Isn’t it strange how one of the first things we ask when we meet someone new is, ‘so, what do you do?’ I have never really understood it, maybe because I have never really cared about what people do for work! It’s certainly not amongst the top ten things I want to know when I first meet someone. You will most likely find me grilling my new friend on their gorgeous outfit, beautiful children, passions, hopes, dreams and I don’t think I have ever been the one to ask that question, not that there is anything wrong with it, it’s just not on my radar! When I left Uni it became the conversation starter in almost every situation, people were curious as to what my plans were and I totally get it, but all these years later I suddenly realise just how vulnerable that question can make someone feel.
I was never career driven; a high flying career was not my biggest goal in life. I wanted to do anything and everything really well, but the ‘dream job’ wasn’t my focus. Since I was a tiny girl I dreamed of being a mummy, a wife and a home maker. I realise many of you will screw your face up at that; it’s not overly cool is it? It certainly doesn’t make me much of a feminist. But anyhow, that was my dream. If you know me at all, you will also know that I am a planner, never without a three to five year plan in my mind and so, as I got close to leaving school I made some plans. I wanted to work in an office (years of waitressing made me crave a 9-5), I wanted to do my very best in whatever job I landed, I wanted to save my butt off and when the time was right to start a family I wanted to be able to stay at home. It was just my preference, my dream! By the way, if you are looking for a post that will debate whether it’s better to be a SAHM or a working Mum you have come to the wrong place. I am a true believer that whatever is right for your family is right, full stop. So for us, that meant waiting to have our first baby, waiting until we had a good amount of savings to allow me to stay at home and waiting until I had completed my job at the time to the very best of my ability.
This is where it gets a bit strange; I always knew my plan, my family knew my plan, most of my friends knew my plan and had started to book me in to help ‘childmind’ their future children. However, when I was pregnant, and people asked what I planned to do about maternity I was ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I was leaving work behind me for a few years. I have absolutely no idea why this was the case, all I do know is that for months and months I hid behind the excuse that childcare costs were just too high and it made it a bit pointless for me to return to work. Sure there was truth in that, but, that wasn’t the reason I quit my job, I left because every ounce of my being longed to be a stay at home Mum. Why did I not just tell people that? Maybe it was because I thought they would see me as lazy, perhaps I didn’t like the idea that people would think I was just ‘sponging’ off my husband, or, even worse, the state! It was maybe because people would think that I wasn’t clever enough or dedicated enough to work. Maybe it was a combination of all of these amongst other things. I was ashamed to admit that my goal in life was to be a housewife.
Last October, as we sorted out Pre-clearance at Dublin Airport on route to the US, the customs agent asked for my job title, I winced, laughed, awkwardly and muttered, ‘I don’t work’, and then stumbled around an explanation that I am at home with my little one, pointing to the beautiful girl propped on my hip. I was red faced and for what reason? When did Housewife become a derogatory word? There was a time, not so long ago, when being a Housewife was the done thing and in fact, working mothers were not thought of in high terms. It saddens me that this was the case, just as it saddens me that sometimes, women who leave work to stay home, are made to feel ‘outdated’ nowadays. What I am trying to say here is that judgement on either side bothers me, but for the sake of this post I am just talking about women who stay at home. Please know, that if you are a working mother I have the utmost respect for you, you go girl! I believe you are passing on such wonderful values and work ethic to your children as well as everything else.
My decision to leave work has had a mixed response. The overwhelming response I get when this topic comes up is how lucky I am (which I agree with) because I can just relax all day (are you kidding me?) and how exhausting work is and therefore I couldn’t possibly be tired (hold.me.back). Sometimes I get a sympathetic nod when I say I’m a Stay At Home Mum other times I get a pat on the back, most people are just neutral in all honesty but then there a few who fall to the other end of the spectrum. One lady in a supermarket told me off for ‘being just another gender stereotype’, one lovely instagram troll called me ‘pathetic’ and another called me ‘lazy’. None of these bother me, I have a thick skin but it did make me want to set the record straight. So here are my home truths about being a Stay At Home Mum;
- When I worked in an office I used to begin my day with a hot coffee upon arrival whilst my PC booted up and my colleagues popped in to say good morning. I then had another hot coffee around 10.30am and a good catch up with my work buddies. After a couple of hours work I would then have lunch and a hot cup of tea, in peace, all in one setting and often with a magazine to flick through. As the afternoon rolled around I would have another hot coffee and a chat before heading home. I left work in September 2015 and I believe that I have only had a handful of hot beverages (that have not been reheated around three times) since then. I have maybe read five magazines in total in two and a half years and I cannot remember the last time I had lunch all in one setting.
- I had the ultimate Velcro baby which meant all of my tasks were done either one handed or whilst wearing my baby. From unpacking boxes, mopping the floor, washing cupboards, sorting laundry to making tea and trying to butter bread, everything had to be done with my little side kick in toe. Becoming a parent requires patience, practice and perseverance in every single task, every single day. My 9-5 was never as challenging as those first days and months of navigating Motherhood.
- There are periods of time where the only chat I have during the day is with my two and a half year old. I love her chat, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I crave a bit of adult conversation, just sometimes!
- For the girl who had to complete every job to the highest standard, I have become accustomed to celebrating a task half done; or a ‘good enough’ result on my daily to do list. This is due to the fact that I am an on demand chef from around 6am until 7pm, a partner in most games, a toy mender, a toilet assistant, a reader, a cuddler, a human climbing frame and a dance partner. It drives me nuts that I rarely get a job complete in one take but that’s part of my job description now and lets face it, it could be so much worse!
- I hear that parents become a taxi service during the teenage years but I am here to tell you that it begins way earlier than that! Our tots have better social lives than we do, can I get an Amen?! So much of my week is spent chauffeuring to play dates, nipping to the shops, seeking out adventure when cabin fever sets in and everything else in between. My poor car barely saw the miles counter moving until I became a SAHM.
- A woman’s work is never done, or rather; a parent’s work is never done. Just because my husband works round the clock doesn’t mean he doesn’t pull his weight around the house but the majority of it is up to me. There is something a little bit repetitive about wiping the same surfaces, lifting the same toys, folding the same laundry day in day out. I used to have allocated housework times when I worked out of the house. Now, all day every day is housework time, just to keep our home in some sort of order.
- Sometimes people assume I should always be available because I “don’t work” which is just not the case. In fact, I would say I am much less able to commit to spontaneous appointments now than I when I worked in an office. Back then I had set start & finish times, allocated lunch and breaks and flexi that I could clock up each month. My new role doesn’t come with any of those benefits and I am for sure busier than I have ever been!
Please take all of this in the tongue and cheek way in which I mean it. I am so well aware that working parents have all of the home stuff to do as well as work deadlines, office hours and everything else that comes with being a working parent.
I could go on and on. It is not easy being a ‘Housewife’, there is nothing relaxing or indulgent about being a ‘stay at home Mum’ and there is zero truth in the rumour that mums who stay at home don’t work. What I will say is that I feel incredibly blessed to be able to stay at home with my daughter. The days can be long but the years are incredibly short and there is not a day that goes by where I don’t appreciate how much time I get to spend with Susanna. I hope that this can continue until my family no longer needs me at home!
The reason I sat down to write this rambling post is that I want you to know that I am now proud to tell people that I am a Stay At Home Mum. It took me a while to get to this point and I don’t really know what changed but I did come to the realisation that a job does not define you, the fact that you may or may not be career driven is neither here nor there. We are so much more than the Occupation we hold, we are Mothers, Fathers, Sons and Daughters who have a role to play wherever our days may be spent. I don’t believe that whether you work in or outside of the home is detrimental to your child or makes you any less or any more of a parent. Families come in all shapes and sizes, daily routines take many forms and at the end of the day, all that really matters is that we do our best and know that our best is more than enough. I am a Stay at Home Mum, it is the most demanding job I have ever had in my life and I absolutely love it!