I gave up work through choice a few months after returning from maternity leave. I’m not the most organised of people, and so managing to be a mum, while also trying to hold down a job, remain sane and cook edible meals with food that hadn’t yet reached its sell by date was a step too far into the world of multi-tasking for me.
Since becoming a SAHM, I’ve been humbled by the huge amount of concern I’ve received (particularly from other parents) about how I spend my time and how I’m coping with being a lady of leisure. I had no idea that I had such a network of support. The concern is understandable. After all, there’s only so much housework you can do, and with a pristine bathroom, sparkly kitchen floor and every item of clothing in the house ironed to within an inch of its life, there’s always the risk that I may end up spending a succession of monotonous days lazing about on the sofa with a hot cup of tea, while my toddler plays happily and quietly by herself, tidying up as she goes….
I’ve always appreciated the fact that other people take such an interest in my situation, but I worry that I haven’t always been honest with them. Particularly when I’m asked one of the following three recurring gems. It’s time to set the record straight:
Question 1: “What do you do with yourself all day?”
What I usually say: “Ha, ha, I know, I’ve got so much time on my hands nowadays.”
What I want to say: “Are you having a laugh? You’re having a laugh. Right??”
If I didn’t have any children myself, I’m sure I’d be guilty of thinking that giving up work to look after one mini-human would be nothing short of ‘living the dream’. In fact, in the pre-baby days, I’m sure this was exactly what I thought. But what gets me is that this question often comes from other parents, who must surely have witnessed the abject carnage that can be created in record time by a curious little toddler. Surely they too have forgotten what an empty laundry basket looks like, or what their living room carpet would look like without a peppering of Duplo bricks? Do they honestly think I’m struggling to find something with which to fill my days?
Question 2: “You’re lucky you can afford to do that!”
What I say: “Well, we’ve had to cut back on our spending a bit.”
What I want to say: “Mind your own bloody business!”
What is it about parenting and child-related conversations that makes people feel they can stray into topics that would be otherwise off-limits? When I bumped into our neighbours just after they’d had a huge extension built, did I say ‘You must be fairly loaded to do that’? No, I didn’t. Why? Because it would be the height of rudeness!
We’re lucky that my husband has a decent income, but at the same time, we’re far from rolling in it. Luckily, we’ve never been big spenders (my husband still has an iPhone 3) and our only extravagances in the pre-baby years were far-flung holidays, but those are now long gone. We’ve had to make a few cutbacks and put a few things on hold so that I can be at home to spend these early years with my little girl, but for me, it’s worth it. And anyway, it’s no one else’s business!
Question 3: “Do you have plans now that you’ve given up work? Are you going to work for yourself?”
What I say: “Oh, I’ll just see how things go. I might look into working from home in the future if I can find something to fit around Little B.”
What I want to say: “Plans?? What do you mean, ‘plans’?? Because my current full time role as mum, cleaner, cook, secretary, driver, nurse, gardener, and teacher might not be keeping me busy enough?!”
Is there something wrong with just wanting to enjoy my daughter’s first years before she goes to school? I know that being a SAHM is not for everyone. As soon as I went back to work after maternity leave, I knew that I wanted to be at home full time with my little girl, but I have friends who were delighted to be back at work and who shudder at the idea of being a SAHM. Other friends are somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t mean that any of us are any more or less of a mum. We’re all different, with different situations, needs and wants. Being at home day in day out with a toddler might be a bit mind-numbing for some (and I can completely understand that), but for me, it’s fine. And there’s nothing wrong with that. OK?
Right, that’s that off my chest. Best get the kettle on before Jeremy Kyle starts!