“Stay at home mum”?
Having been a mother who has worked, mostly full time, for the last ten years or so, I have just recently had another child and taken time out to concentrate on and dedicate all of my time to my family. Whilst juggling work and motherhood, I worked long hours – often 50 hour weeks, and would then come home in the evening and work again once the children were in bed. I was a “working mum” in every sense but still managed the day to day running of the household (with the help of darling husband who shared the burden), cooked, cleaned and did the laundry (when I could), as well as spend time with my children, husband, extended family and friends. I did have great support in my parents who often helped with school runs and cooking. My husband and I felt additional paid help with childcare or household duties was a luxury that we could not afford. And yes I had the inevitable missed parents evenings, trips and sports days, although the more senior I became, the more confidence I had in pushing back and making sure I could attend such events. It wasn’t easy, however these were the choices I had made.
So now I am a “stay at home mum”. And this label I find frustrating. If before I was a “working mum” that now “stays at home” it rather sounds like I have taken an easy, more comfortable option of “just” taking care of my family. Almost like a holiday or one might say – a staycation.
One thing that struck me over these last ten years is that the hardest job I have ever done is and still is being a mum, not everyone would agree with me, but often I found being at work was a break from being a mum. Like many parents and women before me have said, being a mum does not come with any manual or instructions -you simply are plunged into parenthood from the birth of your child. As each child and parent are different you have to learn how to be a mother on the go, and failure is never an option.
If I were to compare motherhood to working as a CEO ( my last role) being a mother is definitely, hands down, the most taxing. As a CEO I had years of experience behind me, a team to delegate to, a board to supervise me, mentors to advise me, training that I could attend and a number of tools to guide and support my daily work in the form of targets, strategic plans, software etc.
A mother however does not have a ready made support structure within which she can work. She has to seek out her own peer support networks in the form of similar friends or online forums. Parenting books can be helpful but I am yet to come across a parent who has used one as a prescriptive guide for their child and it has worked. (To be honest, the best advice I ever had was to ignore the books and do what feels right for you as a mum). And then there are the goverment guidelines on how best to bring up your child which again are useful, but are guilt inducing if you do not follow them to the T. All in all, in our very British culture stepping into the role of mum is far from easy, and just as challenging if not more, than any other job.
For me, concentrating on my family full time is just as hard work, entails equally long hours, is challenging and just as enjoyable as working full time. But I can’t help feeling that the label “stay at home mum” hardly encapsulates all of those things.
The term “stay at home” does a disservice to the important and challenging role of motherhood. It also implies privilege for women of a higher socioeconomic status or lack of stature for women from lower socioeconomic status groups. Embracing motherhood and concentrating on one’s family full time should not need any sort of pre-qualification. So if people ask my current job role is ‘mother’, and in the near future, I may, most likely, additonally work in another role.