Monthly Archives: May 2012

Benefits – Education

Being a stay-at-home mum means that you are able to teach your child about anything and everything. Because he is with you, you can continually and informally tell him about the world around you and rediscover the marvel of it for yourself. You are also able to encourage speech and the use of language in a way that is not possible in a childcare setting. You are able to help your child to develop a normal range of emotions and how to control them, which is far more difficult in a nursery. Your child can play spontaneously without having his actions analysed and assessed, which unfortunately nurseries have to constantly monitor to prove that their education goals are being achieved.

When your child is aged somewhere between two and a half and three, he may be ready to attend a local pre-school. These normally run for limited hours that don’t fit with a working day and he will have the opportunity to meet local children who will all attend school together. You can remain involved with your child’s education by joining the pre-school committee or becoming a school governor and sharing your ideas on how to improve the school. Many pre-schools are parent-led and are crying out for parents who are able to plan strategically and help manage the pre-school. Not only will you be giving back something to your community, meeting and making new friends, but you will also have your finger on the pulse of your child’s education.

Benefits – A balanced life

It is awful dropping off a sick child at nursery knowing that you are pulling a fast one on the staff and just because he hasn’t vomited – yet – doesn’t mean he is not ill. Your heart bleeds for your sad little child and you feel guilty that you are pushing the nursery’s boundaries. Some employers are more understanding, but others send tangible waves of irritation over the phone lines when you decide your child is truly unwell and you have to stay at home with him. That is only the start of it when you are juggling too many balls – working late, business trips, tight deadlines and waking up tired children to drop them off at childminders – all takes its toll on a working mum and her family.

Parents struggle to find a balance and may feel they have to put career first even if it affected their family relationships. This is not right and should be avoided if at all possible. In the conflict between the needs of a family and the needs of a job, something has got to give in a family where two adults are both wedded to their careers. You may struggle with the idea of ‘not doing anything’ but for some families, if both parents are in full-time work, their lives will fall apart. By choosing to prioritise your family and putting your own needs second, you can bring calmness into your family.

One mother thought she had the ideal job as a family consultant at a holiday company, advising the wealthy about family holidays. However, with her husband in a competitive career, trying to get children to school on time and never eating together as a family, it became too much. She was tired of all the juggling and stopped work to become a stay-at-home mum. I respect this woman who realised that raising capable, sensible children needs time and attention and her working life took up that time to the detriment of her family life.

Some find it possible to continue working with one child, but often it is the logistics and childcare costs for two or more children that tips the balance and the wheels may truly come off the bus. Of course many families are in different positions, some are single parents and some need both incomes to survive and these families also need to find a work balance to raise capable, happy children and to have a healthy family life. But if it is possible, you may decide that for a period of time one adult in the household should not be in paid employment. Both of you are still working – one within and one outside the home – and need to support each other emotionally and financially to sustain balance in life.

Benefits – Freedom

You are in control of your time and have the freedom to choose what you and your child will do each day. It is as if you are self-employed and are responsible for how the day progresses and what is to be achieved. There are many marvellous activities available from visiting a museum to junk modelling at home.

You are also able to provide your child with freedom and space to himself. He is able to have solitude and time to explore toys at home or in his garden alone. Having time for peace and quietness, time to think and ask questions and even time to grow bored is rare in our busy world. You have the opportunity to let your child become comfortable with his own company, learn how to entertain himself and be able to discover things for himself.

You also have more freedom and an opportunity to pick up your own interests that have lain dormant. You can use this time to do a part-time course, hobbies or even organise home improvements that have been on the back burner. Some of your interests can involve your child such as baking or gardening. My helper gardeners follow me around moving soil, removing grass clippings or digging bolt holes for imaginary baby bunnies.

You have more freedom to be involved in your local community than many working or part-time mums. There are committees from the parish council to pre-schools to village halls that need help to operate and are held together by mums who are available during the day. Often your business skills and experience can make these organisations truly successful. The traditional functions of a stay-at-home mum, whether it is home making, neighbourliness, helping the elderly, charity or community work are undervalued but are crucial for a healthy and sound society.

Benefits – Sharing your values

When my son turned three, I realised my role had changed and become one of disciplining as well as loving him. Discipline does not refer to punishment, but to providing training. As a child matures, we continue to love and protect them, but instead of just saying ‘no’ for safety, we explain the ‘why’ behind the ‘no’. ‘No, don’t touch the oven’ becomes ‘If you touch the oven, you will burn yourself and it will be sore’. ‘No, don’t squash the caterpillar’ becomes ‘If you step on it, it will be squashed and die’. Your child will begin to understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘no’ and it will become part of his own self-disciplining and value system. Eventually, he will be able to make judgements based not on what he has been told but based on his application of his understanding. Your child will start to make the right choices because he sees it as the attractive option, not a way to avoid punishment.

I want to teach my child my values but that takes time and energy and it wouldn’t work to present a weekly lecture. It is through informal chats about being kind to the odd-looking child or why we need to show respect to grannies that they learn your values. Your child also becomes aware of your values because he is with you to observe your actions. All mums desire to train their children, but because you are at home with your child and are the primary care giver, you don’t have to leave it to others, but have the privilege and the time to instil your values.

Some feel concerned about enforcing their beliefs on their child and I hear many parents saying they will let their children decide for themselves what to believe. Yet we insist on teaching good eating and sleeping habits without feeling guilty. You are giving your child your belief systems in good faith and although he may disagree with you when he is older, at least you have given him a position to disagree from.

You are the right mother for your child: give him a firm foundation, do your best and that means you WILL do an excellent job.

Benefits – I have time

Some days, I have said ten times in an hour, ‘Hurry up, we’ll be late’ or ‘I can’t do it now, I don’t have time.’ But the reality is that most days there is time, or at least I am learning to make time to walk with toddler steps to feed the pigeons, pick daisies or throw pebbles. We are used to a frenetic world where meals are instant, information is instant, desires can be instantly satisfied but stay-at-home mums have a very precious commodity. We have time. Slowing down our pace is hard, especially after a business environment and we need to learn to slow down and not rush our children.

Having time to talk with and enjoy your children means you can build strong, enduring relationships. Talk now while you have the opportunity, because you will have strong connections for those teenage years when all you hear is grunts, and strong bonds to weather the turbulent teenage years.

Time with your children is also an opportunity to pass on simple life skills, whether it is how to sort out washing, setting a table or how to hoe a vegetable patch. These life skills are built on day by day as they watch, start to ‘help’ and perhaps one day become proficient and then assist you. I am eternally grateful that my mother taught me to touch type at the age of twelve… if only I had learnt to change a plug as well!

Can you remember the film ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ where Robin Williams, acting as the English professor John Keating, walks along a school corridor and breathes into the ears of the young schoolboys the Latin phrase, ‘Carpe Diem’? Those words still send shivers down my spine and I remember that time with my child is limited – so ‘Seize the Day’. After only four short years children start school and their early childhood ends.

If someone said to you that you would only be a stay-at-home mum for two years, I think most of us would pour ourselves into the role, because we would know it was finite and we would want to use every moment. But because it appears indefinite, we sometimes see staying at home as treading water. Children will grow up or your situation may change – it may be a year, five years, or a decade, but recognise it as a finite period of time and enjoy it. When you are in the thick of it, it can feel as if changing nappies and wiping grubby mouths will go on forever. Some days you will have to switch to survival mode, but don’t be swamped by the monotonous aspects, because one day no one will feed the ducks, and the saved crusts of bread will curl and find refuge in the bin.

You have the opportunity to make early childhood special for you and your child. Your life can become full of urgent but unimportant deadlines so make it the priority to spend time with your child each day. Rob Parsons, the author of business and family issues, uses the phrase, ‘No-one was ever heard to say on their death bed, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’[1]

[1] From The Sixty Minute Father by Rob Parsons

To work or not to work is an emotionally charged subject for all mothers and there is almost as much to say on this topic as on ‘breast versus bottle’. The role of men and women within the home is no longer clear-cut and each couple needs to talk openly and honestly about their expectations of family life. It will then be a matter of experimenting and being flexible to find the right balance for them and their children.

I think of many wonderful friends who work and are also excellent mothers and I take my hat off to them. The last thing I want is for this blog to cause another ‘mummy war’ between friends that choose not to take paid employment and those that choose to work outside the home. We are not all the same and we can’t try to force our peers to have the same views as us to justify our own choices. However, all mothers need to think about the choices they make and feel comfortable with the outcome. I am not prepared to launch out against working mums, as I believe the best thing is for mothers to unite and support each other. Not all stay-at-home mums are ‘ladies who lunch’ or ‘yummy mummies’ as just in the same way not all mothers who work are ruthless businesswomen.

I want to explore the emotions and realities of being a stay-at-home mum for those who are considering it as an option and for those who are finding it difficult. Stay-at-home mums need help! We need to have our conflicting thoughts and emotions clarified and have direction to make this choice work for us.