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Working mums: Why being one is different to being a working dad…

Today we have a guest post from the lovely Molly Forbes. She takes a look at a subject close to my heart; whether being a working mum is different to being a working dad. In our house, it most definitely is. We are very similar to the Weaver household it would appear…

Molly Forbes is a broadcaster, writer and mum. She lives with her feisty toddler and husband in a village in Berkshire. Molly blogs at Mother’s Always Right, where she mostly shares her failed attempts at crafting and her constant lack of sleep.

Working mums; different to being a working dad?

Molly Weaver

“You’ll have to take the day off work, I’ve got a big important meeting tomorrow,”

Stated my husband at 3.30am this morning, as it became clear our toddler was not in a fit shape for nursery.

“I can’t – you know I can’t just take a day off. They need me on the show!”

I replied, already resigned to the fact I would probably be the one not going in.

The thing is, when your child is poorly, you put them first. Of course you do. When you’re a working parent you accept that kids DO get ill and that means parents WILL – at some point – have to take time off to look after them. In the last 18 months I’ve been lucky enough to only have two days off due to a poorly little girl. And on both those days I knew it would be ME taking the time off and not my husband. Why? Because she needed her mum. End of.

It’s not that my husband’s job is any less important than mine. It’s not that it’s easier for me to take time off. It’s that there are times when my toddler just wants her mum. No matter how many cuddles her dad has for her, if she’s vomiting and has a temperature she will only lie in the arms of her mother

And, for that reason, being a working mum in my world anyway) is very different to being a working dad.

Working mums; Who looks after the feisty toddler an their wellies when they aren't well?

Working mums; Who looks after the feisty toddler and their wellies when they aren’t well?

When I ask around my friends, the same is true. If there’s ever a poorly child in the house, nine times out of ten it falls on the mum to make the “I can’t come in today” call. Looking back on my own childhood, that was also the case. Both my parents were teachers, but it was my mum who would look after me or my sister if we were poorly, so it was my mum who would have to take a day off work.

If I try to explain to friends without kids what it’s like juggling a career with being a parent, they look at me blankly.

“But don’t you just drop her at the nursery and then go to work?”

they ask.

Well, no as it happens. My husband is the one who does drop-offs, as I’m in work by 5am. I do pick-ups at lunchtime and am at home during the afternoons before doing more work in the evenings when my daughter’s in bed.

When everything is going well, this routine runs like clockwork. We are all happy, we all get to spend time together and we all feel fulfilled (me doing a job I love, my husband doing a job he loves and my daughter going to a nursery she loves, as well as our dedicated chunks of family time). But if ONE thing goes wrong – a nursery snow closure, a problem with the childcare, a poorly child – the whole plan is out of the window.

Like many families, we live miles away from both sets of grandparents. We don’t have any parents nearby to help out in an emergency. My husband and I are the only players in our team, there is no one on the bench waiting to join us. And for that reason, childcare emergencies or toddler sickness always lead to one of those discussions in the middle of the night, while we tussle with the decision of who will take the day off work.

“It’s impossible for BOTH parents with young children to have a career,”

Stated my husband matter-of-factly earlier today.

“That’s just the way it is.”

My jaw hit the ground at that statement – but (and don’t tell him this) I can sort of see where he’s coming from. If only one of us worked, or we earned enough to justify a full time nanny, the likelihood of these conversations would be minimal. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up though.
All families do things differently and all working parents have to juggle. But articles about the struggles of the working dad aren’t as common as those about the working mum. We try to share all our domestic responsibilities at home, but I’m pretty sure my husband’s daily inner monologue wouldn’t be one mixing work deadlines with reminders to pay the nursery invoice, or pick up that card for the toddler birthday party at the weekend. Is this what we mean when we talk about juggling a career with motherhood?

I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that being a working mum IS different to being a working dad. Maybe it’s not always harder, maybe the juggle is not always worse, but I’m pretty sure the division is there.

Or maybe that’s just the case in my house. What’s it like in yours?

Sharing is caring!

Cathie B

Friday 10th of May 2013

Luckily me & my OH can share taking time off if necessary but once OH took the day off because L was poorly & when I mentioned the situation, it was like tumbleweed in the office! They were shocked that I had come into work & let OH take the day off. The next time he was L I called in to say I would not be in & they were displeased with me so basically I cannot win! Interesting piece & am looking forward to reading others comments

Rachael (Mushroomsmum)

Thursday 21st of February 2013

I have similar struggles. I really enjoy my job but went part-time when I returned to work as I wanted to be at home for Mushroom's milestones. This means the the bulk of the childcare, housework, etc. (all the 1950s 'women's work'!) falls to me. My husband will do things if I ask him, but I do have to ask repeatedly. I also think he's still a bit scared of being left alone to look after Mushroom, especially if he's ill and crying for me! I suspect that's because I am happy to hold him close while he vomits. Mr is a bit sqeamish! I don't really have any answers, I just wanted to say that I empathise with your situation!


Thursday 31st of January 2013

I know exactly how you feel.

Women still take on the major roles in looking after children in most households. In many ways it is worse than our parents generations where many women stayed at home to look after the children, now we work and look after them !

I know there are exceptions however in most households I know the working mum is the one who does the organising of the children's lives.

Liska (

Friday 25th of January 2013

I can totally relate to what you say. Aaron was sick the whole of last week. He spent the WHOLE week on my knee. He ONLY wanted his Mummy. At the end of the week the husband made a dig that the laundry wasn't done. Well whoopey de doo I can't sort out laundry when I have grown a toddler as securely attached to me as if he were still a "bump". Insensitive bar steward!!!! Sorry, that memory has made me CROSS> Liska xx


Friday 25th of January 2013

This is where the Dad busts in with his rebuttal ;D My wife and I both have full time jobs to go along with a 2 & 4 year old. I think it's very important that families keep working towards breaking the stereotypes of the old school gender roles. I realize there are still going to be times when the little ones want to snuggle with a particular parent but I know that I would be devastated if my kiddies always wanted Mommy when they weren't feeling well. Furthermore, it's time that more men start to step up and realize that doing laundry, dishes and general housework isn't just for the women of the house. In my particular situation, because my wife works at a daycare center, she enjoys the housework, but that's only because I will take the kids out for an afternoon of fun while she takes the time to herself. That doesn't mean I don't contribute to the daily household duties, it's just a great schedule we've agreed upon. It sounds like you've got a pretty good man there and I hope you are able to get everything sorted out, Molly. Cheers!

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