I’m not going to beat about the bush with this – I think having a career makes me a better mother. Far better than I would ever be as a stay at home mum.
In an ideal world you might wish that you could stay at home and focus completely on your children but we don’t live in an ideal world – we live in a real one.
Real life means needing to pay the bills. A world where reading The Gruffalo for the thirtieth time before breakfast doesn’t quite cut it in the using ones intellect department. Where sometimes you would like to use the bathroom alone.
Ask any stay at home mother, or perhaps you know it yourself – the reality of it could drive you crazy.
And you know what? Actually, your children will not even thank you for it – they will simply take it for granted. Mummy is always there. Always available.
Nice for them but not necessary or even achievable in most cases.
Working is just a fact of life for most of us, whether you leave to go to the office, you work long shifts or you mompreneur it from home, so before you beat yourself up for having a focus away from the children have a think about this:
- You are setting a stirling example to your children. Life is bloody hard work. That’s the reality. Lead by example and show your children what a good work ethic looks like. Acknowledge your successes and your challenges. Show them you get up and go to work even when you don’t want to. Show them how to stick things out when you find them difficult. Live the work ethic you want them to have.
- Money. It makes the world go round no matter what people say. When your children are very young they will have no idea about how much expendable income you have but as soon as they hit school age you had better believe that they will. We are not living in the 1950s where imagination and a cardboard box will do the trick. Toys, gadgets, clothes, days out and holidays all really add up. And lets face it, if you are able to work yourself into a position where you can pay for all these things then life is a lot easier. Nice things are nice to have, work hard for them, treat your family and enjoy it. Don’t be ashamed of it.
- Quality time with your children. When I am at home full time I spend a large portion of it distracted by social media, my phone, the TV, the housework or hiding in the bathroom from all the incessant questioning that children do. The reality is that I do not switch off from the outside world to engage with my children in the way that they deserve because time together is taken for granted. However, when I am hard at work I see a lot less of them and so I schedule in time together that is meaningful and focused. For instance, one night a week I turn off all external communication channels and spend the evening baking with my son. We laugh, we work together, we talk through anything that’s on his mind and I focus on connecting with him because our time together is in short supply.
- Parents are people too. When your children are adults what do you want them to think about their own family life? Do you want them to believe that having a family is mutually exclusive and to do it well demands that they (or their partner) give up their own goals, work and ambitions like you did? Or do you want them to believe that they can have both but it comes with hard work and perseverance? Which example would you rather set? I know which one I prefer.
- Mum guilt is there whatever you do. It is not reserved for working mum’s only. Have a career or don’t – you will not feel any different in the levels of guilt. It’s just different things you feel guilty about. So if feeling guilty is a deciding factor, then try to push it aside, know that you are doing your best for your family and accept that this is how it is.
These are just a few thoughts I’ve had since going back after maternity leave. I hate to see so many mothers berating themselves for working when they have to or even worse, because they want to. Having a career isn’t the second best option to being a “full time mum” (hideous term). Having the motivation, drive and even ambition to push on and keep making something of yourself does not make you a worse mother. In my opinion, for what its worth, it makes you a much better one.