Why are we all so angry at each other? I hear working mums slating their stay at home counterparts, saying that they shouldn’t be complaining about having too much to do when they have all the time in the world. I hear stay at home parents deride the working mums for chosing career over family. Is there no compassion? I have tried to look at this from all sides, and base it on stay at home ‘parents’ as I now see so many more dads finding themselves in this role. But it is hard as everyone has such different outlooks..
Having spoken to lots of parents about their ‘choices’ (and I use that term loosly, as many parents’ decisions are completely out of their hands) I have realised that we are all just doing what we can. So why can’t we respect each others decisions? I hold my hand up to having shared opinions on others lifestyles, at looking negatively at how others choose to live. Haven’t we all? But after going through a pretty hectic few years myself and from watching a lot of my friends lives change and some them suffer. I am now trying to look at the bigger picture. Some people made mistakes after their first baby and when they had their second they were more comfortable deciding what was the best way forward. Some people are just limping along.
We have the stay at home parents. Split into two tribes, the first tribe are the parents for whom raising a family is something they excell at and it is definitely a choice to stay at home. Then we have the people with no family close by and/or previously in a low paid job? No chance you’re going back to work just to pay someone else to watch your kids and come out with nothing. You may have believed pre-children that family would step in and help out and have been sorely let down – I hear it all the time. Childcare is crippling and I can see why people would decide to stay at home rather than work just to pay for it. I would certainly think twice if I didn’t work shifts. So you are at home full time with the kids trying to make a weekly routine and maybe find something for you. Some take active roles in baby groups, some try their hand at a work from home position and some find thst they truly love being a homemaker so it doesn’t feel like a chore. Whatever way you came to be at home, for you the guilt comes from feeling the need to provide enough stimulation for your children, from trying to justify your day to your partner, from feeling like you are a glorified skivvy some days. Not all of us but the majority. A stay at home role is really a calling I believe, and I can understand the resentment that could builds up if you are forced into this role if it maybe wasn’t on the cards. Yes you choose to have children, but do you as a parent also have to choose to sacrifice all the other parts of yourself?!
There are those who go back flexi or part time. An ideal senario you might think as it’s the best of both worlds. But you often find yourselves doing just as much work as your full time counterparts while still doing all the housework. At work your employer still expects the same out of you,just in condensed hours so you have work guilt for the feeling you aren’t pulling your weight as much as before. While at home everything still needs done and you have the dreaded guilt of not seeing the kids for a few days, so you spend all your days off doing stuff with them. You might have family that help out to enable you to work which means you get back a little bit of yourselves and a break from being mum but at the same time don’t feel you can ask any more from the family so don’t get any time as a couple. You do get the financial benefit of being back at work that enables you to afford to pay the bills and enormous mortgage you took out to enjoy the lifestyle you aspire to, but are you really having it all?! Most days it won’t feel like it.
Then there are the full time workers, most derided sometimes for their lack of maternal care. You work 40+ hours a week at your job, spend evenings preparing meals and doing housework so you can spend every minute of your day off with the family trying to ‘make memories’, because you suffer mummy guilt the most. Jesus it’s a never ending hamster wheel. By working so much you are able to provide well for your family but for most of us the reason for going back full time isn’t financial, sometimes it’s not a choice but a case of necessity as your employer doesn’t offer an alternative arrangement. You feel guilty for missing out of the social aspect of parenting when you can’t make classes or events at school. You feel guilty for not being there at school drop off or pick up every day. You even feel guilty at work for not focusing 100% on your job because you are thinking about your kids. Personally I would love to work part time if I was able. But for some individuals it’s a need to be that person they are at work and they truly enjoy the full time position as opposed to being at home. But if they are honest is this the life they really thought the would have?
We would all be lying if we said we enjoy working – win the lottery and see if you would still get up at 5am for your commute!
So do we place any higher respect on the parent who chooses to stay by their childs side or the one who works and sets a different example to their children? I am constantly torn.
On one hand I abhor anyone who is workshy so for me going back to work was a given (but I was lucky enough that my mum can help out with childcare and I work shifts that make it easier for me than most). But staying at home everyday and raising children is harder work than anything I can ever imagine (And yet…while staying at home you cannot contribute to your pension or get a paycheck!).
I believe that in the end we are always going to be jealous of each other. A massive case of ‘the grass is greener’. Those who stay at home are a little jealous of the lifestyle of the working mums while those at work are jealous of what they perceive the stay at home parents are up to. You have idealised views of what they get up to, and if you could live one week in their shoes would you stay?
If I knew 5 years ago how my life would be would I still make all the decisions I have done? I’m not honestly sure. But hindsight is a great thing. It’s all relative. Ultimately not many of us would trade places so we should start owning our lifestyle.
If you are currently at home and loving it (well at least mostly!) then I salute you! If you are stuck at home and hating it, the good news is that they do get older and move out (and whos to say our 50’s can’t be better than our 20’s!) If you are juggling work and family then I raise a strong gin in your honour – you most likely need one most nights! We only get one chance at this and I want to look back and think I did it my way – permenantly exhausted, limping through like a sloth on weed but my way!