I read an article recently in Stella Magazine, a supplement of The Telegraph weekend newspaper, in which Antonia Hoyle talked candidly about her experience as a Working Mum.
Titled ‘The Inbetweeners’ Ms Hoyle, who as a notable freelance journalist, writes about the pressures of doing both jobs well (that of being a top journalist & a mum) & somehow being sold the lie that we can have it all & realising that it’s just not possible.
This is a situation about which I can’t really comment, since I didn’t return to work after having my children. But I found myself nodding my head along with the words as I agreed with it all, I could just feel the frustration it must be to feel so split down the middle.
The part of the article which hit me most though, was the inference that Stay at home Mothers were somehow inferior, devoid of goals & ambition.
I am not saying that this is Antonia Hoyle’s opinion, rather that (as she put it) there is an ‘unspoken narrative’ in society that if you have a degree & a credible career that you’ve worked damned hard for, why would you give that up when you have children?
I must agree with the sentiment that our identities as women are tied up with work. Leaving my job to stay at home with my then one child (I now have 2 children) was one of the single hardest thing I’ve done, it also comes with it’s own heavy dose of guilt.
What surprised me was how much I struggled with the decision not to return to work. Women who choose (or can afford to choose) to stay home has fallen to a record low in the UK. I’d always wanted to be a mum & had always wanted to stay at home with my children. So why when it came to it, did I find it so hard to give it all up? Why did I feel guilty that I still wanted to work?
I remember handing my notice in, only to then try to have it back. I’d changed my mind, I panicked, I needed more time to think! I was giving up who I was, my identity I’d known forever, for this little baby boy who cried, whinged, didn’t care that my very essence was ebbing away & never said thank you for it either!
I knew I would be giving up my identity at the very point I handed in my notice, because ‘just’ being a mother isn’t enough in this society anymore.
My decision finally came about after I cried out to other Mum’s slightly older than me who had decided to stay at home also & were coming out the other side. One of them said ‘you may regret going back to work, but you will never regret the years you spend with your children’.
No I do not squander my days in coffee shops with other mum’s, the stay at home lifestyle is not all it’s cracked up to be. All of my friends work. If you think staying home will make you happier as a mum then think again. I spend most of my time on my own with my children. (Read this funny from Hurrah for Gin entitled ‘The Happiness Thieves’ to lighten the subject)!
I felt the unspoken narrative too, all of the women I bonded with on maternity leave gradually went back to work one by one. I did not feel encouraged to stay at home & society & the government did not validate my choice to do so. Society & my own insecurities made me feel like I wasn’t enough & I wasn’t doing enough to merit staying home.
There are days I am literally in tears with the mistakes that I make, I feel guilty that I’m not doing right by my children, would they get more out of being at nursery & being in a more structured setting than home? I worry that my house doesn’t look perfect, I mean what do I do all day? What do people think of me? Do they really think I don’t work hard?
I guess I just have to stand by the decision we made & try my best! All mum’s work hard, whether their choice is to return to work or look after their children full or part time. Isn’t it time we validated all women & their right to choose without making them feel they’re a drain on the economy?
I saw a tweet from a woman well known for her penchant to antagonise, saying that the stay at home mum is ‘work shy’. It actually made me laugh out loud! Does that mean that the career minded Nanny, or Nursery Worker, or Carer of a family member or the elderly is ‘work shy’? I am not a lesser contribution to society.
Caring whether for free, for love or as a paid career is not any less valid than that of a banker, lawyer, mechanic, engineer or any other profession for that matter. But I feel like I’m only preaching to myself on this subject.
I fully intend to go back to work once both of my children are in full time education, I still have goals & ambition & I know when that time comes it will be bittersweet to get ‘me’ back again. I have a feeling it won’t be the same ‘me’ that went on maternity 5 years ago.
In the meantime I am giving 6 years of my life in order to stay home with my children in their early years. Actually, I don’t see it as a sacrifice because these children give me far more than I give them!!
It has taken me 3 (nearly 4) long years to get used to the fact that society sees me as ‘just’ a mum & it has taken just as long to realise that I do not have to take this on as truth.
I have an identity outside of being a mother, and I have to work hard to claim it & stand up for it. I have learnt that staying home is isolating, exhausting & the most hard work I have ever done in my life. It is also the most joy & reward I have ever felt in my life.
Being a mum is the hardest & the easiest job in the world. A paradox of immeasurable proportions.
What do you think?
Until the next time have a great day!