A New Normal
It’s been over a month since I was supposed to return to work. I wrote a wee post back in December after I decided to hand my notice in during my last month of maternity leave and enter into my new role of the ‘stay at home mum’… a title that perhaps I’m still struggling with?!
Anyway, my decision to take a break from work was based on various factors from financial to logistical and of course, I was excited to be able to be home and spend more time with the kids, but it’s not been without it’s challenges. A bit of a mental juggling act of me trying to get my head round the “new norm” and find my place.
Now, let me just say first off – being at home is easier. There, I said it. Logistically it’s not the headache that getting to work and arranging childcare around a shift worker and a 9-5er was. I can arrange our days to suit us so there is a LOT more freedom which is brilliant! When I was working, even though I was only part-time (4 days), I was often stretched. Between the stresses and strains of my job while also juggling home life. I struggled when I first returned to work after having Oscar – I even wrote about it. Being home has lightened the mental load, there is no doubt about that and I feel incredibly fortunate that I was able to have that choice especially at a time when I was facing dwindling job satisfaction.
However, being at home has still had its challenges for me. Some have been par for the course, but others unexpected.
Let’s be honest – it can be boring… I mean, I’m sorry, but it is. It can be mundane and repetitive and some days feel like a cycle of meal, clean up, nap time, drawing, another meal, more clearing up, maybe another nap, then, oh look… it’s time for yet another meal and I have to clear up all over again and finally – bedtime (except, bedtime for Scout means very little as she likes to wake every hour anyway!). In that respect some days I would prefer to be at work and thinking about a project or event other than play-doh and being able to split the home ‘burden’. I sometimes worry that this sense of monotony means I am not able to as good a mum as I so desperately want to be and that maybe I don’t have enough to give. Whereas, if my time with them was more limited I’d “make more of it” but equally, I suppose I can see that really I’m the only one that can make sure I do my best.
I used to get annoyed when people suggested work was a “break” and I standby that because to me a break is doing something I want to do, whether it’s going for lunch with pals or shopping etc, whereas work was work and taxing in its own right. However, now I concede that I can maybe understand what people were implying as there are aspects I miss such as eating in peace and the social aspect. Work also provides a space that you are you and the work you undertake has a defined value and of course… you get paid.
This idea of “value” is one that I think I may struggle with at home for some time. At the moment I don’t quite feel that I’ve settled into a role with no monetary value attached and it feels somewhat alien, especially as I have worked pretty much constantly since the age of around 13. What is the value of what I am doing at home? Is it valued and respected? Does it have a positive impact? These are all somewhat unanswered questions at the moment. But I am sure time will be the key to unlocking the answers.
Stay At Home Feminist?
I was proud to be a working mum and I think after a period of adjustment, I was doing ok at it. I enjoyed having that aspect of my life away from “mum-life” and was proud of my dual-roles. Keeping my head above water most of the time. I was (and am still) resolute in the belief that creating a balance was good for us all as a family.
And so now when people ask me how I’m finding it “being home” I struggle to find an answer. I feel embarrassed.
When I published my blog post about handing in my notice this was something that came up over and over again. I had an influx of messages from people saying that they were thinking of doing the same and some saying that they were finding it hard to tell people, worried about what they might think! They felt maybe a wee hint of uneasiness or that they were being judged for taking the step and I can totally relate to it.
To me, it feels a little anti-feminist.
Now, it’s not. I have never thought this about any other Mother (or Father) that’s decided to take a break and stay home to raise their children, so why do I think this about myself? But I can’t help but feel that niggle. Will people think badly of me, are they judging me, do they think I’m lazy, but ya know what? That’s my issue really, isn’t it?! We’re always just hardest on ourselves.
Ultimately, individuals make a decision that’s right for them and their family based on their circumstances and that should be applauded. I can’t say I’m particularly bothered about what people think of me in other aspects of life – so why should this be any different?
I really want to just embrace it. I am confident that I have made the right decision and despite the challenges, it’s wonderful to be at home and have the freedom to do whatever we fancy – I’m especially excited about the summer coming and also that we can cram in loads of activities before Oscar starts school next year. I think the more I settle into this “new role” the more comfortable I’ll be in it and I wholeheartedly admire anyone that is 100% confident from the get go, I’m sure I’ll get there, it’ll just take time.
Whatever we decide as mothers, we should just own it. Whether that’s working full time, part-time, working nights, working weekends, deciding to stay home, or wanting to get back to work or study- just do you. But I suppose I wanted to write this for those people out there that might feel those little niggles of doubt that I have. You’re not alone, but I think we’ll be ok. 👌🏽