Two days a week, while my three-year-old is in kindergarten, I have the pleasure of spending time alone with my 18-month-old daughter. Yesterday was one of these days.
As we walked hand in hand along the path by the beach that I go to most days with one or both of the girls, I found myself aware that this familiar daily existence could be nearing an end.
I have been merrily, tearily and, more often than not, blearily, muddling my way through my motherhood bubble for the best part of three years. With no job held open for me after my second daughter was born, I haven’t felt the pressure to make a decision regarding returning to paid work – until now.
I can’t be a stay-at-home mom forever. At some point, my youngest will benefit from further interaction and stimulation at kindergarten, as her sister has done. If our little family is complete (something I still struggle to be absolute on), I need to find something to stimulate me and, of course, bring in some dollars.
As I write this, tears are slipping down my cheeks, just as my children’s have thousands of times over the last three years, when I’ve been there to mop them up.
Becoming a mum was the biggest milestone of my 36 years on this planet.
Ever since I was a little girl, I had an innate desire to have a family of my own. I had friends, and a boyfriend at one point, who had no such yearning. This was such an alien concept to me. Sure, I went to university and later enjoyed carving out a career, but I always knew that what I really wanted from my life was to be a mom.
These tears carry so much within them as I contemplate approaching my next milestone – returning to paid employment.
They carry happiness at the beautiful moments I’ve shared with my children. They carry regret for the frustration and anger I have felt at times. They carry despair during the endless sleep deprived nights and irrational tantrums, and disappointment that I haven’t always been the mum I wanted to be.
They also carry anxiety at the prospect of returning to the now so alien corporate world. Finally, they carry tears of sadness that this precious chapter of my motherhood journey may be nearing an end.
When I finished work prior to my first child’s arrival, I enjoyed the time nesting and setting up our home in excited anticipation. Although there were some tough days and nights, in that first 12 months of her life, I was content and fulfilled in my role as a stay-at-home mom.
I took my responsibilities seriously. In fact, I put a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself to do everything related to the baby and home myself, disappointed if I couldn’t achieve it all.
When my second daughter was born (18 months apart), I hit many breaking points, forced to accept I couldn’t do it all. As with any job, there are limitations on what you can achieve in the time available. The same is true when you are a stay-at-home parent.
I was barely keeping afloat, constantly fire-fighting, with nothing getting the love and attention it deserved – not my new born baby, not my toddler, not my husband, not the house, and definitely not me.
Luckily for me, my husband didn’t share my unrealistic expectations. He is a hands-on, adoring, doting dad and a great cook always willing to help out whenever possible.
I accepted that my then two-year-old would benefit from a couple of days a week at kindergarten. I would also benefit from a couple days a week to focus on the baby and get some housework done. I stopped obsessing about housework and had to accept that, more often than not, I hadn’t even considered what we would have for dinner, let alone have prepared it.
When my husband walked through the door, I felt instant relief to have an extra and willing pair of hands to help. Once the girls were finally sleeping (even if just for a short while), the only thing on my mind was wine.
With my first daughter, my previous job was held open for 12 months. I felt a certain expectation to return to paid work, because that’s what most other mums I knew seemed to be doing. There was also a part of me that missed going out to work, having a different purpose, and making a financial contribution.
A couple of days before starting my new job, I discovered I was pregnant. The hyperemesis I’d had in my first pregnancy returned more fiercely than before, and after being hospitalized, I felt the only choice I had was to quit.
On the one hand, I was sad to be leaving the little bit of independence, variety, and financial autonomy working had afforded me. On the other hand, I felt excited to be reunited full-time with my child.
Being a stay-at-home mum for the best part of three years has given me the opportunity to spend unlimited quality time, dedicated to my children.
I have witnessed some of their major milestones, such as first bum shuffles, first steps, and first words. It has enabled me to experience life from a different perspective – I’d like to say one where I’m my own boss (however, now that I have a toddler and a ‘threenager,’ I’m increasingly aware who is boss!).
Parenting is a job that comes with no performance reviews or financial benefits. But the rewards are endless, and the job satisfaction is like no other. I have a slight reluctance about letting go and moving onto the next stage of my life. That would mean my everyday existence may soon be a treasured memory.