Two days a week, whilst my 3 year old is at kindergarten, I have the pleasure of spending time alone with my 18 month old daughter. Yesterday was one of these days. As we walked hand in hand, along the path by the beach that I go to most days with one or both of the girls, I found myself aware that this familiar daily existence, could be nearing an end.
I have been merrily, tearily and, more often than not, blearily, muddling my way through my motherhood bubble for the best part of 3 years. With no job held open for me after my second daughter was born 18 months ago, I haven’t felt the pressure to make a decision regarding returning to paid work – until now. I can’t be a stay-at-home mum forever. At some point my youngest will benefit from further interaction and stimulation at kindergarten as her sister has done and if our little family is complete (something I still struggle to be absolute on), I need to find something to stimulate me and of course bring in some dollars!
As I am writing this the tears are slipping down my cheeks, as my children’s have done thousands of times throughout the last 3 years and I’ve mostly been there to mop them up. Essentially, for the last 3 years, I have been a stay-at-home mum.
Becoming a mum was the biggest milestone of my 36 and a half years on this planet. Ever since I was a little girl there was an innate desire within me to have a family of my own. I had friends, and a boyfriend at one point, who had no such yearning. This was such an alien concept to me. Sure, I went to university and later enjoyed carving out a career, but I always knew that what I really wanted from my life, more than anything else, was to be a mum.
These tears carry so much within them as I contemplate approaching my next milestone – returning to paid employment. Tears of happiness at the beautiful moments I’ve shared with my children, tears of regret for the frustration and anger I have felt at times. Tears of despair during the endless sleep deprived nights and irrational tantrums. Tears of disappointment that I haven’t always been the mum I wanted to be. Tears of anxiety at the prospect of returning to the now so alien corporate world and lastly tears of sadness that this precious chapter of my motherhood journey may be nearing an end as I approach a new stage of my life.
When I finished work prior to my first child’s arrival, I enjoyed the time nesting and setting up our home in excited anticipation. Although there were some tough days and nights, in that first 12 months of her life I was content and fulfilled in my role as a stay-at-home mum. I took my responsibilities seriously, in fact I put a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself to do everything related to the baby and home myself, disappointed if I couldn’t achieve it all.
When my second daughter was born (18 months apart), I hit breaking point many times. Forced to accept I couldn’t do it all. Just as in any job there are limitations to what you can achieve in the time available, so too are there when you are a stay-at-home mum. I was barely keeping afloat, constantly fire-fighting with nothing getting the love and attention it deserved – not my new born baby, not my toddler, not my husband, not the house and definitely not me.
Luckily for me, my husband didn’t share my unrealistic expectations. He is a hands-on, adoring, doting dad and a great cook always willing to help out whenever possible. I accepted that my then 2 year old would benefit from a couple of days a week at kindergarten, I would also benefit from a couple of days a week to focus on my baby and get some housework done. I stopped obsessing about housework and had to accept that more often than not I hadn’t even considered what we would have for our dinner let alone have prepared it. When my husband walked through the door I felt instant relief to have an extra and willing pair of hands to help and once the girls were finally sleeping (even if just for a short while) the only thing on my mind was wine.
With my first daughter, my previous job was held open for 12 months. I felt a certain expectation to return to paid work by that time not just by them but that’s what most other mums I knew seemed to be doing. There was also a part of me that missed going out to work, having a different purpose and making a financial contribution.
I hadn’t really considered the option of continuing as a stay-at-home mum indefinitely. I didn’t get time to assess how easy/difficult juggling childcare, a job and a home could be because a couple of days before starting the job I discovered I was pregnant. The hyperemesis I’d had in my first pregnancy returned more fiercely than before and after being hospitalised I felt the only choice I had was to quit. On the one hand I was sad to be leaving the little bit of independence, variety and financial benefit going out to work had afforded me, on the other hand excited to be reunited fulltime with my child and returning to my former job as a stay-at-home mum.
Being a stay-at-home mum for the best part of 3 years has given me the opportunity to spend unlimited quality time, dedicated to my children. I have witnessed some of their major milestones such as first bum shuffles, first steps and first words. It has enabled me to experience life from a different perspective, I’d like to say one where I’m my own boss however now that I have a toddler and a ‘threenager’ I’m increasingly aware who is boss! It’s a job that comes with no performance reviews or financial benefit however the rewards are endless and it provides a job satisfaction like no other. I have a slight reluctance about letting go and moving onto the next stage of my life as it forces acceptance that my babies are growing up and that my current every day existence may soon be a treasured slightly distant memory.
Published on Parent.Co