I always knew I wanted children and I always knew I wanted to have a career that I enjoyed and that would give me security.
Growing up in a single parent family my Mum always pressed the importance of education and the pursuit to get a good job for financial security. As a girl I felt the responsibility to ensure I was independent and able to support myself. And I did just that, I studied and ended up with two degrees, a masters degree and a job I loved managing a psychiatric inpatient unit for young people.
I always knew the time would come when I would have a family and was never sure what would happen. On the one hand I assumed I would return to work, especially as I had worked so hard to get to where I was. On the other hand I knew that I wanted to be home with my children, at least until they started school.
I had always had my mum at home, through no choice as a single parent but I still felt I was lucky she was always there, and always felt ideally I would want to do the same.
When I became pregnant with my first child I knew I had to return to work. Its part of my job and the maternity package that you have to return for a minimum of 3 months or repay the maternity pay. It was out of my hands and I was expecting it. Despite this that deep feeling and desire to not leave my baby in childcare plagued me the whole pregnancy and throughout my maternity leave. It consumed me. I desperately didn’t want to return but I had to. We couldn’t afford me to not work. We decided I would return part time working 3 days a week and I went back after 1 year with Ravey going to the hospital crèche.
I hated the whole experience of Ravey being in childcare. In the year and a bit he was there he only stopped crying when I left in the last few weeks. He never settled in and it made it so much harder, as well as the commute on the busy trains into London with a baby in tow is a fucking nightmare. I could write a whole blog post about that, I may even do so.
When I became pregnant the second time I decided there was no way I was doing it again. The crèche was too far for Ravey to continue whist I was on mat leave and it would have been a gamble to hope a space would be free for both once I returned to work. Besides commuting with 2 would have been ridiculous. Going to a local nursery would have required paying full price fees and after travel an abysmal income to live on- we would have been financially worse off. But most importantly I knew that I couldn’t go through with the separation and distress again and the immense feelings of guilt that went with it.
It seemed crazy to me that I would pay someone to look after my children whilst I get paid to look after other peoples children. All over the world parents paying people to look after their children whilst they are paid to do another job. Surely there should be a way to embrace and support parents caring for their own children if they wish to, which surely is the best option for a young child. To me this was an absolute no brainer (this is where parents who feel like me start to google and then dream of moving to Finland!)
My family were massively supportive and respected why we had made the decision and understood the benefits but what I wasn’t prepared for was the not so positive reaction of others which fell into a number of themes.
The ‘Stay at home mum’
The tone often implied I’d made an inferior life choice, and that this was an easy task and an avoidance of going to work.
I feel there is something intrinsically derogatory about the term ‘stay-at-home mum’ and I don’t really like it. Like a domestic slave or the promotion from ‘housewife’ once you’ve entered motherhood.
Yes I won’t be going out to work, but I do not feel disempowered. I’m not a sell-out to my gender if I cook dinner and do the laundry, it just makes sense. It could be the father at home and he would do the same. It’s normal when you live together.
The Yummy mummy / Lady of leisure/ Kept Woman
This is like a red flag to a feminist. It implies an exclusive currency for attractive women to be cared for by men.
Firstly I couldn’t be a yummy mummy if I tried. I also think in order to fulfil the yummy category and the lady who lunches I probably need to be both giving a shit about how I look and making some efforts to look like I care. Brushing my hair and wearing clothes without mucky hand prints might be a good start. Probably need to have a fair amount of casharooney to fund this lifestyle too, but once the bills are paid we are broke AF!
Think I’m more ‘scummy mummy’ cobbling some pennies together outside Greggs, wearing 2 days on hippy harems and a hoodie with no bra!
And as for the leisure? Please, there is no mumma saying this because anyone with kids knows there is no damn leisure time!
This is often said with such a sour tone. Connotations of ‘bimbos’ with ‘sugar daddies’ or WAGs getting their nails done. This isn’t me at all but so what if it was? It’s a woman’s choice after all.
I couldn’t do it I would lose my mind/ Won’t you get bored?
To me this implies that being with your children is detrimental to your mental wellbeing and that you are doing nothing all day other than playing games. Between the cooking, cleaning and providing a stimulating environment for my children to thrive, there really is no time for me to be bored.
Nobody ever says this to a paid childcare provider and they aren’t expected to do anything other than look after the children, so why is it so different if you’re the parent?
I genuinely believe people have children to spend time with them and sometimes societal pressures make mother’s say this.
For so many people there’s no choice but to return to work and this narrative is one sometimes used as a mantra to make ourselves and the world feel better about it.
Absolutely the little tyrants make you lose your mind sometimes and some days leave you feeling like your brain is mush, but that’s standard for everyone, whether you work or not. Mothers are incredible, they can do anything especially look after their kids.
Of course like all jobs we are better at some things than others (because being at home with the kids full time is a job!). For some people being at home with their kids is the dream job and for others no matter how much they love their kids it just isn’t for them. And this is ok. It’s about celebrating all paths a mother can pursue.
This makes me a bad feminist
This is the natural resulting implication of the previous responses. By putting my career on hold and being with my children full-time I am reinforcing the stereotype of the role of the mother and I’m not furthering the pursuit for women’s equality in the workplace.
I am dependent on my male counterpart and I’m not sending the right message to my children about women’s roles.
I have lost the respect of many childless friends with this mentality.
Feminism is about choice. Women making informed choices about their own lives, whatever that might be.
As a mother I want to be with my children while they’re young. I had a career before and I will return to work in the future.
When I met my partner I earnt more than him and paid more, this is no different. But even if it wasn’t, it is a choice a woman is allowed to make.
There is constant guilt put onto mother’s for the decisions they make. If you don’t return to work you’re a bad role model and if you do you aren’t available to your children.
With Covid19 many parents have been home with their children in a way that society has not allowed them to do before. Some have decided to not return to work or even homeschool.
I hope we will emerge more understanding and respectful of parents who choose to be home with their children and that families can make whatever choice they feel is best for them. Working or not.
If feminist culture is to thrive we need to get to a space where women stop judging other women, mothers stop judging other mothers and we support each other’s choices. To value all as equal, all women and mothers as valid.
We need to raise both girls and boys to know it’s ok for mums to return to work, to have a career break or not work at all. “Having it all” is subjective. For me being home right now IS having it all!
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