How I really feel about being a stay-at-home mum

First and foremost I would like to say hurrah for journalist Kate Wills.  I had been planning to write this post for most of last week, but whilst I enjoyed a quick dip in the bath and a squizz over Grazia I stumbled across her article on feminism and, after a long day suffering with a stinky cold, I suddenly felt much better. As for once, the piece didn’t make me want to hide under my daughter’s Frozen duvet in shame.   Instead it said something different.  That women who make a decision to leave the workplace aren’t necessarily going against their feminist principles.  That there is room for everyone, not just those ladies who decide to keep on working.

A bit of back history: my dad kindly buggered off when I was seven years old and left my mum, me and my two brothers behind.  There followed a turbulent few years, but the one important life lesson that I remember my mum drilling into me as a consequence was to always be financially independent.  This shaped a serious work ethic, to the point I remember scoffing when a boyfriend muted the idea of marriage and babies.  “No way!” was my first thought.  There was an exciting career ahead of me and marriage and babies would fail to feature until I was in well into my thirties.  But I did always want a family.  So when, in my late twenties, my career in PR became all consuming, and I found myself daydreaming of a life no longer dominated by media campaigns and DVDs, I pushed for the marriage and babies I had once avoided.  Of course, meeting the right man sealed the deal, but I was dog tired and determined to have a different focus in life.

Fast forward a few years and here I am as a stay-at-home mum to my two beautiful babies, and totally financially dependent on my husband.  Despite knowing deep down that under our unusual circumstances, being at home with our kids is currently the best decision for us as a family, it still sits uncomfortably with me personally.  To the point that when a recent blog post on The Pool did the rounds titled, “Working mothers make great mums” I deliberately avoided reading it. Freelancing when leaving my latest position meant there was no job to go back to, and as my husband’s hours can be so crazy during the summer, it simply made sense to stick it out at home until the babies were old enough to go to school. Whilst I LOVE, love, love my kids, the daily doldrums of bringing up a toddler and a baby just don’t provide the same sense of job satisfaction that my job in PR previously did and I miss it.  The job itself and everything else that goes along with it, the freedom, the independence, the social life and most of all being able to pee on my own without the toddler barging in shouting “I need a poooooo!”.

A fair few of my friends have questioned why I don’t just jump back into work and there are two reasons.  Firstly, we are in the very lucky position of being able to afford to live on one salary, so I feel like I should make the most of the opportunity of staying at home whilst the kids are young.  But secondly, and really the biggest reason of all, is because I have lost my confidence.  In the PR business, keeping your toe in matters, and I have been out of the game so long I’m just not confident I would be able to find a new position that would justify the cost of childcare, and all the other complications it would bring, especially during the summer months.

But not all hope is lost. I have a big ambition, which I hope is being kicked off with this very blog.  I dream that one day, with practice, I will be paid for my writing (even if it is just pocket change) and I can say once again that I make my own money.   But this time I will be doing something I really love and that fits around my family (fingers crossed!).  I was also excited when I recently came across Digital Mums, a fantastic organisation dedicated to providing online training and flexible jobs for mums just like me.  Something that is very appealing.  But in the meantime I will wear my stay-at-home mum badge with pride and know that I haven’t given up my career or my feminist principles, they’re right there, just in slightly different form.

Gemma x

 

16 thoughts

  1. Great article, I think it’s a very hard choice to decide to leave the workplace after having kids. I went back part time after my first but if anymore arrive it’s unlikely we could afford the childcare. Would be a massive struggle (mentally and financially!) but if it’s a case of paying £1400 a month for someone else to look after them it’s not worth returning anyway!
    I’m also uncomfortable being financially dependent on anyone, in fact, it flipping terrifies me as my mum was a SAHM and I felt it put pressure on my dad to provide for us. It wasn’t until now that I see she gave up her career for us so selflessly and spent many an hour playing barbies, shops and libraries when I’m sure she’d rather have been enjoying the company of adults! Always a price to pay somewhere I guess x

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    1. That’s the thing Emma, I don’t think either side of the fence is perfect and you’re always going to miss something. As long as the kids are happy, that’s all that matters, and they will be with a working mum or a SAHM. It’s just whatever is right for you and your family x

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  2. Great post. I feel like I could have written it myself (including the dad b#ggering off bit!) I am most likely about to walk away from a 10 year career as a lawyer because it doesnt work for me and motherhood. I also avoided the working mums make better mums article and delighted in the Grazia article you are referring to. I think that happy parents make good parents and that is the bottom line. I told my 18 month old that her nanny would take her to play group today and she said “Mummy push the buggy” “Mummy come with me”….that didnt make me very happy and I know something has to change.

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    1. Thanks so much for the comment Gemma. I was happy to walk away from my career when having Coco and only later I missed it, but I still feel it was the right decision. Nothing is black and white and there is a massive grey area for mums who chose to stay at home, but miss what work offers. Good luck with whatever you decide xx

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    1. Hey Miriam, thanks so much for the comment. It’s such a tough decision. But remember, nothing is permanent and if you feel in time you made the wrong decision you can always change it. Easier said than done I know, but you always have options. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway! x

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  3. Lovely article and as you say a very emotive subject. I didn’t have my daughter until I was in my late 30s and up until that point I had been financially independent with my own home and like you, a very strong work ethic. I actually had my own small business prior to having my daughter and although I tried it wasn’t possible to continue after I had her which meant I also had no natural employer to go back to. There is a bit of a stigma attached to being a SAH mum and, as I saw in another comment, I agree that it does tend to be other women. Yes of course we were in a financial position for me to stay at home but not least because I’d worked very hard to secure our future prior to having kids. I have one child and there won’t be any more so I want to cherish the time we have. I did find the constant criticism uncomfortable and of course it does wonders for your confidence (but boy does it come bouncing back!). Equally, I craved something for myself too. I now work part-time, my daughter is older and I have a job that I love and involvement in other things that I love to do. My husband loved that I was at home with The Kid. It’s all about choices and I would never stand in judgement of other women as we all make our decisions based on a different set of circumstances. Keep wearing that badge x

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    1. It’s so great to hear that things worked out well for you Nicky. I hope to achieve the same in a few years time once the kids are older. In the meantime any other critical women can push off! As long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters x

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  4. Hi Gemma, thanks very much for sharing your experience of being a SAHM. It’s such a difficult topic because people tend to have fairly strong opinions and the reality is that whether you stay at home or go back to work, it’s all bloody hard work! I am currently in the middle of a dilemma about whether to go back to work after having twins (they’re seven months old) and seem to change my mind daily, depending on the kind of day I’ve had. Its been hard not having my own cash, although my partner would never begrudge me spending from the joint account, I do feel sort of guilty buying clothes or my favourite (expensive) moisturiser. I feel like I sometimes have to justify what I’ve done all day, which is often just keeping both babies alive!
    Anyway, thanks for posting this. It always helps to know others are in the same boat (and keeping it afloat)

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    1. Thank you so much for the comment. Deciding to go back to work or not is a massively tough decision, and I think there are pros and cons each way, that’s why it’s so darn hard! I still deliberate over what I’m doing every day. Good luck with whatever you decide in the end, Gemma x ps I also have expensive moisturiser that I feel guilty about too! x

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  5. Yea this couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Just having someone close to me tell me: “you are just a house wife and haven’t experienced the real stresses of life” actually left me quite soul destroyed. I think it is totally the opposite. But anyway this confirmed to me what I am doing at home is of value and is so very important for the wellbeing of my family. Thank you for this post. Tanita x

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    1. Thanks so much for the comment Tanita, and please don’t listen to your friend. We all do a tough job, as both a working mum or a SAHM. What you’re doing most definitely has value and you should be proud of yourself, Gemma x

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  6. Hello Gemma

    As interesting article from an interesting blog. There are a couple of points I’d make. First, there are upsides and downsides to every permutation and there will always be someone to come along who consciously or unconsciously wants you to feel bad about wht you’ve done, often in my experience because they are insecure in their own choices. I work full time but I’ve had a number of women do the head tilt and go “aw, would they not let you go part time?” Well no, I work full time because that actually works well for the job and my family.

    Second you’d be amazed at the nationwide shortages of confidence, particularly with professional women. Ok you’ve been out the game a bit but if you do decide you want to return to your previous industry you just need to fake it til you make it. Excude confidence evn if you don’t feel it and you’ll get a long way. Most other people are doing the same. They really are.

    Finally, you mention being able to live off one income. Obviously great that you can but so could we but that didn’t mean that I am going to – I want to continue to pursue my career even if we could pay the bills off one income. Now it sounds like you’re happy you’ve got the best situation for your family at that time and that is great. Just don’t feel you have to stay at home “because I can” if you find it is no longer working for you.

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  7. Great post, Gemma. I am so proud of you for raising a gorgeous, fabulous family and finding/making time to write. Knowing you, whatever you set your mind to, you’ll certainly succeed at.

    Lots of love, Your American Fan

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  8. Hi Gemma, I read your post and, having worked with you before, just wanted to say that one day (if it’s the path you choose), you will absolutely fall back into the world of PR without any problems! You were excellent, and I’m sure that, as soon as you returned, it would all come flooding back to you. Plus, that’s what teams are for! Support. Don’t let lack of confidence hold you back if you still cherish the memories of PR. That said, I think your kids are super lucky to have you in their lives every day, as there is certainly something to be said about work-life balance. Good luck with whatever you choose! xx

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