I’m a stay at home mum. By choice. I consider myself very fortunate (not lucky as we’ve both worked hard to get where we are) to be able to afford to not go to work, as my husband has a good job. I do some work, in the form of blogging and vlogging (which in the majority is unpaid but every now and then I do earn from). This income fluctuates; sometimes I earn a lot and often nothing – every month is different. But even if I didn’t do my blogging stuff, I would still have plenty to do all day. I am also trying to write a novel which keeps me busy – even if it is mainly procrastinating about actually writing anything.
Let’s wheel back.
I watched this video on YouTube which was a clip from a recent This Morning. It featured a ‘debate’ between a working mum and a stay at home mum. The working mum literally asked her this question: What do you do all day? And also accused SAHMs as being lazy. Oh my. Where to even start…
First off I should disclose that when I was younger, and didn’t have two kids of my own, I think I wondered (inwardly) the same thing. The problem I have isn’t with people who genuinely don’t understand what it’s like to be a mum, i.e. naive young professionals or older people who chose not to have kids. Yeah, it’s not nice being judged by them but I am old enough now to realise that unless you have experienced something you just don’t get it and therefre a certain level of ignorance can be excused. What really gets my goat is when other mums judge SAHMs.
Thankfully I know that judgey mums are in a minority and I think that’s thanks, in some part, to bloggers and social media providing a platform to all mums where we can share experiences and realise that we all have struggles, full time working, part time working and at home, or full time stay at home. I understand that most mums are pro choice. But not all are – like this lady they seem to think everyone should be the same and want to be a career woman. And that stay at home mums aren’t valuable.
See, for people who choose to stay at home – in the majority they like to be domestic. So, cleaning, cooking from scratch (as fellow blogger Kerry points out in the clip), maybe gardening or doing crafts or DIY perhaps – being a homemaker, I guess is what I am describing. And that stuff alone can easily take from 9.30 – 3pm – after drop off that’s realistically all the time you have. As a stay at home mum I want to be in control of my house, be organised and have treats ready for the kids when they come home. I want to be able to drop everything and fetch them if they are sick. I want to be able to let Adam focus on his career and not worry that the kids are being looked after. I’m really happy that I can do all these things. And I feel heartbroken for the mums (and dads) who want to do this but can’t.
For the ones that choose to work full time – good for you! It’s not my choice, but I’m sure your kids will thrive and I admire your ability to juggle. For me, I would find it too stressful. It’s a personal choice, and I do not, for one second see what your or my choice has to do with anyone else.
As mums we should be happy when a fellow sister has found her balance. Good for you if you have time to go for coffee with friends (in the video the working mum laughs when the stay at home mum says she sometimes does this which smacks of jealousy.) As for setting a good example to your kids about working, I tell my kids all the time about my career in marketing before I had them. Who knows, I may well go back to it once they are old enough to let themselves in and look after themselves. (Not likely though, I’m more likely to still be doing this blogging / writing malarkey.)
One other point that I want to raise is this: not everyone can find work that fits in around families. I looked briefly for a part time marketing job in this area for a while. They don’t exist. Unless you hang on to your job and go back after a baby, then you are sadly unlikely to find a part time job in this type of work; other sectors are different, perhaps. It’s a real dilemma for so many mums and it really pisses me off. At a time when your baby needs you most, you are held to ransom to go back to work, in fear of never finding a job where they will allow you to work part time so sticking with the one you had pre baby as they will let you go back 4 days a week. Employers need to be way more flexible with mums returning to work – job share, part time roles, working from home. Society needs to value stay at home mums (or dads) as we are doing a really important job: raising the future society. In an age where mental health problems in childhood are becoming ever more prevalent, the role of the loving, constant parent and a solid home where one person is available if needed (to talk, to listen, to cuddle) is a crucial but hugely undervalued part of the picture. I can’t help wonder if more families had better work life balance then mental health cases in kids might reduce.
Why has life become a competition? Why is something to aspire to to be busy? In the race to have 2 cars, 2 holidays per year, a posh house, and the latest clothes people sacrifice time. Time not just with their kids but time to breathe. Modern parents are pushed to the absolute brink and it’s having an impact on them, and on their children. Far better in my opinion to have less but be under less pressure.
Of course, women’s liberation needed to happen. Of course, I am a feminist. But I wonder if women have actually got it any easier. Now we are expected to have a career and a happy family. And if you struggle to achieve both then you are forced to make a choice. Career or family? It shouldn’t be like this. It doesn’t have to be a choice. More flexible working would enable women to do both more easily. And if they want to stay at home for a few years their career shouldn’t suffer as a consequence. But by valuing career over family which is the underlying message we are constantly fed, we are missing the point. We are on planet earth to love and be loved. Not to have as much stuff as we possibly can and get promotion after promotion.
So, what do I do all day? Well, after drop off I normally walk the dog. Then I will write a blog post, or work on my novel. After lunch I will do some cleaning perhaps, or receive an online grocery order, maybe record a video and edit and upload that. I try to cook tea early most days so I can give the kids attention when they come home – when we might work on their handwriting (current concern) or do some homework in return for screentime whilst I get their dinner on. Is that enough? Or not? Maybe it would be valued more if I’d been in sales meetings all day then given the kids a frozen ready meal? (If you choose to do this and your family is happy, great – my point is that it’s not how I want to live. I respect your decision and ask you to respect mine.)
Why is my creating a happy and safe and loving home for my family not seen as valuable – and more importantly, why is it any of your business?