When I had my daughter last year the amount of friends I knew who were also having children, mainly their first baby too was incredible. Think at the last count there were 14 others expecting. That’s not really surprising when you think we are all at that stage in our lives where having a family, if you want one, is next on the agenda. I mean in the main we’re in our 30’s, married, mortgaged and the natural progression is to start a family. In the main that is, assuming you want one or can have one.
All these babies were born and as far as I’m aware all healthy and happy and they have all changed our lives for the better, as far as I can see.
As time has marched on and we’ve all one by one come to the end of our (paid) maternity leave. The time taken by each new mum has varied from a little over six months to just over a year. On average 9 – 10 months.
I decided 7 months into my maternity leave that the thought of returning to work in the City and leaving my girl in the care, whether full time or part time nursery was too horrendous to contemplate. I couldnt bare the thought of missing out on these precious years that I can never get back and watching her grow everyday and whilst I had a well paid job in the grand scheme it meant little to me in terms of life, fulfillment and my bigger picture. Before my daughter came along, I would often find myself moaning about the same accounts that would come up for renewal each passing year, lamenting is this as good as it gets and could only imagine this getting worse when my heart is left at home. Thats not to say I didnt enjoy my job and consider myself extremely lucky to have held the position and all the perks it brought with.
Now it isn’t lost on me that I can afford to give up my City salary. Sacrifices will have to be made though and we’ll miss my pay check immensely but we both felt that as we could continue living a standard of life with the things that mattered to us, it was all worth it.
I still feel this way 14 months down the line. Although the novelty of not being constrained by working in the City & its ensuing obligations is gradually wearing thin, each day I marvel at how lucky I am at getting a chance to be the mum I want to be to my child. It’s bloody hard work though, far harder then I realized and I work hard at keeping busy. You have to otherwise you’d get lazy and spend all morning flicking between cbeebies, this morning and loose women (the last of which I can’t stand for reasons I’ll go into another time). I try to fill our days with all sorts of things to keep us entertained, stimulated and feeling part of the big wide world, for my sake as much as hers.
A good proportion of these mothers to be fair have had to for financial reasons return to work, I’m sure some of them would have rather not. Although others whilst sacrifices would have had to be made at losing a salary, have chosen to not take this route. For the odd one or two they could have given up work and it wouldn’t have been an issue. Yet they have all gone back to work either full or part time depending on their circumstances, and yes they all do have very different circumstances that must be said.
Me being me, I can’t help but question if I am missing something in making my decision. I cant believe im in the minority when it comes to choosing to stay home. My paranoia questions ‘What do they know that I don’t?’ Will I in time regret my decision?, quite possibly making myself obsolete in the workplace so that when I am ready to return to work years down the line I’ll be only fit for jobs that require minimum intelligence or worse, raise a niggly clingy child incapable of being independent having been tied to my apron strings ?
I try to not think like that because in the here and now (which is all that matters right?) I believe I am doing the very best I possibly can by being there all day everyday for my daughter and this works for us, and for my husband who relishes having a wife around.
Yet I feel a little isolated from these women, some question what it is I do all day or feel the need to hammer home the benefits they have of being a working Mother, whether it’s being able to have adult conversation, or peace at lunchtime or how wonderfully developed their child has become at nursery, how they have a great work life balance, it goes on. I know their comments are not directed at me personally in any derogatory way but as this is a sensitive issue for me right now i cant but i wonder if they think i’m mad, lazy or making a huge mistake.
Having thought about this continually for the last few months since i made my decision to stay home, The way i see it I am incredibly lucky with the way my life is and being home and I need to remind myself and keep these thoughts close to me when I have a bad day or wonder where I’m going with it all. It’s too easy to get complacent and in my situation that would be criminal when I have so much going for me.
I do think that returning to work after having a baby is a deeply personal matter and I am not suggesting my way is the only way, if you can afford it. We are all different and need different things to fulfill our sense of self and we all have unique circumstances for the choices we make. I am just surprised that I am the only one who took this route, when only a few decades ago staying home to raise your children was considered the norm. Is this a clear sign that women are now successfully holding their own professionally more then ever. Surely it has to be ?
I actually admire my working mummy friends, I don’t know how they manage to juggle all their commitments and I know I wouldnt be able to cope. Ok, I could probably cope but my existence would feel a miserable one. But when my children are long grown up and flown the nest will I look enviously at my career driven friends and think maybe they got it right to juggle both and make the sacrifice of those early years with their babies. I can’t answer that. All I can answer to is the feeling I am doing the right thing for me and my family now and look at how happy my daughter and husband are.
And maybe whoever said You cant have it all, got it so right.