This is the question of the modern day Mother.
Some of us Must work,
Some of us Want to work,
Some of us Miss work,
Some of us Resent work.
What’s true is- It just isn’t easy. No way is easy.
So this is not me saying whether I think being a working mum or stay at home mum is better than the other. I have been both over the last 6 years…Both are HARD!!!
I have just returned to work on reduced hours after my maternity leave has finished, and as the day approached I went over and over the same options, same list of values that I have the other times I have returned to work. Oh the debate in my mind.
As a working Mum:
Not only do I feel like I am failing at home, I now feel like I am failing at work. Because I never feel like I am doing the job as well as I know that I can. I just don’t have the brain space, and I cant give enough of my time to make a difference.
It is hard to compartmentalize that part of my mind while I am at work.
Whenever I come back there are so many new people that I don’t know, my old work friends are often in and out having babies as well. But I just do not have the time or emotional energy now to build new relationships at work.
Its awful when I have to work and miss out on experiencing something with my children.
When I do get home I am usually pretty tired with little motivation for dinner and housework. And sadly all too often lacking the energy to be tolerant of little people behavior.
Even if I am working at home, I still have the constant tension of trying to compartmentalise and not have focus pulled at the wrong times.
It is nice having a day where I can feel like I am using my adult brain, it is nice to have a bit of physical space, it is nice having an identity outside of being Mum, it is nice to have income and with it a sense that I am contributing to my family in a measureable way. But there is still a lot of other cost.
As a stay at home Mum:
While I love my children, I am constantly doubting my ability as a mother. At least at work I feel somewhat trained, there is the occasional affirmation, maybe even a thankyou.
Being a Mum is all I ever wanted, but it can be really hard surrendering other ‘Titles’. I spent many years creating my identity, my career and sometimes I can feel I lose myself in this role as mother.
Being surrounded by the constant household duties not being done well enough.
Not having personal space for sometimes 100% of the day.
Not being able to have a phone call, or even reply to text messages.
The discipline it takes to keep certain ambitions on the shelf until I am in a position to pick them up again- can be really hard.
It is hard looking at the expenses and not having the money to have what I want for my family sometimes. Feeling guilty about my lack of contribution.
It certainly isn’t just sitting around all day, with time to accomplish all the things I want to.
But- It is nice being able to be present at all times for my kids and not feel like I am missing things.
Once I was debating these things out aloud with someone and they asked me ‘Do you worry people will judge you if you go back to work?’ I responded, interestingly…
’NO, I think I will be more judged if I don’t go back to work’.
My answer surprised even myself, and unlocked something in me. Because I will admit that sometimes I do think we applaud those who are juggling the most balls.
I do think women who work and raise a family- are amazing. Because there is cost there. Going to work and feeling like you aren’t doing a good enough job, coming home and feeling like you aren’t doing a good enough job. I think the more balls we juggle the more things we feel we are failing at.
Stay at home Mums- are amazing. Because there is cost there too. Cost of finances, but also cost of professional lifestyle, adult conversation, adult identity even.
In my 6 years of being a mum, I have done a bit of both and both are really hard in different ways.
I realise of course that for some this isn’t even a question. Some have to work, some have committed to stay home, there is no debate.
I guess what I want to say is BOTH are hard options.
Sometimes I think it’s easier to champion those that are juggling more balls. The super mum comment comes to mind. I have definitely found myself feeling insecure that I don’t have the same capacity as others because I am not doing as much, achieving as much- particularly when I am at home with my kids. We are so vulnerable to these insecurities aren’t we.
And as I now attempt to add the next ball into the juggle, giving myself grace for all the ball dropping that is happening ALL the time. I’d love to encourage every mum, whether you are working or at staying at home.
Both require capacity,
Both cause stress,
Both require cost,
Both require support of those around us.
I certainly want to get better at extending grace to others trying to make modern day mummying work for our families.