06 Dec Stay-at-home-mum Envy
Ten years in, one mum realises she does have a choice between work and family. This is her story…
The other night I watched the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It. My stomach flipped watching the main character Kate rushing around with her unkempt hair and food-smeared suit, juggling four million things while trying to balance her work and home life. The way she spoke about to-do lists constantly swirling around in her head made me want to dig out one of my lists and burn it.
I have worked fulltime since I left school about 23 years ago. For 10 of those years I have been a full-time working mum. After my son was born, I didn’t think twice about returning to work. It wasn’t in my mindset to stay home while my husband worked; I always thought I also needed to contribute financially.
Fast-forward ten years and I was suffering serious stay-at-home-mum envy. I didn’t think for a minute life at home would be any easier than as a working mum, but I wanted to give it a shot.
I didn’t know how it felt to come home in the morning after school drop-off and tend to house chores instead of madly tidying up before school then rushing off to work. I didn’t know how it felt to be able to pick my son up from school every afternoon – he’s only ever known after-school care. I have missed countless assemblies and excursions and have never been able to enjoy coffee with other mums after school drop-off. All because I never thought I had that choice.
About a year ago I started to wonder what it would be like to stay at home midweek, just for a day or two. I daydreamed about standing outside class waiting for my child when the bell rang at the end of the day, as well as possibly volunteering for canteen duties or attending an assembly. The more I entertained the idea, the more I wanted it.
I realised by the time my child reached high school, it may no longer be cool to be picked up outside class by mum, and my heart dropped. I felt I was missing out on too much. In I Don’t Know How She Does It, Kate proclaims, “There will only be one first haircut” after her child has his first cut without her. I don’t want to miss out on all the firsts. Work had taken priority for way too long and something had to give – it wasn’t going to be school pick-ups.
Six months ago I decided I no longer wanted to work full time, and I devised a plan to free up some of my time.
I had devoted so much of myself to working, and I now craved the chance to be able to devote more time to my home and family. Did I need to make more money? Not really. We have a tiny, humble home with a beaten-up 1980s kitchen. It’s home, and I’m grateful we can call it our own. I could probably do with a new car. My 1996 model is a little weathered and due an upgrade, but it gets me where I need to be.
For the past few weeks, my son and I have been walking home from school three days a week. His excitement is palpable. On the odd occasion in the past when I was able to pick him up, it made his day. He told me last week he thinks about it all day in class, excited at the thought that I will be outside waiting to walk home with him. I can’t explain how happy that makes me feel, but I can say it’s more valuable to me than a bigger house or newer car.
In life we make a multitude of choices.
As a mum, all my choices have been with my family’s best interests at heart, thinking my primary responsibility was to provide a roof over our heads and food on the table. But somewhere in there I forgot I had a choice to do what is right for me, too. I’m glad I realised this before I missed out on more.
Words by Peggy Saas