I don’t always find it easy to say I’m a full-time stay at home mother. Let me explain.
So much of our identity is tied up in what we do – our profession, our skill-set. A career is often short-hand for the type of person you are and how well we are doing within that sphere is a yardstick against which we measure and compare ourselves with each other.
Right after my daughter’s birth I made my way, slowly, down the hospital corridor to the small office where I could register her birth. A rather stern, impatient young woman was on duty, prompting information with words – ‘Name?’ – ‘Address?’ – I replied quickly to each, eager not to hold her up. ‘Occupation?’. (Silence). ‘Occupation?’ – ‘Well, my background is marketing and I do a bit of freelancing but I suppose, really, I’m mainly at home…’. She looked at me, just short of rolling her eyes. “Homemaker’ she asserted.
I felt knee high.
Often, as young women we are not encouraged to put having a family to the top of the list. Quite rightly we are encouraged to work hard in school and continue to work our way into a good job that will provide us with a good lifestyle and secure our future. This encouragement is extremely important, but we might not be getting the balance right in terms of emphasising the great satisfaction that comes of having a family.
When my little boy was a very small baby I bumped into an old school friend at a hospital appointment. The last time I had met her had been several years previously when she had just moved into a high-tempo finance job and I into an extremely stress-y role at a PR firm. Here we were in our later 30s with a small baby boy each and she said; ‘What have we been doing all this time?’
Well, we were becoming ‘someone’.
And as modern society would dictate, being ‘someone’ means having a job and making money in the outside world.
When her first baby was very tiny, a close friend of mine – amid all the chaos and the exhaustion – said; ‘Nobody tells you what joy it brings’.
And she was right.
We can’t deny but that within our society, money making is more highly valued than home making.
Work done at home is not measured, rarely seen and totally underestimated. There is no financial reward and our own Government is willing to pay absolutely everyone and anyone to mind our children, except parents in their own home.
When I had my daughter, I relaxed a little more into the role. Maybe I felt that having two children, and the doubling of work that entailed, was more worthy of my staying at home. Perhaps with two I could now justify the breaks I crave, the exhaustion I feel and the money I spend.
We go to a local playgroup on a Friday morning. After the basic intros I usually ask the other mums if they’re at home full-time or part-time… if they stall, which they sometimes do, I now pretty quickly volunteer that I am at home full-time. The relief sets in – ‘Oh I am too.’ Full stop. No excuses, no attempt to pretend you’re still in the market for a job, or hoping to go back to college asap. The chat flows about the ins and outs and ups and downs of the job. Because that’s what it is. A job, where you’re working hard and doing your best.
The nanas get it. The women who did it all their lives because they probably didn’t have any choice. As you do, I meet them as strangers in town and we make idle chat. If it ever comes up in conversation what I do and I tell them that I stay at home, they don’t tell me I’m lucky – they don’t tell me they wouldn’t possibly want to do THAT. Uuurgh! (Because some people do say that, to my face).
More often than not they say “It’s great isn’t it?”
It really is. I guess I’m just struggling with the job title.