"When are you going back to work?"
I got asked this question quite soon after the birth of both our babies. Like raising a tiny human is not work? Like somehow, every bit of work I did up until the point of giving birth was valid and worthwhile and now this is... well, what exactly is it?
It's amazing and wonderful and... hard work. It's a daily grind. It's also pure joy. It's also frustration and Oh My God! It's also 'Am I good enough?' mixed with 'I'm the best parent in the world!' It's ongoing, it's never-ending, it's too quick and not long enough... it's something I chose, and something I wish I had more support with.
I would not change it for the world.
I started working when I was 11. I had a paper round for two years. From this time to age 19, I was a waitress, a shop assistant in a cheap clothing store, I was my French teacher's baby-sitter, I worked in a camping store and then in the summer holidays, after my A-Levels, I worked in factories, putting chocolates into a box on a conveyor belt, putting toppings on a pizza, putting cardboard boxes into other boxes and getting strips ready to put on airplanes.
When I was 19, I left to do a year's volunteer teaching in Swaziland. Pretty much as soon as I got back, I returned to my Saturday job in the camping store and also embarked upon a four-year teaching degree. In my second year of Uni, I realised I could not afford to pay my rent so I got another job (on top of my Saturday job and aforementioned full-time degree), cleaning every night in the general hospital and sang in a band. I did this for two years then had to stop as I nearly burned out.
In my summer holidays, whilst studying for my degree, I worked for 3 months in America, being a camp counsellor and music director. I worked with MENCAP for another summer.
When I graduated, I then got my first teaching post and worked for two years in a middle school as an English and Music teacher.
After teaching for two years, I worked as part of a Performing Arts Collective, with friends who were also teachers, for six years in schools. We were inundated with work and led workshops which OFSTED loved (one of them said it had a 'tangible spiritual element' to it)
I then had.... our first baby girl.
And people almost immediately started to ask me... "When will you be returning to work?"
Can you imagine the amazingness of how a baby is created? How she grows and forms inside of the mother's body, day-by-day until she reaches that moment when she is ready to make her way into this world? How much energy and effort the mother needs to put into helping this baby grow... and yes, resting becomes part of work when you grow another human inside your own body.
Both our babies had different births and both came safely into the world. I always knew I wanted to be at home with our little ones; I knew this since I was 19. I never thought I would have to explain why so many times!
As our babies grew, every now and then I would be asked when I was 'going back to teaching'. When would I put them in nursery?
I always felt I mumbled my answers as if I had to explain... actually... er... this is my job now.
No, it is not paid.
No, we are not eligible for much support as a mother at home (almost zero!)
Yes, we are constantly reminded as a mother at home, that we should be adding to our economy and getting paid.
Well... I am standing up, with my head tall and proud and saying....
I am at work.
It is 24/7.
I love every moment, even the tough, challenging times. Even the bits where I have to escape for an hour because my mind is rattling. Even when I stay awake each night, working till 2am on projects like recipe books and courses and recording music to help people because even though I am a mother at home, my brain ticks in overdrive the whole time and I do want to add to the economy and to our family's finances. (I actually believe I am contributing by raising our children too!)
So I build my business.
I breastfeed our baby.
I chat for an hour to our older girl each night before bed and read her a story and go on bike rides.
I feed through the night. I wake up for the school run.
I don't need to go back to work... because I am already here.