What if… I decide to stay at home?

The challenges of being a stay-at-home mum and combating them – Ambition

‘I am sort of looking forward to the challenge again!’ This comment was from a friend when she returned to work and all my doubts resurfaced. On another occasion, I heard from an ex-colleague about the exciting conference that she had attended, and I felt so dull and unambitious. Here I am, just a stay-at-home mum. You will feel concerns about being ‘left behind’ and whether your career is stagnating and you will wonder if you will ever pick up your tattered job again.

Becoming a stay-at-home mum is like entering a foreign land where you learn a different culture and have a different set of priorities. You will be homesick for the familiar office days like that first sip of coffee as you quietly plan your working day. Give yourself time to grieve and be honest about how you feel and allow yourself time to adjust. Don’t see your working days through rose-tinted spectacles either – can you remember the awfulness of office politics?

I read somewhere the phrase: ‘If you work, who is paying the price and who is reaping the benefits?’ It helped me to reassess and focus on how I felt about myself and to recognise why I wanted to work. Every situation is different and some women need to work for financial reasons, some because they are running their own companies and some because their work is life-saving and essential. You can only look at your situation for yourself and I realised that for me, my family would pay a heavy price if I worked full-time. And who would benefit? The chancellor would certainly benefit, not only from my tax payments but also from those of the childminder. My children and husband would benefit slightly from a financial point of view, but it would be me who would truly benefit from the satisfaction of fulfilling my potential. I am not prepared to have my family pay the price for my own ambitions that can wait.

You can’t pour all your emotional energy and time into your children and a full-time job without threatening your own sanity and the stability of your family. Just because in the past women were ‘empowered’ to work does not mean it is a prison sentence of ‘emancipation’. We all need to find the balance that is right for us and work out our individual priorities. Just because you decide to focus on your family for a period of time, you still need to remember that is not your only skill and your other skills are still present. It can be just as much of a challenge to be at home as it is to work, especially if you are dealing with your own complex emotions and yet choosing to excel in this role.

I know it is troubling to recognise that technology will change and your field will develop while you are away, but there are refresher courses and you may even decide to change direction or career. Who said you have to remain in the same job forever? A friend decided to give up her nursing career for the next few years but was aware that she might not easily resume it. Her response is that she doesn’t know what the future holds and she now has freedom to develop her passion for gardening into a career.

It is important not to be so fearful that you hold onto your job at all costs. Don’t feel you have to stay on the treadmill because you are frightened of ‘What if…’ Rather consider, ‘What if I do decide to stay at home? What new doors will open? What rich experiences will I encounter?’

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2 comments
  1. This is a great post, thank you! I so agree. Maybe you’ve read Nade’s post called “Goalless” (http://insanityofmotherhood.com/)?
    It took me two years to realize that I would never go back to my old job. When we moved to NL and I got pregnant with my twins, I thought: this is going to be tough, but I will go on with my career. I didn’t find the right opportunities – I must say, it hasn’t been very good to apply while I was pregnant with twins – But as I had been the breadwinner during my son’s first 2.5 years and I was so used to leave for work, staying at home was really meant to be only a temporary solution for me.
    Well, 7 years have gone by already and I did a lot of things. I did translations, teached (and still teach) language lessons, learned stained glass techniques,went to parenting classes etc.; I’m involved at school and in several social clubs.
    I do often ask the question “What if?”, but I don’t feel guilty anymore. I know that this moving to NL and having twins brought a big change into my life. I had to reinvent myself.

  2. homemum said:

    It is really encouraging to hear your story. Thank you for sharing it.

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