Stop trying to compete…

I read a, hmmmm, interesting article today on the mighty Facebook, from a man defending his wife’s decision to be a “stay-at-home mum”. You can read the article here, if you’re interested.  The article does raise some interesting points, some of which I agree with.

But it did remind me of an attitude that you see a lot on Facebook and other social media.  That full-time mommy’s are paragons to be admired and praised for the hard work they do while raising their children, while working mums are inferior.  Clearly we chose to leave our children to the care of others, so that we could go and pursue our careers, and by doing so we somehow have neglected our maternal duties.

Very often, one of my Facebook mummy friends will post something along these lines:

Crosses my mind when people think that being a stay at home mom isn't a worthy life-long career.

Or:

Mom quote

I cannot explain how angry I get when I see this sort of thing.  In fact, just the process of searching Pinterest to find these quotes made me feel like I wanted to throw the laptop across the room.  It’s not so much the fact that I disagree with what they’re saying.  Being a stay-at-home mum is hard work.  I know, I’ve been there.

When my youngest daughter was born, I planned to take a year off work to care for her and my eldest, who is 3 years older.  I know what it’s like to wake up at 6am, after night feeds and nightmares, and stumble around trying to get one child fed and ready for the school run, while dealing with a clingy, crying baby.  You run to school (as usual running late, probably due to a last minute nappy incident) wearing leggings with holes in them, a top covered in baby sick and hair that looks like a bird’s nest.  A poorly made bird’s nest.  Make-up? What’s that then?

When you’re a full time mum, every second is accounted for.  There are chores to be done, play groups to attend, baby clinics, shopping, laundry, school trips, dinners to be made, the list is endless.  And there is no “finishing time”.  You don’t ever get to clock off.  There comes a point when you realise it’s 8pm and the only nourishment you’ve had is one (cold) cup of coffee and a jaffa cake.

I’m not angry with the people who write these quotes because I think their life is easy.  Not at all.  I’m angry because the assumption seems to be that it’s an “either/or” situation.  These quotes seem to suggest that by going to work every day I cleverly avoid the real hard work of being a mother.  And that’s when I start to lose my cool.

In September, I returned to work on an almost full time basis.  I work 30hours, Monday to Friday.  My hours are 8am-2.30pm – rather cushy really.  I used to envy anybody who left the building before 4pm. There were many reasons for my decision to return to work.  After my husband left it became clear that I would need extra income to help me support my family the way I wanted to, and a promotion became available that I had been waiting some years for.  But whatever the reasons, back to work I went.  Does this mean I somehow get to shirk my motherly duties.  Err… don’t think so.

A typical day goes something like this:

5.30am – Wake up (or am woken up by my baby kicking me in the ribs – she is currently co-sleeping and still wakes at least once during the night for a feed)

5.45am – 7am – Get ready for work and get Freya ready for school.  I want to look smart and professional at work, so I’d better make sure I’ve showered, done hair and makeup and my clothes are clean – no baby sick here, thank you. Make sure kids get their morning drinks etc, but don’t even pretend I’m getting any breakfast

7am – Drive to drop Poppy off at Nana’s house, who is very kindly providing childcare for me to avoid the ridiculous costs of most nurseries nowadays.  The turn around and drive back home to drop Freya at her breakfast club, where she will stay until it’s time for school

8am – Arrive at work.  Deep sigh of relief.  I can now get a (much-needed) cup of coffee.  Then I’d best get to work.  Since my boss retired, I am currently trying to do both her job in my time in almost half the hours we would have worked collectively.  While I enjoy my job, it can be stressful and demanding and I am usually working at top speed to try and avoid getting behind.

2.30pm – Work finished.  I used to stay late occasionally if there was a job that needed to be finished, but I no longer have that luxury.  Instead of driving home, planning how to relax for the evening I speed off to pick Freya up from school.

3pm – Collect Freya and then drive to collect Poppy from Nana’s house.  Oh and guess what – it’s Freya’s dance lesson tonight, so no rest for the wicked there – off we go to dancing.  Hope I remembered to pack her ballet shoes before we left this morning.

6pm – Dancing finished – it’s time to head home.  But don’t put your feet up just yet – we still need to find something for dinner and then it’s bathtime.

7.30pm – All snuggled up in PJs after bath – it’s time for bedtime.  Quick video and two stories and then one big girl is fast asleep.  A certain little baby is going to take a little more convincing.

8.30pm.  Both girls in the land of nod.  Now, there’s housework to be done.  Litter trays need to be cleared.  Pots need washing.  Probably a load of laundry ( or four) piling up on the bedroom floor.  Everything else is going to have to wait because….

9.30pm – I’m usually asleep on the sofa after collapsing from exhaustion.  Eventually I’ll drag myself off to bed (until baby wakes for her first feed) and then start all over again in the morning.  If (God forbid) one of the girls is ill in the night or has a nightmare, then as a single parent there’s nobody but mummy to deal with it.

Don’t get me wrong – not every day is that hectic.  Some days, my sister looks after the girls and does the school run which buys me an extra half an hour in the morning.  Sometimes my ex-husband has the girls so I get a night off to go to my dance lesson or singing rehearsal.  Some days, on the other hand, are worse – like this week, when Freya was ill at school and in the middle of the day I had to collect her from school, drive 45 minutes to leave her with my mother-in-law and then rush back to work to try and meet an urgent deadline.

I also know that there will be things I miss out on, because I can’t get time off work to attend things like school fetes, sports days etc.  But that’s just one consequence of the choice I made.  And I don’t regret it and I’m not complaining.  I tried staying at home and it wasn’t for me.  I crave adult company too much and go stir crazy locked in a house with two small children all day.  There’s a good chance you wouldn’t want to spend all day doing data-entry and writing reports, but hey – we’re all different.

My point is this:  Whether you work full time, part time or not at all.  Being a mum is hard work.  But it’s not a competition.  We’re all doing the best we can, to live the life we have, in a way that suits us best.  And we should be congratulating each other – not criticizing.  So, here’s a pat on the back to all the mum’s out there.  You’re doing a great job!

And one final thing – amongst the crazy competition of Pinterest, I found this fab photo series: Stop the Mommy Wars!

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