“I admire you being a stay at home mum” a friend said, the other day. I looked behind me. Oh, me? It never, ever occurred to me until that day that that’s what I am. It wasn’t really a choice. It just happened. It’s the strangest thing, but for someone who always wanted a good job, to travel, to never, ever be tied down to 2.4 children in the suburbs, I am a stay at home mum at the moment (in a city not the suburbs but that might all change).
When I got pregnant with BUB.1 I was working as a editor on a magazine. Willy Wonka and I were already set to travel to Australia for 18 months, a place I had lived for the best part of my early thirties. I had, through hard work, secured myself Australian residency during that time and another year there would see me entitled to apply for citizenship, an opportunity I knew I had to take.
So on our first date I told Willy Wonka of my plans and a year later we were pregnant and booking tickets. I left my job when I was three months pregnant and flew when I was four. As a result, I never had maternity pay or a boss ringing me to ask when I was coming back.
When BUB.1 was 12 month old, as planned we moved back to the UK to be close to our families, and within a month I was pregnant with BUB.2 so there was never an opportunity to even think about returning to full time work. I wonder what I would have decided if there was?
I am fortunate that we have made choices which mean although it’s a squeeze each month, we manage. I know that for a lot of people it isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity. I feel very fortunate that I have been allowed to wallow in motherhood full time until now, however challenging it can be (said through gritted teeth with spaghetti dangling from my hair).
I’m not alone either. The mums in my ante natal group in Australia were all professional women, but none were prepared for how happy that first year made them. One of the mums at BUB.1’s preschool worked in the theatre and says she spent years justifying not going back to a very anti social job. People would ask her what made her give up such an artistic career for full time motherhood, some of her ex colleagues cautiously asking if perhaps her husband prefers her not to work.
Can’t we just enjoy being mums for a while without being made to feel like there’s a problem?
At the time of starting this blog, my youngest is sixteen months old and at the moment he is used to me and needs me. But we are evolving. He is currently being settled into a childminder for a six-hour stint once a week, during which time I hope to continue with some freelance writing.
If you’d have told me I’d be a stay at home mum ten years ago I would have rolled my eyes at you. But I didn’t know that a) you don’t stay at home, you go out, or you go mad and b) the mum bit is SO much fun.
My admiration goes to those mums who work and deal with everything early motherhood entails. But then again, when I hear of friends enjoying lunch in a quiet restaurant or reading the newspaper on the train, I admit I want to gouge my eyeballs out with a toddler-sized fork.