The value of mothering

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Photo of a mother swan and her two cygnets

By Jenifer

Until fairly recently I saw parenting, especially mothering, as separate from work. Certainly work, but separate from what we earn our living doing. I no longer see this as the case. How I am with my kids and also other people’s kids is how I am with everyone. How I am with everyone, is how I am with my kids and others’. 

For example: forceful and stressed or purposeful and upbeat at work – that’s what we take home. Tired and impatient or joyful, organised and fun at home – that’s the quality we take to work. Every moment is registering somewhere, and that plays out in the next moment or the one after, and on those around us. Perhaps we are able to appreciate this more clearly now that our working lives are more physically integrated to our homes through remote working, and being propelled towards greater transparency that this way of working has enabled. 

I have been noticing the impact of parenting and its quality a lot recently, on children and their friends; on colleagues and business leaders; on family, friends and their children; on happenings in the community and the world. It has made me consider more deeply the work of mothering, and of fathering, because we all need each. 

Mothering has an enormous impact on our lives. Enormous. Its value in society is acknowledged to the smallest degree in contrast to what it is in reality.

How we are mothered influences deeply, how we live, how we see ourselves and the world, how much responsibility we take, our relationships with each other and the types of partner we choose to be with, our work path and ethic, our relationship with courage, respect, and risk.One of many influences and not immovable, but a huge one.  

The work I do with my kids, is as important as the work I do professionally. It gets equal quality, not measured in quantity, around a busy client base. There is no greater contribution and purpose than the men, and respectful, fulsome beings I and my husband and close community are raising our boys to be. This is work, no different, and not heavy. With all the practicalities of prioritisation, each job holds the exact same weight, and also cross pollinates.  

And what about being a mother? And that we mother each other. Not as in smother – the mother hen style parody, but actual true parenting. How we are as managers, as colleagues, as mentors, as friends, is parenting too.  

Parenting involves administering true care for another without want of payback or recognition.  A genuine wishing of the very best for someone – the very, very best.

An everyday nurturing freshness, devoid of yesterday’s attached critique. A willingness to call you out on nonsense, with due consequence, without executing you on a timeline of change and demand. To not expect of you what they will not do and actually not, and never, use emotion for manipulation or gain. To give you a kick up the butt when you need it, as well as help you read life and handle its pain. To collaborate, teach and share, not hold you less or more. To remind you of the qualities that make you literally amazing before, during and after the things of life that need to be done. To have your back no matter what. To know they are beside you as equals whether for small bodies (kids) or grown up (adults), holding a forever place on your supporters’ bench. To love you to the bone and then some.  

And we can mother ourselves too. That nurturing provides a foundation for life, a steadiness that holds us and helps anchor others too. As does its absence undermine our foundation, making us shaky.  

Mothering is not something separate few of us experience. It’s something we all do to a greater or lesser degree, with nephews, nieces, godchildren, grandchildren, in the community, our own kids and others’, each other, ourselves. It’s all part of it, without detracting from the super grand wonder and challenges of the biological.    

In business today, mothering is not a thing, except as associated with the logistics of legal requirements and fussing managers or HR professionals. But it is and should be a thing. It’s part of the fabric of life. It’s what we bring to work and it’s how we are with each other, as well as being in the critical practicality of working parents and supporters, with their associated duties and needs.  

How much do we honour the work of mothering – of parenting, in a professional context – in society more broadly? How much do we acknowledge and support ourselves and each other in that activity, without the pictures and conditions of a historic familial context and all its definitions? How seriously or casually do we take what is so fundamental to how we live?  

Our parenting, especially our mothering, deserves way more attention. This is work of the most valuable, one-life integrated kind. The kind that raises all of us. 

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