asks me about our big move to Europe. So, what will you be doing? Will you stay at home?
My response comes way too quickly: No, absolutely not! I will continue working…
I bite my tongue, and resist the urge to add: full-time.
Baby steps Karin, baby steps.
Karin Louzado is a former captain of industry who left the corporate world behind to become a globetrotting entrepreneur. She now dedicates her time helping other busy parents making the most of their precious free time. Get her proven tools and make your family time easy and effortless. So you can spend less time planning and more time playing, building and bonding. You can follow her journey on Blunt Moms, Thrive Global, the planet D, on FB and Instagram.