It’s a few months now since I made the decision to be a stay at home mum and yes there are ups and downs (as with any job I’m sure) but on the whole I am really happy with the decision I made. Monkey and I are very busy and we have lots of fun together and I love being the one to see him grow and learn day by day. Yet for some reason, I feel being a stay at home mum is a difficult thing to be proud of.
One of the mums I have been getting to know at baby class asked me the simple question of ‘do you work?’ and I really didn’t know how to answer it. I just said ‘no’ and then stopped. I almost felt like I should justify the reasons why I don’t work or be self deprecating about it. I daren’t be proud of the decision as I run the risk of offending them and their decision. It’s a really hard thing to talk about with other mums who do work, as they either can’t understand why you don’t want to work, or they would love to be able to not work but can’t afford to. Either way I don’t like getting into the conversation about it. There’s kind of an ‘oh’ and a taken aback look which makes me feel really uncomfortable.
Trying to justify my reasons for staying at home almost implicitly criticises their decision to go back to work, even though that’s not how I feel. As I have mentioned a few times, I don’t judge other people for their decisions, we all have to make our own decisions that feel right for us. But if I say ‘I couldn’t bear for someone else to tell me about his developments’, it comes across almost like I’m saying ‘how can you bear to have someone else tell you about your child’s development?’ So I don’t say anything and I don’t explain my reasons because I don’t know how to without it being taken the wrong way. The last thing I want to do is offend anyone.
One of my good friends is currently on maternity leave with her second child and is talking about when to return to work. She was asking me the other day about when I thought I would want to go back to work and what I would do, as if it was a given that of course I will go back to work at some point soon, even if not to the job I had before. It felt weird having to explain that no, I don’t think I am going to go back, at least not until after we’ve had baby number 2, and potentially not until they are both at school. It’s like it doesn’t compute why you would want to do that. I know I am not the only stay at home mum in the world but I don’t seem to know many who can empathise with me on this. Both my mum and mother in law were stay at home mums but they were different times then and it was much more common.
Society has changed so much and there’s always something in the media about motherhood. You’re criticised one minute if you work, then criticised if you don’t work and it’s hard to know which way to go. There’s a lot of pressure to be a supermum who works and is successful at work but also raises her children well and does the best things for them, but I don’t understand how you do that. I think being a mum is a really hard (though massively rewarding) full time job and I don’t know how I personally would manage a full time (or even part time) job at the same time. I think one or the other would suffer, and well if I am going to do something I would rather do one thing well than multiple things badly. And what’s more important than raising your child?
Again this is all my opinion and based entirely on me. I really don’t mean anyone to take any offence to this because we are all different and have different capabilities and are in different situations. I know that I am massively fortunate to be able to stay at home and I know that if I wasn’t able to stay at home that of course I would manage to juggle work and baby. Because if you have to do it, you just do.
I suppose maybe that’s it, maybe I can’t feel proud of being a stay at home mum because it’s really only luck that has enabled me to do it. I am lucky that hubby earns enough for all of us. It’s not my hard work that lets me live the way that we do. I can’t say that I earned loads of money pre-baby so now we can use savings to live off, I wish! Maybe all my talk about worrying whether I offend other mums isn’t the crux of it at all. Maybe, I just feel a bit humbled by the fact that they do manage work and children but I don’t because I am lucky and I don’t have to. Can you be proud of something you got through luck?
So, ok, maybe I struggle to be proud of how I can be a stay at home mum, but I wish I could feel proud of the fact that I am being one. But that brings me full circle to the beginning of this post. How can I proudly wax lyrical about how good it is for monkey to have me be at home with him, without implicitly criticising mums who go back to work? I don’t know how to do that.
It’s a difficult one and I don’t think I know the answer. This has been a bit of a rambling post I know, but it’s something that has been on my mind this week.