Let’s be real here, motherhood is generally a thankless job. At the very least, the payoff can take years. Even then, you’re never guaranteed you’ll be appreciated for the blood, sweat and tears, sleepless nights, sacrifices and heartbreak you go through to raise your children.
If that’s how you feel right now, I want you to know: I see you, and I get you. And I respect what you’re doing as a mum.
It’s a different world for mothers these days, and in many respects, it has given us more freedom. We can continue our careers, continue to do work outside the home, all without judgement.
But the tables have turned a little. It seems more likely now that mothers are judged for NOT working.
I’ve certainly had that experience. When I was home with my two oldest children (they were 2 years apart in age), I made the choice not to work. I’d always planned on staying home while the kids were little and before they went to school. Our lives had also taken an unexpected turn at the time, and we’d had to move to a new place and start over.
What drove me absolutely crazy were people asking me about working. Particularly since I’d been to university and had an established career – it was like people thought I was wasting my time and experience.
One lady in particular, every time she saw me she said, “Have you got a job yet?” Eventually, when she’d asked me for like the 5th time, and she seemed rather frustrated that I didn’t have a job, I said, “I’m not looking for one. I’m not planning to work at the moment.” She looked quite stunned. But at least she stopped asking me.
As far as I was concerned, I felt enough frustration and guilt myself for not working. I didn’t need that from anyone else. I’d had a good career in IT pre-babies. I was successful at it, and well paid. It wasn’t something that I walked away from lightly (nor permanently). But it was important to me at that time to stay home with my kids.
That’s not to say I didn’t go nuts sometimes. In fact, my oldest daughter was just 6 weeks old when I realised: This is why mothers go back to work. Working is easier than this!
Staying home with your kids is super hard, and as I mentioned already, quite thankless. There’s no knock-off time. No privacy, and no quiet. And most of the time, you don’t end the day with that satisfied feeling of having achieved something – like you might do at work.
To everyone out there: if you have the opportunity, take a moment to do the little things that help make mums feel appreciated and seen. It goes a long way to help them keep going, to do what they feel is right – whether that’s working outside the home, or not.
To the lady who saw me handling my rambunctious pre-schooler in the grocery store the other day, and gave me the thumbs-up to tell me I was handling things well – thank you.
To the gentleman on the train who complimented me on my well-behaved children – thank you.
To the friend who noticed me struggling with my toddler, and reminded my child to listen to their mother – thank you.
To the lady at church who swept my crying baby out of my arms and told me to go get a cuppa – thank you.
To my husband, who patiently found ways to help our son sleep, and who helped me to do the “tough” thing to help him sleep on his own – thank you. (Because of my husband’s dedication for long-term benefit, and his support of my well-being, I can’t even remember the last time our 3.5-year-old woke us up at night.)
These are the people who help us get through the season of motherhood. Who help us along the path. The ones who give us permission to make mistakes, to do what feels right, and to encourage and help us along the way.
So I’m not here to tell you to go back to work. And I’m not here to tell you not to work.
I’m just a mother, telling another mother, that if you don’t want to work, and you want to stay home with your kids, it’s okay. You’re allowed to do that. You’re allowed to want to do that.