When I first became a mother, I went back to work part time when my son was only 3 months old. When he turned one, he started in full time day care as I began a full time job. He was nearly 5 by the time we made the move to Western Australia and I got to live out my “dream” of being a stay at home mum.
And do you know what I realised?
The term “working mother” is Totally. Fucking. Redundant.
If you’re a mother; you’re working, regardless of if you are being paid in dollars or love and pasta-jewelry.
There is no “right way”.
There is only the way that works for you.
A happy mother is a good mother and if work makes you hum then the whole family sings along.
The “working mother”.
You can usually spot her. She might have a little weetbix in her hair and maybe a run in her stockings but she walks into work like a fucking hero. She’s also likely to be the hardest worker in the room because whether it be through choice or circumstance, she is justifying being at work instead of being with her kids and that is not something to be taken lightly.
Despite the immense guilt you are crippled with every day as you drop your kids at child care, you don’t regret working because, you need to. You make up for it every chance you get – maybe even pull the odd sicky and wag school just so you can stay under the blankets and talk Star Wars.
I did like to work outside the home. I liked that responsibility. I liked contributing. I enjoyed getting up in the mornings, frantically trying to cram an hours’ worth of housework into 15 minutes, hurrying the kids through their breakfast, rummaging through the washing pile for clean undies then rushing out the door 10 minutes later than I had hoped too after the inevitable saga of the missing school shoes. Why? Because it gave me a sense of achievement.
The thing I didn’t like about being a working mother was I felt consistently overwhelmed. I always felt like I was spreading myself too thin and no one was getting the best of me.
On the other hand, sometimes being a stay at home mum I feel consistently underwhelmed.
I love being here for my kids and I know I am so lucky, but being a stay at home mother is relentless. It doesn’t matter how much washing you do in a day, there is always more. It doesn’t matter, how nicely you make your bed – someone might pee in it and you have to start all over again. There is no change in pace and no quitting time. There’s no lunch break and no one to bounce ideas off of.
The monotony of being at home, with just your sleeping toddler and laundry pile to keep you company, is enough to make some people hide in a don’t-give-a-fuck-fort for the forseeable future.
“Mum I’ve got swimming lessons” “nope. Fuck that, get in the fort”
And that’s OK. we’re not all wired to be able to be stay at home mums. Its not an easy job.
By the time I was able to stay at home with my son, It wasn’t what I expected . I worked just as hard at home as I did from my office. I got up at 5am and cooked my husband breakfast, made his lunch and sent him off to work. I made playdough, went to the park, scrubbed the walls and folded washing. I danced in the lounge, cooked dinner and answered 4,376 questions a day.
Then, after 6 months of that – I added “growing another human” to the mix. I was exhausted.
I had to work really hard all day, every day to pretend to give a shit about why it was really REALLY important we didn’t use the red Legos today. I had to be patient and choose my words carefully and not lose my shit at my “co-workers” despite their outlandish requests and eye rolling. I had to pick up toys again and again and negotiate constantly and put my foot down repeatedly. And then when the “manager” arrived home I would have to explain my monthly expenditure & justify my need for a new hot glue gun. It took a lot of getting used too.
The stay at home mother. You can usually spot her. She might have a little weetbix in her hair and can’t remember the last time she wore stockings but she walks into chipmunks like a fucking hero. And she is usually the hardest worker in the room, because she is fully responsible for all the social interaction & development of this tiny human and that is not something to be taken lightly.
Working mums have got it tough. Stay at home mums have got it tough.
This is motherhood – we’re all doing it tough and having been both – I don’t believe one is easier or more difficult than the other.
I believe each option presents different challenges and frustrations and the grass is always greener.
There is no right way. There is only the way that works for you.