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Honouring the working mom

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.

‘Missing’ Mom

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 …

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