When I was a teenager, with the big wide world laying humbly at my feet, I made the decision that I wanted to be a mum who stayed at home. I wanted to read to my children, bake cakes with them, mop up tears and stick patterned plasters on grazed knees all day long. I remember exactly where I was when I made this decision. I was sat on a wooden stall in the food tech room during GCSE Child Development. I was interested in the mental health and behavioural needs of young children. And so, in my adolescent righteous way, I decided that in order to raise a generation of well balanced, well behaved children mummies should stay at home and I was going to be one of them. I left school and went on to study Psychology at University. My first job after graduating was in a primary school as a Behaviour Support Assistant and Nurture Group leader. This inspired me to train to be a Child Psychotherapist. I then set up my own business and provided Therapeutic Services to local schools. I was passionate and was preaching a strong message. And then the time came for me to have my own child, to prove my theories right and to be that yummy mummy. My ‘universal truth’ was that children needed a loving available mummy who was at home with them.
Needless to say the early months of my little boy’s life wasn’t all home baking, reading stories, flowers and sparkles. It was spent anxiously pacing around the park silently praying for him to just blooming well sleep whilst manically pushing and rocking the pram. I felt shattered, shell shocked and drained. My proud BC (before child) beliefs loomed over me mockingly! I was shocked to find that I missed working; I fantasied about going out each day, wearing nice clothes again and having adult conversations. My feelings upset me. This wasn’t how I had dreamt it to be. And then at 7 months my baby boy discovered solids and boy did he start to nap!! Those two hour, sometimes three (boom), stretches gave me the space I needed; I could breath. As he approached his first birthday I started to relax and enjoy it. So it seemed like a natural decision to continue being at home rather than returning to work full time. I hadn’t felt happy or content but finally I was, why jeopardise that?!
I made the decision to work one day a week. I am self employed so my choices about work are easy; I have the luxury of being able to work as little or as much as I like. I have an incredibly supportive and like minded husband. He does however like to make the odd ‘humorous’ comment when he walks through the door such as ‘so WHAT do you do all day’ to which I retort ‘yeah but you got to have a wee with the door SHUT’. But this is how we roll, it works for us for now and we plan to continue doing this until it doesn’t work anymore.
I’ve been called lazy. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes when I tell them my ‘working’ pattern. I’ve received some pretty harsh and negative comments; amazing really when our society preaches that women can have it all and have the right to choose. For me, I do have it all. I still have the foundations of my business, I have my foot in the door and very much intend to increase my working week as my children grow. I haven’t baked a single cake, but I didn’t before he was born. I’m not a yummy mummy; I give my son fish fingers and let him watch too much Cbeebies. Sometimes being at home bores me to tears, sometimes it doesn’t. My days are filled with mucky fingers, smudged mirrors, farts and muddy puddles. It’s a different to world to what I imagined but it’s my world and I love it!
I appreciate everyone has a different story to tell. Some women have to return to work full time so that finances make sense. I understand this is an emotionally hard and heart wrenching decision and work days can be darkened by guilt. For other women, returning to work, full or part time, is what keeps them sane; toddler groups, singing sessions and hand painting pains their head and makes them shudder, I understand this too. I do still have my beliefs, albeit somewhat less righteous beliefs, but I’ve learnt an even great ‘universal’ truth; that women have got to do what works for them. I now know that happy mum means happy baby. Mummies shouldn’t listen to what they ‘should’ do, women shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about staying at home or indeed returning to work. Do what makes sense; do what makes you happy; do what makes your child smile. There is no right or wrong. If when you put your child to bed at night they put their little chubby arms around your neck and kiss your cheek then I’d say you’re on the right path. And that, my friend, is truth right there!