Quite recently I had a conversation that sparked tiny embers of fury in me. I was feeling a little fragile already with the usual “I feel so crap that I am not working” thoughts whirling round my brain, the harsh judgements, the negative thinking, the high expectations. “I am not contributing to society, what am I even doing?”…
Up until this particular moment, I had felt as though being a full-time mum was not enough. – That the internships, volunteering, and short courses I had done since Maia’s arrival had not been worth anything.
But in one single conversation, I realised that me being the best Mother I could be to my daughter, was contributing to society. – In more ways than I’d ever realised.
Raising a child – if you choose to have them- is the most important role you will ever take on. Because nothing is of more importance, more value, than raising your child to be a kind, compassionate, loving, courageous and hardworking human being, – the best version of themselves- that might play their part in changing the world one day.
One dreads to think of the consequences when children aren’t raised in such a way.
Lorna Byrne wrote on the Huffington Post:
“Mothers and fathers shape the future of the world, because they shape their children. The future of our world depends on the values and behaviours parents teach their children through their words and their example. This is why there is simply no more important job in the world.”
In just over a year, Maia will start school, and I will start work. I look forward to it. I look forward to pursuing my goals and challenging myself. I will be working for the next 30-40 years of my life, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have any more children; so this little girl will get all of my energy, my love, and my wisdom. She get’s it all.
I do not want to pass on the message to her that “being a full-time parent is not enough, whilst raising your young, you must do do do and build a career!”, because being a full-time parent is more than enough. It is sacred. It is of more value than anything else you will ever do. Time, spent with your children, being a loving, caring, nurturing parent (who occasionally loses his/her shit because she is human); is sacred. – Whether you’re a working Mum and that means a few hours in the evenings and lots of special time at the weekends, or if you’re a stay-at-home Mum and that’s most hours, every day; it is sacred. Although, I will admit, it doesn’t always feel sacred, and this is okay.
At the time of this particular blood-boiling conversation, I thought I believed all of these things, but I was not quite there yet, I needed something to tip me over the edge, and one person’s words did just that. We had been discussing a difficult subject, finances, and after going back and forth a few times, he said the words:
“…and what do you do? Are you doing anything at the moment?”
I quickly replied that I was rehearsing for my play most evenings; he smirks. It’s almost like a laugh. Was he mocking me? I am crushed. No, I was not earning any money doing this play, but it was a nice way for me to let off some steam, meet awesome new people and do something I loved, all without paying any money. For many reasons; I loved that play.
I was stumped. My mind went black and then turned to red hot fury.
What. Did. I. Do.
Oh, just raise our daughter, on, my, own.
That’s what I do.
I didn’t react, because in that moment I realised he wasn’t worth it. But in that moment I also realised he would never understand.
He would never understand what I’d been through. He would never understand that being a mother is the hardest thing I have ever, and will ever do, and though nothing compares to the joy, the struggles are very very real.
He might never understand that taking care of a child is, in itself, a full time job. Mentally, physically and more than anything; emotionally; it can drain you. It can fill up your cup but it can also empty it. I will not list out the 1001 tasks being a parent comes with, but as you can imagine, 24 hours is simply never enough.
The conversation abruptly came to an end and I was left reeling. “Does he think I’m lazy!?” “Does he think I’m not working??”
It reminded me of another conversation I’d had with someone a year earlier, where they asked “Do you want to work?”.
“Yes.” I replied, hurt, and in shock. I had plans for my career. I’d been doing work experience, evening classes and internships in pursuit of what I thought I might want to do. Contrary to what I’d been telling people, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I wasn’t about to share it.
I couldn’t quite believe someone would ask that of me. Does it appear that I don’t want to work? It hit me hard to think that anyone would think I was lazy. No one hates the idea of not-working more than me. Hence why I’ve found the past few years so tough. It had been a daily battle of “No-one is judging you..Ohh but you are judging you..and that’s almost worst..Ohh silly girl, go back to your laundry.”. I have never been afraid of hard work. I thrive off working hard, and the rewards reaped. I was the girl that stayed home all weekend just to get an essay perfect, get nearly 100% and do the same thing the following weekend. I’m the woman that would rather stay home and reading parenting books than go to the pub with her friends. I’m not the hardest working Mummy, – I look up to the women who juggle parenting and a career- but I am putting 100% into this particular job. This is work, and I am working.
Working to raise a happy, healthy little girl..I AM A MOTHER, IT’S WORK. IT’S UNPAID, but highly rewarding….WORK..
And that was the first time I stood up for myself, to myself. Being made to feel belittled for not working by someone else, made me love and appreciate myself for all that I do so much more. Yes, I give myself time each day to pursue something creative. Maybe I’ll spend an hour on a blog post, or I’ll sew something for a friend. During term time I take a one hour drama class at the weekend whilst Maia is with her Dad. But I do these things, because they makes me happy. Because a happy Mummy is what Maia needs. – A Mummy that does not feel guilty for delaying building a career for a few short years.
I talk regularly about these things to my own parents, but it was a chat with my Dad that really hit the mark. I expressed my concerns about not working, and his reply:
“You’re doing very well, you should be very proud of yourself, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Maia is a wonderful little girl, and that’s all you. Your time, your commitment, your love..“
I burst into tears because I felt the truth. It was all me. Me, and the help and support of those around me..but mainly..ME.
And when I worry what other people think of my situation? I turn to my Mother (who works full time and is in every way the mother I always hope to be): “Who the hell are they?! Are they putting food on the table? F*** them! YOU focus on YOU and MAIA…Besides, you’ll be working just like everyone else soon enough, and then you’ll wish you were a stay-at-home Mum again!”
So now, when anyone asks “What do you do?”. I’m not going to go all hesitant and tell them “I have a three year old, er, so, …I don’t work” then reel off all the internships and short courses I’ve been doing in a bid to justify the not-working part. There will be no justification.
I’m going to say, with my head held high:
“I’m a full-time Mother”.