Work-Life-Balance Is A Myth! Let’s Talk About Juggling

55% of UK mums say they need more help from employers and colleagues to be the working mum they want to be.

Peanut juggling

by Michelle Kennedy |
Published on

It’s 9.15am. I’m sat at my desk, coffee in hand, looking at our last 24 hours of data. The ‘Good mornings’ chime in, a stark reminder that not everyone has been awake with two little ones since 6AM. Mornings at our house are a military style operation - have breakfast, get washed, dressed, leave the house, do the school run and get to the office. Not to forget doing my make-up in the car en route to work – yes, I’m that person!

Being a working mum is a tough gig, and it’s something women talk about on Peanut every single day. Society so often tells us that we can ‘have it all’, but the reality is very different. There are so many challenges from finding affordable and appropriate childcare, maintaining relationships, coping with sleepless nights, not to mention the ‘World Book Day’ costume or cake bake sale that fell off your to-do list.

We’re often told about the elusive “work-life-balance,” something we should crave throughout our careers. We’re told it's possible to find that ‘sweet spot’ and when we inevitably don’t, it can feel overwhelming, like we’re failing at times. It just feels like another way that society puts undue pressure on women and parents.

Whenever I talk about this topic I always turn to the analogy of plastic and glass balls. Everyday I’m juggling, and it’s inevitable that some balls will be dropped. I have glass balls, the balls that cannot be broken (board meetings, parents’ evening) and plastic balls, the balls that will survive (daily management check ins, bake sale volunteering). I’ve learned that it’s not possible to have it all, and that juggling is a constant.

Growing up both my parents were incredibly hardworking and my career has always formed part of my identity. For me, it’s always been very important that Finlay and Nuala see mama going to work. I want to show them that mama goes to work, for them, as well as for me.  I want my kids to see what success requires — hard work, some failure, and bravery — but I also want them to know that failure is part of a successful journey sometimes. I want to show my children that working hard is not just about achieving success, but also about building things and making positive changes in the world.

When I first met Leah Dyckes and Clare Moulder, two wonderful women and mothers heading up MALTESERS® in the UK, I was inspired by our shared mission to bust myths, break stigmas, and shine a light on all that working mums do to make the world go ‘round’.

I’m so proud that together, Peanut and MALTESERS have launched a new ‘Work & Motherhood’ content hub this week which provides actionable tips, tools, and real-life advice from real mothers. Women who are looking to ask their own questions and be vulnerable in a safe space can also join the in-app ‘Work & Motherhood’ group on Peanut to ask questions and find peer-to-peer support.

No matter what stage you’re at, whether you’re trying to conceive, pregnant, a new mother or even going through menopause, this new in-app group and content hub helps women know they’re not alone if they’re struggling to navigate work and motherhood.

We’re committed to creating a safe space for honest and open discussion about the challenges, highs and lows working mothers face and to spotlight the ways in which those around them can step up to support. The success stories from Peanut are living proof that the more we talk about our experiences, the less isolating they become.

MALTESERS’ new piece of research into the experiences and perspectives of working mums shows that 1 in 4 mums in the UK feel less valued as an employee in the workplace since becoming a mum, and 30% don’t feel understood by others in their workplace. On top of this, the study also revealed that 55% of UK mums say they need more help from employers and colleagues to be the working mum they want to be.

It’s no secret that the guilt is very real when you’re a mother. It’s forever by your side. When I had my second child Nuala, we were really in growth mode at Peanut and I wasn’t really able to take a full maternity leave. During this time, the guilt was incredibly overwhelming. I had personal guilt because I desperately wanted to be with Nuala but also professional guilt as CEO, because the team needed me too. It’s unsurprising that MALTESERS’ research shows 79% of mums in the UK feel guilty for not spending enough time with their children and 56% feel guilty about not working enough - it’s a challenge we all face every day.

There comes a point where it’s important to acknowledge that there’s no such thing as having it all, at least not all at once. There are days where I pour my energy into Peanut, fully dedicate myself to being a brilliant CEO and championing how we can make a difference in the lives of women around the world. But there’s also days where my focus is on being present with my family, cherishing those moments with my children and striving to be the most supportive partner, daughter, and friend I can.

But rarely, if ever, do all of these roles align perfectly on the same day. While I may not “have it all”, I can say that having a village to support you changes everything. From my team at Peanut to my partner, family and friends, having people around you who understand the struggle and understand that occasionally you need to drop a ball really helps alleviate those feelings of guilt.

That’s why the MALTESERS Let’s Lighten the Load® campaign is so fundamentally important ‒ from the Let’s Lighten the Load® White Paper, it’s clear that there are actionable ways we as employers, colleagues, friends, family, partners, and society, in general, can help working mums and create environments where we can thrive.

To any fellow work-mum jugglers out there, please join our Peanut group all about Work & Motherhood to connect, share tips, and be part of a community who get it. .

Meanwhile, if any circus producers are in need of an experienced juggler, you know where I am!

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