I knew early on in life that if I had a baby I wouldn't want to go back to work until he or she was at school. Its' what my mother did and she always said "why have a child and then hand them over to someone else to look after?". An interesting question, and frankly now I have a toddler of my own one that I'm sometimes inclined to answer "because a break would be awesome!".
As it happened I was able to escape my job in the civil service when they ran a voluntary redundancy scheme whilst I was on maternity leave; it's always better to be paid to leave a job you had no intention of returning to. So there I was, in my mid 30s unemployed for the first time since I was 18. Usually this would have scared the hell out of me but having a baby to look after made everything else that I used to enjoy or prioritise feel like strange background noise. Life as I knew it was definitely over, to the point I didn't even seem to think the same way.
My NCT friends were back to work within a year (or less) of the births, and my status of being a 24/7 mum, who also didn't send her baby to nursery (and still don't), started to feel a bit odd in comparison to others I met, and even dare I say it a bit old fashioned and not in keeping with how a modern capable mother should be.
We live across the road from an independent primary school and when my daughter was just a few weeks old I used to stare out the window with her in my arms, in my oversized Primark nighty (usually stained with milk), hair scraped back, looking like shit from no sleep, and watch the mums take their kids to school. I hadn't been at home during the week much before so had hardly noticed the school even existed. Now, as bizarre as it seemed, this was my temporary view to the outside world, my 'project runway' of archetypal yummy mummies.
They would all fascinate me... the ones that floated along in their Fabletics gear, long lean legs, perfect hair, year-round sun tan, just dropping off their little darlings before dashing off to the gym or to do a spot of Yogalates at the local yoga bar... or the mums who were heading on to work, marching purposefully in grown up clothes (unstained and even ironed), looking polished and like they were all editors of some very cool 'on trend' fashion magazine.
In my knackered, sore, miserable state I thought anyone who was able to get out the house by 8:30, not only showered but make up and hair done, AND looking like thought had been put into their outfit must be a better woman than me. And, as awful as it sounds, must be doing something more exciting with their lives than me. My daughter is 2 and a half now, and whilst looking back I don't think that way anymore, because raising a child is actually doing something life changing and meaningful (and at times bloody hard), I am beginning to wonder about my relatively unique status as non-working mother. I say unique in terms of the people I know not the world in general, obviously.
Maybe its because I have a daughter that I feel a certain pressure to make my next career move something amazing, well considered, and about my passions in life as opposed to my old job in the civil service which was more about convenience than life purpose. As mothers of daughters are we supposed to show them the righteous, strong, 'have it all' path? I know for a fact I don't want to be the 'Fabletics mum', not that I'm judging, I just lack the discipline to look as good as they do. Whatever happens I really need to get my shit together soon, my inner worker bee is calling...