In a world of work where women struggle to achieve balance, CFP◦ and Chartered Wealth Financial Planner, Tiffany Venter, draws on childhood memories to learn a valuable lesson.
Tiffany with her mom, Glenda De Wet
I could seldom resist. I would lean over, peer at the contents and feel that vague sense of unease that often comes with envy.
There they lay – symmetrical perfection: fresh white triangles filled with crisp lettuce, tomato and cheese, crusts carefully cut off, and neatly arranged in the lunchbox … evidence of the solicitous care of stay-at-home mothers. Whereas I, daughter of a working mother, rose early to make my own sandwiches, a rather rushed routine resulting in squashed blocks of jam and butter.
The contrast often made me reflect on the unfairness of life. As a young girl, I used to scrutinise those flawless families at school all the time, their perfection extending beyond perfectly prepared lunches … girls whose moms worked at the tuckshop; mothers cheering at every netball match without fail; peers who were fetched at 13:30 sharp, available for private after-school activities to which they were seamlessly ferried; and school projects that always trumped mine, having had hefty parental involvement.
My reality included solitary project efforts, aftercare in primary school and walks to and from high school as a teenager.
I was a child of a mother who worked … and this was a point of contention between us for many of my growing years. I recall often begging my mom to give up her job so that she could join the tuckshop troupe of volunteers, but she was unmoved and unmoving. I made my disappointment clearly known. But, there was never a moment when I did not feel loved.
With maturity comes insight and there came a time when my view started to shift.
I witnessed many of my friends struggling with the responsibility that comes with independence during our university years. They still had to learn basic lessons: tin foil cannot be used in the microwave; spilt milk does not miraculously clean itself up; laundry must be separated into darks and lights.
I started to realise that the independence that my mother encouraged in me from a young age was a gift: if I didn’t prepare my own lunch, I went hungry; if I left my project to the last minute, I had to make a plan. I was expected to help with dinner.
I learned from a young age that I was responsible for my own actions, work, health and, ultimately, my own happiness.
Mother as a Mentor
Another huge advantage became apparent when I was deciding on a career path.
I needed someone who had worked hard to make a success of her own career to be a sounding board, someone who understood the various paths I was considering. I had seen my mother’s dedication in her own career, and this experience stood me in good stead as I entered the working world. The challenges of a first job are inevitable; guidance and sound advice are invaluable.
All novice employees need to understand the behaviour expected in a working environment. My mother showed me when I was being unreasonable and always offered me the alternative perspective.
I have realised that my mother is my role model. Not only did she do a great job raising me and my siblings while holding down a full-time job, she also kept her life in balance. She makes her health and fitness a priority; she makes time to see her friends and family; she is open-minded, smart and dedicated. She wins the genuine admiration of those close to her, colleagues, family and friends.
A daughter’s dedication
So, with much gratitude, I would like to say this to career mothers:
Being a working mom can have such a positive impact on your daughters (and sons!). A woman who is empowered, challenged and has a strong sense of purpose is inspiring to younger women. She can help, mentor and guide them well into their adult years, resulting in a lifelong relationship of respect.
I recognise that it is difficult for mothers not to feel guilty when their children are young and those children demand more time and attention. Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly long-term benefits of having a powerful female role model.
Thank you, Mom, for your love and many sacrifices …