Blogger Rachel from Make A Long Story Short always thought she'd be a stay at home mum, but then her son turned one and she realised she wanted something else...
I didn’t realise for a long time how much I defined myself by my job.
You know how it is when you’re waddling towards the finish line in pregnancy: literally all you can think about is how soon you can leave the office and where your next biscuit fix is coming from. I was the same. I was an editor for an academic publisher: it was a demanding, deadline-driven job I could never quite switch off, and by the time I was too hamburger-shaped to fit behind my desk I couldn’t wait to stop sitting there.
I always envisioned leaving work for good when I had my children. I would sing lullabies and bake cookies and poke sticks into puddles, and the experience of moulding tiny minds would make me SO HAPPY. Later on, I thought vaguely, I’d go back to work. Somewhere. Doing something. For now, it didn’t matter what.
Fast forward to the end of my year’s maternity leave, when I had to decide whether to come back to work full-time, part-time or not at all. (Let me just say that I know how extremely fortunate we were that we could just about squeeze by on my husband’s graduate wage, so all of these were options.) Your baby’s first year feels like a firestorm, doesn’t it? It was wonderful and insane and involved so little sleep I used to fantasise about being knocked unconscious. Oh, this boy, this baby of mine. He was the most incredible thing. Watching him open up into a person was so lovely it hurt parts of my heart I’d never used before.
And yet, and yet. I was afraid to give up my job. I didn’t know who I’d be or how I’d feel about myself once I lost it. ‘How will I contribute now?’ I kept thinking. ‘What will my work be now?’ Silly.
In the end, after much thought, prayer and discussion, I left and took up some freelance work to plug some gaps in our outgoings. That raised a whole new set of difficulties: finding time, getting the balance right, having too much work or too little, that blasted self-assessment tax form. But I knew that I wanted to be at home, with sticks and cookies and chaos. And I also wanted something to work on that was just for me, a little space in which I could be an adult with a red pen and words to write.
This is my work. Both, a mixture. I can’t do without one or the other. And it’s taken me a good few years to recognise that, first, wiping muddy faces and telling stories in the dark is work, hard and joyous work all the more beautiful for being unpaid. And second, it’s alright for me to want to other things too.
I think it’s time we recognised that there’s an infinite variety of mothers, because there’s an infinite variety of women. I believe I’m a better mother when I’m a happier person, don’t you? Whichever little spot on the work-home spectrum feels right or necessary for you, that’s exactly where you should be. It will be chaotic and stressful at times, because every family is. But I do not think our children are waiting for us to get our act together. All they can see is you, making everything they know, bracketing their days with love.
I think they see us as we are, and they’ll be just fine.