I’ve seen the debate many times. You know the one. Every mother knows the one. Working Mothers vs Stay At Home Mothers. I’m not trying to re-launch a huge argumentative discussion, but I have had a lot of thoughts about this the last week, and I need to express myself.
For the most part, I don’t know why any one woman thinks its her business or her right to have an opinion on what another woman chooses. It’s always been my opinion that if you want to or have to work, and you do so, good for you. If you can find work and are comfortable with the place you leave your child, and can still manage to give them the love and attention children need, more power to you. If you have the means to stay home, or if you make great sacrifices to stay home because you want to, good for you, too. While I do feel most of the criticism is from SAHMs towards WMs, I know it works the other way too.
I thought I’d be The Best Stay At Home Mum Ever. I was happy to quit my job to look after my son. Waking up and not having to go to work every day sounded like absolute B-L-I-S-S to me! Once he came along though, I found myself watching the clock, aching for it to be the time my husband walked through the door, or hoping and praying my mother would pop by after work. I didn’t cope very well at all.
When Master N turned 1 and got a spot at kindy 2 days a week, I longed for a part time job. Somewhere I could interact with adults, have some time outside of the house that didn’t result in me spending money we didn’t have, and most importantly, having a little bit of time away from my son, so that the time I was with him was even more special.
I got a job and worked approximately 3-4 days a week, sometimes only 4 hour shifts, which were great. The extra little bit of money helped, Master N was going 2 days a week to a fantastic kindy with wonderful carers and kids, it seemed perfect.
Then I changed jobs. Shift work as a parent is so difficult. Any work, really, makes it difficult to juggle everything and achieve a good balance. I was still working about 3-4 half days a week and it wasn’t so bad. It’s funny though, how the more money you make, the more money you spend, and those hours weren’t really bringing in as much money as we needed. Then my boss left. Finally, I was getting the 30 hours/week I wanted. Master N was now in kindy 3 days a week, and while I worked weekends he got the much-needed 1-on-1 time that little kids need with their daddies. And I still got 2 whole days with him to myself.
I’ve been doing this for about a month now, and do you know what I think? I think it’s made me a worse parent. When I started working, I thought the time away from my son would make me a better parent. Perhaps it did at the start. But now…now I’m at work and away from him so much, that when I am with him, my patience lasts about .8 seconds. I’m not used to having to negotiate the tantrums and I find myself thinking, “What the hell am I supposed to do now?” It’s affected my marriage. There is not one single day of the week that we have together as a family, let alone any time for just the two of us to spend together. And now I’m a few days into an 11-days-in-a-row work stint and I can tell you…it SUCKS!
It kills me to read people, mothers, criticizing other mothers for their choices over this. Financial circumstances aside, as women, we all have different needs and desires. We all have our limits and we know what we can and can’t handle. Why should we expected to stay home and raise the children? Why should we be expected to work stupid hours just to stay in the workforce and feel like we are “contributing”? Why can’t we have our cake and eat it too?
Would I rather work 3 days a week, 8am – 4pm and have plenty of time with my son and weekends with my son and husband? Of course I would, but that’s not the nature of my job. It’s not even an option. And try as I might, I can’t for the life of me get anything that accommodates those hours. And now that I’ve been working and our household budget depends on my income, quitting is not an option. Any government help we get won’t pay the bills.
I don’t know what the answer is for us. I don’t what the answer is for you. I do know that until you have walked in someone else’s shoes, you should not try to tell them now much their feet hurt. Good for you if you don’t leave your kids with strangers. Good for you if you can cook gluten and preservative free meals every day. Good for you if you refuse to give your children Maccas. Sometimes that is the easiest, quickest, and cheapest option for us, and we do it, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be made feel guilty about it.
This isn’t what I thought I’d be doing, it’s not what I wanted when I had the desire to go back to work, but here I am. And I’m stuck. Now I have to figure out what I’m going to do about it.