When I give a presentation about Village and the realities and challenges of parenthood and working life, I can at times get quite passionate and emotive. The Village Foundation was born of personal experience and research and both elements have details that can bring up emotions, memories, and truths, particularly during question time when I am often asked about my personal experiences. One of the reasons I developed Village, was to create a platform where truths were told and received with openness, understanding, and compassion. The key to starting here is truths being told, and this needs to start with me as the founder, and as an advocate for transparent parenting. I have been very open and vocal about my experiences with postpartum depression 8 years ago and my experiences as a new fulltime working mother over the past 2 years. Not everything I have to say is warm and fuzzy, rather, I deliberately share the things that often go unsaid, that others may find uncomfortable to hear. I’ve chosen not to hide the reality of being a working mum, of being a mum who isn’t a ‘natural’, of being a mum who prefers to work, like so many women and men are forced to do; pretending that all is ok and that they are unchanged by their new reality.
What does this mean? It means that like many working parents, I may not always be 100% focused. I may be thinking about my daughters, torn between the old me and the new me that is up with them all night, comforting them when they’re sad or sick and always partially thinking of them. I may be on the brink. And for me, in this role, it means I will state that I’m exhausted if I’m exhausted, that I’ve had little sleep, that I sometimes forget my train of thought. It means I'll openly state that I love being the ‘secondary' caregiver, that I prefer working to reading stories. It means I will openly state the conflict between loving my girls wholeheartedly and not loving all the daily details. It means I share what I'm feeling and thinking despite how unpleasant or how against the norm it may be. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my work. It doesn’t mean I don’t adore my children. And it doesn’t mean Im not 100% committed. To Both. I challenge the norm, the acceptable, the allowed because it's an illusion that society tells us we ‘should' be, the perfect mothering template. The damage this societal framework does is both explicit and clandestine.
I am deliberate in my honesty and my reality is the reality of many working parents’ lives. Perhaps this is unprofessional, perhaps to my detriment. Perhaps others find it difficult or uncomfortable. Despite this, I strongly believe that it’s imperative to change the existing paradigm. How else do we address the unsaid, if not to say it? I would be inauthentic if I acted otherwise or pretended that I am not often moved to be less than perfectly dispassionate and professional during a presentation or talk.
My telling, however raw or real, does not change the facts.
One in 5 women experience postpartum depression.
One in 10 men.
This has developmental effects on the infant and siblings in the short and long term.
These effects flow into the community, the workplace.
80% of mothers experience some form of emotional distress after having a baby.
Perinatal mental health costs the Australian industry over $500 million a year in lost
The first 4 months back into the workforce after leave are critical to retention.
40% of new dads fear taking leave for career impact.
Some women report feeling isolated, disconnected and alone on parental leave.
Loss of identity when on leave plays a significant role in mental health.
Women seek other parents, who have been there before, to share with.
Women will not actively seek help or admit their suffering for fear of shame, and impact on
Women decided not to make their needs known to others
if they felt the people around them could not offer the kind of support they needed.
Negron, Martin, Almog, Balbierz and Howell 2013
This is why I share, this is why I am brutally honest. And this is why I believe wholeheartedly, that Village is so important. Mentoring is key in facilitating wellbeing and connection before, during and after leave which may improve the wellbeing of parents at work, the health and wellbeing of our children, productivity and the bottom line for industry in Australia.
Do you have a story to share? We are collating real stories, of real working parents. Please email your experience to firstname.lastname@example.org or call to chat further 0410 943 873.