Too many times, I read post after post covering the heated topic of working-mam vs stay-at-home-mam and it always appears to be the ‘chicken or the egg’ scenario. It doesn’t matter who goes first, the dialogue always involves one parent saying how hard life is having to work full time whereas the other side will chime that staying at home is a justified job-choice and carries its own set of woes.
As a Mother who has experienced both sides, I can confirm that neither side has greener grass…both sides have shades of green and awful patches of brown where the grass has shrivelled and died. It just happens that these appear in different places and the cause of such neglect/unkemptness just have very different causes.
As a stay-at-home-mam, my days were very trying. I battled two babies simultaneously and most days felt as though they were winning. I worried whether my activities were educational/beneficial enough. I worried endlessly about the money I was spending and not earning. I yearned for adult conversation and the chance to rediscover a piece of me I felt I’d lost along the way. I felt guilty for feeling tired, guilty that I wasn’t doing enough and guilty that I had given up on something that had once meant everything to me…my career!
Eventually, my bank balance and my sanity hinted that it was time to go back to work. I told my Husband (at the time) that I couldn’t ever go back full time but could just about manage a 3 day week – long enough to feel like I was using my intellectual functions again but short enough to know my children’s needs still seemed priority. As it happens (and I’m a great believer in this), fate had other plans and I was plunged back into full time employment with immediate effect.
The role I had secured was only ever meant to be short-lived, I acquired a cushty little teaching job from September-December when I was then meant to be replaced by someone more suitable for the role of Head of Department. It felt long enough to line my ever-declining bank account yet short enough to see it through.
It took me one full week to rediscover my love for Education. Seven little days to decide I wanted to get my career back on track and just over a month to secure my first promotion.
Growing up, I’d always been ambitious. I wanted the best for myself and knew I had the strength to go out and get it…then Motherhood came knocking somewhat unexpectedly and abruptly changed my outlook. For the first time, my want/needs seemed significantly inferior. Yet, here I was, rediscovering the fire within me.
This is when the other side of my journey started. The green grass I’d suddenly acquired proved to be just as metaphorically seasonal. My passion dies and withers, grows and flourishes all at once!
Most days, my guilt is replaced by how little I feature in my children’s life. I don’t do the school run, I’m never there to gossip idly with other Mums waiting for the release of our spawn. I don’t know the names of my children’s friends or how much they ate at dinner. I’m forever forgetting about ‘Number Day’, ‘Dress up as a Pirate Day’ or any other gimmick that is going. I forget to RSVP to Birthday invites and constantly live in fear that I’ll be exposed as a terrible Mam!
I’m tired when I get home from work and sometimes don’t have the energy for back-to-back marathons of children’s stories. Showers are easier than baths and if I can get my children down before eight, I rejoice in the silence and adult-time…then the guilt kicks in all over againand I once again, feel rubbish for rushing.
I constantly feel as though I’m missing out on my children growing up.
Don’t get me wrong – their homework is always done, their teeth are always cleaned and there’s always a kiss and a cuddle awaiting before bed…but I can’t help feel as though they’ll realise how absent I am or wonder why other Mams are present when I am missing.
I know that we could go down the route of arguing that I’m ‘teaching my children the value of hard work’ but honestly, I thought I modelled that just as clearly when I wasn’t at work – it was just entirely different.
To summarise, I’ve reached the conclusion that no-matter-what, parenthood is hard. It carries worry and guilt, sacrifice and compromise and the most unimaginable doubt.
Yet, it brings with it, the sweetest sensation and the loveliest feeling. It’s joy and happiness, affection and rapture all rolled into one (or multiple) balls of flesh.
It’s utterly fantastic!
So, I guess I just have to accept that no matter how I choose to spend my days, I’ll always feel like I’m not doing enough and that I could be better but so long as my children are smiling and I show them I care, it has to be enough! It has to be enough!