'When I grow up I want to be....a mother. I want to stay home and play games, bake flapjack and go exploring. Teach my children about the world and be there to support them if they need it and step away if they don't'.
These were all thoughts that I had growing up. I can't say that I have ever been particularly career minded, I haven't wanted to smash glass ceilings and work until late just to finish a job, because I want to. When I thought about what I wanted to do it was always have three children and raise them, staying at home if possible.
I took to motherhood like I dreamed I would, it feels like second nature to me. Do you ever get that feeling like you are exactly where you are meant to be? That's how I have felt for the last 9 months. Content, happy with my life, happy with myself and happy to spend time with my daughter.
I realised that I didn't want to give that up and go back to jobs that didn't fulfil me, clock watching until home time and living for the weekend. You realise how short life is and how quickly time flies when you have children and I am desperate to cling to every second that we've got.
Leigh and I had a conversation about the cost of childcare, how I felt about the circumstance and if we could afford it. We trial ran a couple of months on his salary, putting my Mat pay into savings, to see if it was achievable and if we could survive. It was incredibly tight but it was manageable with some major budgeting and less pub trips. It worked out that if I went back part time we would only be 20 quid better off each month once we'd paid for childcare. Crazy right? £20 is definitely not worth my happiness or the chance to see Rosie grow. I know that if I was to go back to work I'd feel guilty, sad and I'd struggle to concentrate. To me that's just not worth it.
A poignant moment for me that helped me put all doubt aside; we went to view a Nursery and put our names down on a waiting list (for when Rosie is 3) and we were shown around. There were 12 babies in the 0-1year part of the Nursery and two of them were asleep in the arms of the staff. Leigh commented on how lovely it was that the children trusted the staff but all I could think was, 'I don't want Rosie to fall asleep in the arms of someone else'.
And so (much to my delight) we decided that I would take the plunge and become a Stay at Home Mother (SAHM). The sense of relief I felt at not having to return to work and leave her was immediate. I was happy with my decision, and Leigh was too (begrudgingly and with a little jealousy) but how would everyone else take it? Was I going to be treated differently now, viewed as lazy or unambitious?
I read a few articles in preparation for this blogpost. I wanted to see what thoughts and opinions there were on the matter of women staying at home to raise their children.
The general consensus was that the majority of women who are SAHM's are looked down upon. It is those women who are giving feminism a bad name. It is those women who are undoing years of hard work for equal rights in the work place.
This surprised me for two reasons:
One; Isn't the whole point of feminism that a woman is free to make choices of her own free will. I am no less of a feminist because I'm not there in the workplace, or because I'm not utilising opportunities that were gifted by the women in history. I am making my mark with Rosalind, helping her understand that whatever decisions she makes, they should be hers alone and not influenced by others - male or female. That she can do whatever she wants to do regardless of her gender. By staying at home with her I have a wonderful opportunity to raise the future the right way.
Two; I have been met with nothing but approval at my decision. I haven't felt at any point like my decision has been questioned or judged. Perhaps I have just been lucky? Or perhaps the tide is changing again? The only reaction I have noticed is some mild jealousy that I am able to stay with Rosie, and a few overall concerns about how we will manage financially but for the most part I have felt supported in my decision.
Several other mums have even reached out to say that I've given them courage and conviction in their decision to also be a SAHM. For me it was such a no brainer that when they ask where I found the courage I have to be honest and say it wasn't needed.
Let's say in six months time the situation is dire, we have no money, I'm feeling isolated and I decide I want to go back to work. Then that's what I will do, we will make some more life changes and make it work that way. It's not about having courage, rather just finding a balance that is right for you.
Just as I wouldn't judge a mother that goes back to work, either because she wants to or has to financially, I wouldn't then be expected to be judged for staying at home. I'd like to think that we are now of an age where, as women, we support each other in the decisions we make ESPECIALLY when it comes to how we parent. I wouldn't expect another mother to have any view on the choices I make, and vice versa.
That being said it is interesting to see the change of opinion across the generations. I was talking to my Grandmother recently and she said, 'Oh I do hope you're going to stay at home with Rosalind. I think it's so sad when mothers leave their children to go back to work.' Now please bear in mind that my Gran is 90 before you think badly of her, she is from a generation that did stay at home with the family, they were housewives and homemakers primarily. But it's interesting to think that if I had gone back to work she would have thought badly of me.
My own mother was a childminder so was at home my whole childhood, perhaps another reason I am so keen to stay at home. It was lovely having her there when we arrived back from school, that she could help with homework, make our dinners, be there to talk about our day before bedtime. This is something that personally I want to have for Rosie as well. I don't want the guilt of missing a moment.
So for now I'm able to have this amazing chance, that so many women are regretfully unable to have, to watch my daughter grow and flourish. I don't want to go back to work and I don't need work to make me feel like I have purpose. I don't feel like I'm missing out by not having a lunch break, or having after work drinks on a Friday. Instead I get to see the excitement on her face when we go for a walk, we get to share a plate of food at mealtimes, and I can teach her words and meanings and help her shape her own thoughts and personality. Eventually she won't need me to be a constant guiding hand, but whilst she does I am so happy that I can be with her every step of the way.