Tuesday, 28 January 2014

I am a Stay-at-Home Mum (*awkward face*)

An interesting phenomenon has come upon me recently. When people ask me what I do, I say to them, “I'm a stay-at-home mum.”

And then I do an awkward face.

I will often also follow it up with a slightly half-baked comment about looking into working from home, but then people ask what sort of thing I'm looking into, and it gets messy, because I keep changing my mind on that and now feel rather anxious about pinning my colours to the mast only to change my mind again in a couple of weeks.

I never intended for this to happen. When I went on maternity leave, I fully expected to go back to work when Eleanor was 9 months old. Then I was offered voluntary redundancy and, as I wasn't particularly passionate about my job anyway, I took it. The plan was to wait until Eleanor was a year then look for work in schools, as I wanted to eventually train as an English teacher.

Well, I applied for a job just after Eleanor turned one, and the experience of leaving her for just a few hours for the interview made me realise we weren't ready for it yet. I applied for more jobs a few months later but got nowhere. Then came the summer holidays when I couldn't job-hunt anyway, and by the end of the holidays I'd decided that, actually, staying at home was probably the best thing for our family.

Why? Well, here are the main reasons:
  1. My first pregnancy was very difficult due to developing SPD at around 30 weeks. By the end of my pregnancy I could barely walk, and even before then, my last few weeks at work were horrendous as I was in constant pain. There is a chance that with the next pregnancy the SPD will come back sooner and worse, and we do want at least one more child, so I don't want to repeat the experience of working through major pain.
  2. As you've probably gathered if you've read around my blog, some of my ideas about raising Eleanor are, umm, shall we say not mainstream?! I honestly don't set out to be 'quirky alternative mum', it just kind of happens because I'll only do things that I feel are right for us, and those things are often, well, not mainstream! So finding a childcare provider who would be sympathetic to our way of doing things was a challenge I just didn't feel like facing, especially as nursery and childminder places in my area are very much in demand so I couldn't be too choosy.
  3. We realised that we could afford for me to stay at home, so well, why not? So many mums I speak to say they wish they could stay at home (or wish they could have done when their children were younger) so actually, I'm very lucky!
So, with those reasons, why do I still feel the need to pull an awkward face and try to justify my decision?

I suppose part of it is me feeling uncomfortable with being lucky enough to do this. I hear my friends talking about how hard it is juggling work and home and I really feel for them, and deeply admire them too! I feel almost embarrassed that things are a bit easier for me, and it makes me feel like I should just keep my mouth shut because I don't want to seem like I'm rubbing it in anyone's face.

There is also a sense that by opting for this oh-so-traditional role, I'm letting the sisterhood down a little bit. It's a tricky one. I absolutely believe that men and women should have equal rights, opportunity and pay, and it's difficult to square this belief with my gut instinct that I should be at home with Eleanor right now. I also feel a little bit like I'm letting myself down – I'm quite well-educated and showed a lot of promise at school, and yet here I am, jobless. But then I reason with myself that I didn't feel fulfilled career-wise in my previous job anyway, so I'd probably still feel like this even if I had gone to work. I do worry about the message I'm giving Eleanor as I want her to know she can be and do anything, but maybe that ought to include just being a mum if that's what she wants?

And then there's the issue of perception and reality. I'm sure when people hear I'm a stay-at-home mum they expect me to have a spotless house, do loads of exciting, crafty activities with my daughter, make wonderful elaborate meals and frequently bake cakes. I don't. I'm not a born housewife; I hate housework, I'm a rubbish cook and I don't like to bake if I'm pushed for time, which is always when you have a child. As for the exciting activities, I try to do some but then I just have to clear up, and that's housework, isn't it? (I do keep my house as tidy and clean as possible, honest, but spotless it ain't!) So I'm left with the feeling that, although maybe I am meant to be a stay-at-home mum right now, perhaps I'm not a very good one!!

All that said, I do feel blessed to be able to spend so much time with my daughter, to see her growing up, day by day, into an individual. I love that when she's off on one of her weird monologues I can almost always tell what she's on about, even if it means that I often function as a translator! I love that I get to play with her so much, even if it gets a bit repetitive. And I love that maintaining our attachment to each other during these formative years is pretty much effortless, even if it means sacrificing the joys of regular adult company for a while.

So yes, I may not feel 100% comfortable in my role, but I am still very happy that I am a stay-at-home mum.


*Awkward face*

2 comments:

  1. I think you just do what is right for you and your family. I always thought I'd want to be a SAHM but I wanted to return to work, I do this 2 days a week and I enjoy it and think it makes me a better parent. However, I don't for one minute think everyone should do this and when I say it makes me a better parent, I do just mean me, I don't mean I think you're a crap parent if you don't (*awkward face*). When I ask other mums about what they do I always worry that I'll make them feel awkward if they don't work (I wonder if any actually do or if it's just a media construct that working mums make SAHMs feel awkward, maybe this post is the answer), because I'm honestly not bothered, I'm just making conversation (awkwardly).

    We have a slightly unusual childcare set-up in that my husband condenses his hours so he can be at home on my work days, so as far as our son is concerned, he always has a SAHP, it's just it may be a different one on different days.

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    1. That's the thing, we all do what's right for our individual family, but so often that can feel like you're putting yourself against people who do something different, and it shouldn't be that way at all. I think especially in the current political climate with all the talk of 'strivers and skivers' it can make people like me worry about how they are perceived by people in work.

      It sounds like you have a great set-up, if we could do something similar we probably would but my husband's particular line of work doesn't allow for it. Fantastic that you've managed to find the right solution for your family though!

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