I remember the moment I sent the letter handing in my notice for AgustaWestand. I’d been with the company for 14 years total. Even though it was what I’d always wanted; to leave, have babies & stay home, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do (bar raise these children, but let’s park that for a moment).
It was a shock to me how much identity I’d tied up with work, since it was a career I fell into.
My town is built up on aerospace, so it wasn’t a surprise that I ended up in the industry. I liked my job & the people I worked with, but I didn’t love it. It didn’t spark my passion.
When I left to go on maternity leave I was excited to start what I felt I’d been born to do, the job of being the best mum this baby could have.
For as long as I can remember I’d wanted to be a mum, first & foremost that was my ambition. If you’d asked me as a little girl what I wanted to be when I grew up, in my heart I always wanted to be a mum. Out loud (even back then) I knew to say a career. If I’d said a mother they would have looked at me in that patronising way. So I said I wanted to be a nurse instead.
So I had my career, I’d gotten married & had my first baby at 33 & here I was giving it all up to raise him. I find it hard to admit my hand was shaking when I posted that letter. Surely this is what I’d always wanted?
Personnel rang me to say that they’d received it, I tried to negotiate pulling my letter back, just to buy abit more time to think, I rubbed my temple in agitation, I asked if I could have a sabbatical. There was an awkward moment as the Personnel Officer apologised & said no they couldn’t leave the job open & the letter had been processed already. I put the phone down. It was too late to go back.
I was shocked at the depth of feeling I had against staying home. (Read my post a The Outsider HERE)
So I threw myself into being a SAHM. Ran a baby group for awhile, met with other Mum’s & babies. One by one all of the friends I’d made during maternity leave started going back to work. I was (& still am on occasion) quite isolated.
Antonia Hoyle in talking about the modern working Mother in Stella Magazine, notes the almost unspoken perception in society that woman who decide to stay at home & raise their children over keeping & advancing their career are not driven or ambitious.
I’m a SAHM with huge ambition & drive, I always want to strive forwards however I must admit it’s taken all the time I’ve stopped working to realise just how ambitious I am. With that being said, I can’t imagine how exhausting it must be to raise children & work.
I have realised in the (nearly) 4 years since becoming a Mum that identity is so important. It’s also important as a woman not to be labelled. Reading another article by Kiran Chug it struck me just how much we as women put down other women, mothers putting down other mothers when their choices are not what ours would be. We assume things we should not assume. We cannot see the bigger picture. This brings about a gross misunderstanding of us as individuals, women & mums.
I’ve also realised I need more than looking after my children to satisfy me. These beautiful children will one day grow & spread their wings, that’s natural, normal & right. It’s also right that my own life is not neglected in the years of bringing them up. I need people around me, I need friendship, I need community, time for myself, time to pray & yes I need to work. We are born to work & get satisfaction from doing it well.
So I’ve thought long & hard about what my passions are. This gap in my career has actually done me a massive favour. It’s given me the opportunity to step back & reassess my life, passions & what I want to work hard for.
These beautiful children are well worth giving up my career for. I know it was the right thing to stay home, I am fortunate enough to say I haven’t missed a thing of their early years.
I still have guilt I’m not doing this ‘Mum’ job right! I do worry what people think of me if I have a bad day with them. But as Kiran points out, we’re individuals just trying our best. Through exhaustion, through frustration, through the guilt we’re not doing it right & through the joys of motherhood. We need to support each other.
We are all women, all mother’s. If you’re a working mum it’s hard work, if you’re a stay at home mum it’s hard work. I must also mention the carer who gave up their career to look after a loved one, you’re a mother too, let’s not forget you.
Our careers are not our defining identity! Thank goodness we are about so much more than that.