No one is a stereo type of themselves - but there's one way to lose friends, influence no one, and be stereotyped faster than you can say 'soft play is the pit of hell..', than to take on the fascinatingly dynamic, esteemed title of 'Stay-At-Home' Mum. By the way, whoever you are who came up with that title, or thought it amusing to describe the alternative of 'working' as 'staying-at-home', you suck.
Stay. At. Home. Do not pass go. Do not collect tax credits. You are no longer interesting enough to leave your house. Did you forget that you were supposed to 'do it all', the name of the game was to 'have it all', and now you are 'nothing much at all'? I mean that's just what the title says to me. Maybe I'm over sensitive.
When I became a mother of twins in 2009, I was working as a 'Senior Operations Manager' for a fund-raising agency in New York. The comments stick in my mind; 'someone like you will have to work, at least part time'. The 'Power Bitch' lecture at my leaving party from an older, successful female lawyer about how us 'Power Bitches' needed to be at work, controlling things. I didn't give the whole thing much thought. I wasn't scared to take time off from my career. When the babies were 6 months, I went back 1 day per week and that felt like enough. All in all, I was pretty invested in my new personal challenge of how you get 2 babies and a double pushchair up and down a 5 floor walk up building without any of the three getting stolen.
As the twins turned 1, we returned to the U.K. With career nonchalantly abandoned on the other side of the Atlantic, I became a 'Stay-At-Home' Mum in every sense of the word. With a 3rd baby arriving shortly after, I promoted myself (well, somebody had to) to 'Stay-At-Home-Senior-Ops-Manager of 3 under 3'.
I felt the change in my identity acutely. Family members, regaling their work tale triumphs at Christmas dinner, suddenly seemed a bit stuck as to what to ask me. I was no longer included in the success story conversations. Still that active minded ENTJ on the inside, I now felt a bit like superman without his powers. I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom, weeping, mother of 2 two year olds and a new born, wondering where my life had gone and how the hell would I ever get it back.
I was on the outside of what felt like the U.K School of Motherhood: Join NCT. Attend every class you can. Attend baby buggy fit, baby massage, baby yoga, baby flipping sign language (so your baby can flip you off when you leave the room), baby astronauts, strangely advanced baby PHD class...and when the clock strikes 12 months, take the baby to a nursery, wave good bye to your 1 yr old (while they sign to the 20 yr old nursery worker 'I just don't know where it all went wrong, I thought she liked pigeon watching..') and run back to work, before your Wallis suit turns to mum jeans.
I didn't have maternity leave. I had multiple children under 3. Each individual mother's situation is different. We all have to do what we have to in order to survive, and not only survive, but be happy. Categorising mothers in to 'Working' or 'Stay at Home' is divisive. These titles cause judgement between the very people who should be supporting each other - women. Since being a mother these titles have been loud and present. But, they fail to encompass each of our lives, experience, values, skills, and instead encourage insecurity and separation amongst women judging themselves against some made-up standards.
So good-bye to unhelpful titles. There is value in being present with children, that should not just be dismissed. For those that choose that, don't stereo type us. We are not just 'Stay-at-Home' mums, whether we're doing some kind of work, starting our own business, or purely raising our kids. And when you see us watching a pigeon crapping on a fence with our 3 year old, don't judge - there's more to it, and us, than meets the eye.
Anne writes at Mumming-Up - turbulent tales of motherhood www.mumming-up.com
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