I have been a stay at home mum for six years now. In that time I have become a mum to three yummy (at least I think so) kids and have inevitably centred my life around them. I spend almost all my time and energy on them. When I make a plan or am invited to do something, my immediate thought is ‘how will this affect the kids?’ Most of being a stay at home parent is all the hidden work. My mind is constantly buzzing with all the things I need to know, remember, do and plan for.
I can name multiple examples of how I am able to juggle all the balls of the household with an almost mastermind style skill level. For example, this past weekend saw us travelling to my father in laws for the day. Trying to organise myself, my husband and three young children to leave the house with everything we need for a full day out of the house is akin to a military exercise. We need all the things for the baby – the changing bag, potential clothing changes, easy to eat snacks, purees, teething gel and toys. We need hats, sunglasses and pyjamas for the journey home for the bigger kids and then we need a bag of extra layers in case the weather gets cold, balls to play with in the garden and various other little things that are weirdly necessary for a day out with the whole family. On top of this, everyone needs to have breakfast, get dressed and have their teeth brushed. We were also taking easter eggs both for the cousins and extras for the egg hunt that would be happening in the afternoon and finally I needed to pack my sister in law’s birthday present which I had so far failed to get round to posting to her. The vast majority of this packing and planning was done by me. I don’t say that to have a go at Nick. It’s not even a ‘woe is me’ type statement. It’s just a fact and I know I’m not the only one.
When I made the choice to be a stay at home parent it was for two reasons, the first being that my particular career at the time had limited growth potential both financially and practically, Nick however, was already starting to develop his coding skills which would see him on a career path with uncapped potential. The other reason for staying home was that I wanted to. I wanted to be with my son. My salary at the time would have barely covered the cost of childcare and it seemed to be a crazy idea to go to work where I wasn’t being fulfilled only to have almost all my earnings being spent on not being with my son and having someone else be with him. So, I chose the life of a stay at home parent and for the most part I love it. I love being able to take the kids to school, I love having all this time with them and I love that I know them better than anybody else. It feels special and worthwhile. However, I am not a stupid person. I have a brain that is full of ideas and I am constantly trying to learn and grow; so sometimes the fact that I, and truly only I, know where everybody’s sunglasses are just isn’t enough.
I’m kind of sick and tired that my ‘job’ is picking up after everyone, thinking for everyone, being the person that is constantly being nagged for snacks while Nick sits in the other room. I’m bored of knowing exactly what we need to do get out of the house on time.
For six years I have been a leader in my field. I am an event planner (kids birthday parties), comedian (cheering everyone up after they’ve hurt themselves), an actor (in imaginary games), a singer (lullabies when they’re poorly), a nurse (with the help of google), a teacher (albeit one that doesn’t have to deal with Ofsted) and a myriad of other things. But, I have not had a pay check in 6 years, I have not had the respect or acknowledgement from society for all I do every day. When filling out forms I have to tick the unemployed box – but I don’t feel unemployed. I feel like someone who works harder than they ever did when I was actually paid to work. I have seen that face my peers make when I tell them I’m a stay at home mum. That look of ‘oh, that’s dull’. I know that I shouldn’t need the respect and recognition of others but when you’ve been denied it for so long it can feel pretty demoralising.
I made the choice to stay home and I don’t regret it, but sometimes I do feel trapped. If I did want to re-enter the workforce I would most likely have to start at the bottom again as society doesn’t value the skills I’ve developed over the past six years. This would mean a salary that wouldn’t pay for the childcare I would need to cover my working hours and therefore the idea isn’t really possible logistically. I could re-train but that costs money, money we don’t have and again, childcare becomes an issue.
So what am I saying, what’s the point of this post? I guess I’m saying, I wish the skills and work or stay at home parents were appreciated more. We’re the silent workforce, doing the work that childcare professionals get paid for and yet we don’t get to ‘clock off’, plan annual leave or take sick days. I recently had sinusitis for 4 weeks and then when Rufus got a cold, I told him that it’s ok to be poorly, but not to make so much noise about it (he suffers with man flu) and that I didn’t make that much noise when I was sick to which he replied ‘when were you sick?’ I don’t want to tick the unemployed box on forms, I don’t want people to look at me like I’m pathetic and that I have nothing to offer the conversation. I am more than just a stay at home mum. I am more than a wife. I am more than a parent. I am more.