What on earth are mothers doing these days?

A few weeks ago on a very popular breakfast show, one of the presenters said “What on earth are mothers doing these days?”.

It was in response to a report that one in six children are leaving primary school with on average two rotten teeth, from eating excess sugary sweets and not cleaning their teeth properly. Now I’m not saying this is a good thing, far from it.   But it was the comment of “What on earth are mothers doing these days?” that prompted me to write this blog.

I also overheard a conversation recently with some women in their 70s who said “I just can’t see why mothers don’t stop their kids and teens using their phones. Mums are way too soft these days”.  You can perhaps understand why women of older generations might think that. But it’s not as simple as this.

We are living in a very, very  complicated world.

It’s fast, it’s furious, it’s frantic. I can feel it, can’t you?

We are the first generation of Mums to be bringing up a generation of children, who have never had a childhood OR school life experience without being plugged in. Whilst also being the first generation of parents who only really know parenting with the technology ‘advances’ of the last 15 years. I put advances in inverted commas because as I explain below, tech advances are so overbearing for Mums on so many levels.

We are also the only generation of Mums to have dealt with two national lockdowns.  The state education system is simply on its knees and falling apart. And Mums have never been under so much pressure and carrying such a mental load.

Motherkind podcast host and author Zoe Blakesy shared this yesterday:

“Have a career,  but also don’t miss a moment. Be there to look after your ageing parents, but also have a career and never miss a school play – actually don’t miss any school events. Make sure they go to clubs, but not too many, you don’t want to overstimulate them. Keep on top of the life admin, the cooking, the cleaning, the organising the washing and whatever you don’t do, don’t drop any balls. You need a village. But you also need to create it yourself. So make sure to use any spare energy you have to make friends and don’t forget to reply to every WhatsApp immediately, You don’t want to seem too busy, it’s rude. And make sure you look good whilst doing it all. Oh and also you’re not allowed to say it’s hard; because you chose this”

I’m not saying Mums before us had it all easy. Not at all!  And I do think a lot of Mums (when they learn the mindset I teach), can absolutely start to alleviate some of that mental pressure. But we are living in a very different world to the Mums before us.  And I believe Mums need a lot more compassion. And a lot less criticism.

If you don’t know, I’m a 47 year old Mum of three. I have teenage twin boys who are nearly 16 and an eight year old daughter. I am a single Mum and have my kids 100% of the time. I’m an SEN Mum (my daughter is autistic with ADHD and sensory processing disorder) and in September 2023, I deregistered her and now home educate her.

But I have also been working with Mums for 23 years. First in the health and fitness industry. Where I qualified as an ante/post natal personal trainer and health coach in 2002 and had a very busy ante/post natal practice in SW London. Before setting up Fit for a Princess (outdoor bootcamps for women), which I ran until 2019.   Since launching my online coaching business in 2011, I’ve created over 25 group coaching programs, and racked up 3000 coaching hours from my group and 121 coaching work combined.  And over 90% of my clients since 2001, have been Mums born between 1965 and 1985. And 80% of these Mums, being born in the 70s.

So I’d say very confidently that I really do understand the struggles that women and Mums face. And, how they have been massively exacerbated in this mayhem modern world we find ourselves in, through no fault of our own.  Crucially, I’ve seen an abundance of women’s back of house over these years. Not the things you or others see from their front of house. But the raw and vulnerable reality behind the scenes that women experience day in day out, but often never ever show.

I’ve witnessed the technology advances and how they have massively impacted women’s lives and minds. Their children’s mental health AND partner’s mental health declining. And how everyone’s work-life / school-life boundaries being skewed.

And as a business coach who primarily works with Mums who run their small businesses around their kids, I can tell you that running a business has NEVER been so complicated.  Social media has become an utter ball ache and can be a full time job in itself. And I see frazzled female small business owners feeling that the work they do as invisible. Often feeling that they’re failing too – as a jack of all trades and master of none – as they juggle way too many things day in day out. Trying to be everything to everyone.  One lovely client said “I wish my daughters didn’t still think that Daddy works harder and has a proper job, just because he gets on a train to work in an office”.

I helped pull women through Covid, keeping them afloat as they bore the brunt of it – and had to do what NO Mum has ever had to do before. And I’m also still helping them as we deal with the aftermath of it all four years on.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that there is a massive increase in SEND diagnoses. But the narrative that it must be something Mums are doing or not doing, is not only factually incorrect, but damn right insulting! I know how many SEND Mums are endlessly gaslit about their parenting skills, their kids’ behaviour and the challenges they face and the choices they make. Not just from people in the failed education / soul destroying SEND system,  but even close friends and family too.

General anxiety and self-harming rates have gone up consistently and alarmingly since the smart phone became mainstream. And more and more teens are struggling with the horrific secondary school system. Suicide rates have never been so high.

Having a 7.5 year age gap between my older twins and younger daughter has given me true insight and clarity of how much the education system has changed in a full 7 year school cycle. And just how complicated school has become.  Especially since Covid.

So let me tell you this.

Mothers these days are doing and dealing with more than most will ever realise.

Our brains are fried. Our kids are distracted. We are all permanently interrupted. There’s temptation everywhere. So many options. It’s hard to focus. And it’s SO hard to find the peace and headspace that we so desperately need.

A lot of our challenges do come from the tech explosion. And even though we know smart phones and social media are designed to keep people addicted to them. It still falls on our shoulders to fix. Not the tech giants causing all this, but the Mums. And honestly most Mums (especially with kids year 7 onwards) feel utterly helpless. Not just in terms of managing technology. But how it’s impacting their mental health and life experience.

Yes we can of course look at the role we can play to make things easier or better.  To own and address some of our boundaries and choices.  And yes some of the pressure Mums feel, can be considered as self-created and lowered with that better mindset.  I come back to this stuff ALL the time as a Mum myself. And cover this day in day out in my practice. I have a saying that “Whatever you don’t change you are choosing”.

But this world is hard.  And Mums need to cut themselves some slack.  Women have lost their female circle in the community too.  Many women doing the grind of life solo.  Still doing the double day.

“It’s not the children. It’s the lack of the ‘village’. It’s the mental load. It’s the pressure to “bounce back in everyway”. It’s the opinions, the judgements, unsolicited advice. The unrealistic expectations being a Mum comes with. It’s trying to teach them how to navigate their emotions whilst trying to navigate your own.”.

And many Mums are not asking for help or being honest about their struggles – because these were the very generation of women who were told repeatedly that they “could and should have it all”. And that they had to be strong.

Oh they’re strong alright. But they are also human beings.  And just becomes Mums carry the load well, it doesn’t mean they don’t carry the load. There are a lot of women carrying a big secret as I share below.

Mums are increasingly overwhelmed in an increasingly overwhelming world. And that’s the bad news.

But the good news? There’s lots you CAN do. And I’m on a mission to help women and change it!

So…  this blog is written to BIG you Mums up!

It’s for me to say “I hear you. I’ve got your back”.  That you are NOT going mad. That you are NOT a bad Mum.  And that parenting in the modern world is HARD.

It’s aimed at Mums who feel relentlessly judged.  For those who are starting to retreat and shutdown (I hear this a lot). And to give all Mums out there a little 2 inch lift.  Let me reassure you, you’re doing a brilliant job, in really challenging times.   Now go give yourself a high five!

And next time someone says “What on earth are Mums doing these days?”, here’s just SOME of what we’re doing!

  1. Decision fatigue is a thing! The endless options and decisions we need to make each day. In 1985, when a Mum went to buy milk, there were 2 or 3 kinds (or it was delivered to your door). On my last count in my local supermarket there were over 50. When you go and buy a pair of trainers or school bag for your kids, there are hundreds of options. School shirts, about 25 kinds. Your brain actually starts shutting down when faced with too many decisions. These are a few examples of hundreds of choices, we have to make our way through day in day out. That just weren’t there before.
  2. Digital dementia is a recognised condition, becoming more and more common due to the fact we are using our brains in different ways. And because we are taking in for information that ever before. Most Mums I work with confess to forgetfulness, brain fog, struggling to retain information. This is a modern day condition, not just a Mum one!
  3. School management is nuts. Good grief, I could write an entire book on this! One of my clients with 4 children across 3 schools has 17 different school apps to use – 17! Weekly electronic newsletters that take you 15 mins to make your way through. Online parents evening and the tech that goes with it is a head-fuck. Again just a few examples – there are hundreds more.
  4. Primary school has got waaaay to complicated. Gone are the days of a simple mufty day where you wear your own clothes and bring in a £1. Or could buy a red nose for 50p on Comic relief day and that was enough. There are themes for the ever increasing nationwide events and certain world days. And with each one, there are certain things you need to do, remember, take in. The “Wear something spotty for Children in need”, and “We’re having a pyjama and slippers day next week” emails pop in – with just a few days notice. Not everyone had spotty things or pyjamas suitable for school. Christmas Jumper day the next week. Christmas lunch day, bring crackers. The assumption that we all have these things, or we have the time and money to go and buy these at the drop of a hat is rife.  This stuff never used to happen. It’s tiring.
  5. And don’t even get me on World Book day. One year I decided to help myself out and get organised so bought an outfit a couple of months before. Only to be told a few days before, there was going to be a book theme per class. I cried! World book day isn’t about books anymore, it’s about money.  Aisles of book day costumes in your local supermarkets. Adverts for £30 costumes popping up everywhere. This stuff has to stop. Mums are continually stuck between a rock and a hard place. More mental load. More pressure from kids and society. And comments from older generations such as “Just say no” are just not helpful.
  6. PTA events are endless. Yes I get it they come from a positive intention, schools are underfunded. But the emails and options and the never ending harassment to take part and contribute, is a lot. If you’ve got the time and headspace great. But if you haven’t? Another load to carry. Another set of things to read, action, make decisions with.
  7. School trips and events here there and everywhere. Expensive trips that if you can’t afford, your kids stay at school doing naff things whilst those that can afford it, go off on adventure days out. At primary school a 2 night trip in April of one year for my twins, followed by a 3 night trip in September of the next, meant 2 trips for my twins came to over £1000 in less than 6 months. More pressure. More mental load. More organising. More money. My twins’ year had a 3 day trip last summer in year 9. £176 with no food, no accommodation! Just 3 x day trips for ‘activity week’. I said no to this one. But gone are the days of ONE school trip per class per year. It’s relentless.
  8. And had you forgotten the strikes? In the 22-23 school year there were about 15 days of strikes across my 3 kids’ schools, maybe more. I’m not aiming this at teacher’s striking per se. But we couldn’t be told until the night before whether your kids would be going in. This was three FULL weeks of work lost. Dealing with limbo, working out two sets of plans, some of your kids going in to their school but not others; because some classes were open, some not. I mean Jesus Christ, we Mums deserve medals galore for this stuff. And I honestly think we’ve normalised some of the craziness of the last few years and what’s been expected of us.
  9. You can’t fill up your car with petrol without being bombarded with boxes of 8 donut offers, 2 bottles of wine for £15, expensive toys. Yes you could argue that Mums ‘should’ be able to motivate themselves to say no, but we’re often out of self-regulation. These things are deliberately put there to make money (AGAIN). And when we’re filling up quickly in between school run, making dinner, responding to school FB group notifications and no doubt checking in on work emails after the kids have gone to bed, we often cave. Not because we’re soft. But because we’re fucking shattered! If this temptation was removed, our lives would be SO much easier. Please remember this. Because Mums didn’t have donuts and wine and toys shoved in their face in the nineties when they popped out for petrol, I can tell you!
  10. We typically can’t send our kids out to play for hours and hours like previous generations could. I think Mums miss this more than the kids! In August I went to the lake district where my Dad is from and we visited his old house. He said that he would be out every evening until dark. And at weekends his Mum would send him and his friends off to play and he’d be gone eight hours! I know for lots of Mums, especially those in big towns and cities, it’s just not safe. Another load to carry. Another day to manage.
  11. It’s SO hard to switch off. Mums are being pinged from every angle morning, noon and night. I personally don’t use WhatsApp groups anymore (one of my clear tech boundaries and I am confident and comfortable with this choice). But the fear, guilt, FOMO, comparison from being in OR out of WhatApp groups is a real issue for Mums. I cover it in my Q and As in my Women’s Mindset Club all the time. And it can take real strength to reclaim these sorts of boundaries and say no.
  12. Think it’s hard for Mums? You want to be a teenager. And being a Mum of teenagers is just insane. A couple of years back, one of my clients took her 14 year old daughter’s phone away for a week. When they turned it back on there were 17,000 WhatsApp notifications. 17,000. In ONE WEEK. Kids are in hundreds of different groups, ping, ping, ping. And the older it gets the worse it gets. It isn’t as simple as just saying ‘get them off their phones’. Yes OF COURSE tech boundaries are crucial. I’d say I manage them quite well in my home. But let me explain the challenges we face.
  13. Our kids can’t listen to music without a gadget or device. This is a really important point to make. No ‘go to your room and play some music’. They can’t do that without their phones. It’s near impossible in this world for them to have quiet and space.  Most Mums don’t want their kids outside alone without their phones. Because of the way the world is now.
  14. 90% of my twins’ homework is done on their phones via apps. They use their phones in lessons frequently (for work I mean). At my recent year 10 parents’ evening, I was told they don’t get written homework anymore because of google and AI. So they get multiple choice on their phones most the time. Coursework for GCSEs has been stopped as a result I learned this month. The poor fucking teachers too! Also stuck between a rock and a hard place. Hardly any teacher is happy with or agrees with the way the education system is heading. It’s heart breaking.  Great teachers are leaving. Deregistration rates are at all time high. In primary and secondary. And most Mums aren’t home educating by choice. But by default. No-one wants this, we’re having to choose a different hard.
  15. Kids get notifications from teachers at the weekends. Yep. There is NO such thing as leaving school at school. My very good friend runs a Facebook group called The Unworn School shoes. Kids with anxiety usually caused by SEND, undiagnosed SEND issues (there are 3+ wait lists post Covid), or the draconian behavioural policies that don’t work. Are being let down and ridiculed in the system. Follow Dr Naomi Fisher if you want to see what’s going on. She is a breath of fresh air who 100% has Mums backs. One person shared the story of her daughter celebrating her 13th birthday with friends. And at 8pm on Saturday evening, messages popped up on her phone that she was holding in her hand, from the teacher that was causing a lot of her anxiety issues. Just STEP INTO the shoes of this girl for a moment. Saturday night. When kids turn their phones on in the morning, there are notifications from numerous teachers. If you love school this might not be a problem. But if you don’t?
  16. There are such little schooL-life boundaries for kids. Not just with teachers but with other kids at school. In the nineties, when you left school, you left school. You might have spoken to one friend in the evening (on a landline, after 6pm when it was cheaper!). But kids are in touch with everything and everyone. They can be in contact with hundreds of different people through the evening. Our kids are accessing SO much information that we have very little control over. Even with reasonable tech boundaries in your home,  teenagers are still subject to hundreds of images and messages each day. And then we wonder why there is such a big sleep issues and anxiety issues with them. And when they are getting dopamine hits from the devices designed to be addictive, dopamine withdrawal is a horrendous thing to deal with. And many Mums I know can’t cope with it as it’s so brutal, so cave in. And then beat themselves up and feel guilty. Trying to be heard by teens who have so much access to so much information on so many topics can also make parenting really bloody hard. This is night and day to 30 years ago. Yes natural teenage behaviour has been experienced by all generations. But what Mums of teens have to deal with today has never been dealt with before.
  17. Social exclusion from NOT being on social media is also a huge problem. Perhaps as big as being on it. Some teens who choose to not be on social media are invisible at school. Literally invisible. Because they primarily communicate online. You can’t do work in the classroom without a phone. All school information is given to kids via APPS.
  18. Teen girls are experiencing horrendous things these days. There is endless sexual harassment in schools. Emotionally and physically. Some of the things I’ve heard my clients tell me is just shocking. Teachers do very little or nothing about it. Girls often don’t say anything now. They are afraid. They have lost their confidence. They don’t feel safe. Self-harming rates are literally off the scale. It’s everywhere. Poor girls. It’s heart breaking. And the load Mums carry about this stuff is a LOT.
  19. Life admin in general is more complex than every before. You can’t speak to a human being on the other end of the phone for most things now. Basic admin tasks can be so complex and time consuming. Banks are closing everywhere. Most businesses are short staffed. Getting a dentist or doctor’s appointment is near impossible. And this stuff typically falls to the Mums.
  20. Childcare costs are INSANE in the UK. And childcare options, especially for wrap around care are so limited. So what to Mums do? Ask for flexi time. Condense their hours and work like a dog. Work weekends. Take work calls on the treadmill. Show up for work as if they don’t have kids. Show up as a Mum as if they don’t have a job. Squeeze work before and after the kids sleep.
  21. Men’s mental health issues are on the rise. And what I’ve seen increase a lot over the last few years is just how many women are propping up partners with major mental health issues, as well as kids and their parents. This stuff in my experience is on another level. This was not happening in my practice 10-15 years ago.
  22. This generation of Mums were told by their parents to work hard, build your career, see the world, do the things they didn’t do, delay having kids. Most career focused women are having kids later and later. Many are working full time, whilst bringing up children, supporting husbands (often dare I say it not getting the support back they need), whilst caring for ageing parents, whilst dealing with peri / menopause, whilst being 15 years into the tech explosion, which is frying our brains. And many Mums are so overwhelmed, that they don’t know where to start changing things. You’re not mad. The world is mad.
  23. Many women come to me confessing they have a secret. I hear things like; “I’m struggling. But no one knows. And I can’t tell those around me. I’ll just have to get my big girl pants on and muddle through”. But comments like these I’m sure are why women are burning out and cancer rates in women are going up and up. We are sitting on a mental and physical health bomb. And it is ticking faster and louder.
  24. Mums are specifically marketed to by the alcohol industry. The dieting industry. The home renovation industry. The fashion industry. The fitness industry. The self-care industry. The cooking industry. The travel industry. Suggestions for what they need to do, change, make decisions with, is hitting us like a round of machine guns. Taking up bandwidth we don’t have to spare.
  25. And if you’re a single Mum and only get the bare legal minimum via the CMS (Child maintenance service), you’ll know it’s a TOTAL joke. Men only have to pay 12% of their gross salary for their child. 16% for two. Bloody hell, if I only had to pay 16% of my salary for two of my kids I’d be positively rich. And when men don’t pay even this, the CMS are frickin’ useless. My daughter’s father submitted £108k on his tax return 2 years ago. When my CMS annual review came up 8 months later in September 2022, I was told he had to pay £1000 a month (which was like winning the lottery after just getting £100 a month through since 2020 as he apparently went on to universal credit). But all he had to do was tell them he didn’t have the money and that he wasn’t earning now (he had to be as lives on a very affluent street in SW London – but runs his own company so can do all sorts of creative things). He doesn’t have to pay a penny. Not ONE penny. When I challenged this, the CMS said my option was to take him to a tribunal! But the cost of this would outweigh the money he owed based on what he earned. And of course the stress for me as a single / SEN / Home ed Mum would just be too much. I know clients whose husbands have 3 holidays abroad a year and aren’t paying a penny for their children. The CMS do nothing. How does this happen in 2024?

And I could write another 75 things!

So going back to the point about “What on earth are mums doing these days?” I hope I’ve made people see we are not just sitting on our backsides being lazy parents.

Please focus on what you ARE doing, not what you’re NOT. Please lower the self-judgment. Please ignore the opinions and criticism of others. And remember no one knows what it’s like to be a Mum right now apart from Mums right now.

You are BLOODY AMAZING!

And if you’re an overwhelmed Mum, check out the details of my “OVERWHELM NO MORE” 10 week program – starting 19th April!

Part thought management – part time management – part tech management.

Taking you from frazzled to free and martyr to warrior in just a few months. CLICK HERE for all the details

Any questions, email janey@janeyholliday.com

Janey x

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