Thursday, 5 November 2009

Why I am a working mum

I've recently been thinking about why I'm a working mum. How have I ended up working and raising my daughter at the same time? For some reason it's been going round and round in my head. I wasn't going to try to articulate it, but I was inspired by a post by Scary Azeri in the Suburbs entitled A Pretty Tray for my Cupcakes which, although not quite on the same subject, added to my thoughts, muddled my head and made me want to sort it out.

I've also recently been out for a meal with the mums from my daughter's class who are mixture of SAHMs, full-time working mums and part-time working mums. I'm really interested in why they've chosen the path they've chosen, but don't feel I know them well enough yet to ask. Why has the GP and the Account Manager given up work to be a full-time mum? Why have the Teacher and the Planner gone part-time? Why has the Solicitor continued to work full-time? And what did the rest of them do before they had children? Are they happy with their choices? Would they like to go back to work at a later dater, or are they glad to be out of the rat race? The choices facing women in the 21t century are multifold; why have we chosen to do what we do?

And why am I a working mum?

Scary's post made me realise that there is one aspect of my working that I hadn't really appreciated before - independence. I like to think that if the worse came to the worse and I was left alone with daughter, I would be able to provide for us. Working gives me a certain sense of independence. Not in the sense of being separate from my husband, no, I love being married and financially all our money goes in the one pot, we're not a 'my money/your money' type of partnership. No, just a sense of not being dependent on someone else to provide everything. That seems to be important to me.


I've already mentioned before that I'm part of that generation of women who were brought up to believe that they could, nay should, have a career as well as a family. So I work because that's what I expect to do as a result of my upbringing. When I was pregnant it never occurred to me to leave work. I just expected to carry on. I thought about working part-time, but financially that was worse. I would have been in school almost full-time (because of the timetabling) and so paying for full-time childcare on part-time wages, so I thought I would continue to work full-time and see how it went. It was very hard at first and I had to be mega organised and accept that there would be no time for me, but now it is a lot easier. It also helps that daughter attends my school now and that I have all the same school holidays as her so I don't have the hassle finding someone to look after her in the holidays, or the working mum guilt about that.

Then there is also my sense of self; that I value myself by my working worth. When I was on maternity leave, I hated it. I felt like a 'non person'. I felt I had no place in society, that I was of no use and not contributing in any way to society. At this point I realised that I don't even mind paying taxes! I couldn't wait to get back to work. I felt invisible when out pushing the pram, like I didn't really exist. The relief I felt when I walked back into my classroom was tangible. I thought "This is who I am. This is what I do". I feel useful when I'm working.


So, it's been going round and round in my head - independence, expectation, sense of self .........

And what conclusion have I reached?

In the hive of life, I am one of the worker bees!

16 comments:

Kelloggsville said...

I really understand where you are coming from. I love my job, I started it just as I got pregnant and trained through H's early years, it wasn't a pre-child carried on job. I know what you are saying about the independence bit too but maybe it is a failing - maybe the SAHM's are emotionally stronger and more able to give it all up and relinquish that feeling. To be quite frank I think sometimes being at home with kids is harder than going out to work. But it's what works for you best is what's going to create the heatiest environment for your family - personnally I also fancied 28 hours max doing but never managed to convince the managers yet!

Sass E-mum said...

I can't imagine not working. I'd be very upset if my working arrangements came to an end.

I like the independence of the money, the feeling of contributing financially to the household, the business of having deadlines, the freedom of thinking about something outside of home and family and the chance to be with people who only know the work side of me and being a role model to Peaches.

Saying that though - if I won the lottery I would stop working and throw myself into being an SAHM. So I know money is the main driver behind my decision, the rest are all side-benefits.

Catharine Withenay said...

I am a SAHM, more by the course of events than by choice. For the last 6 years we have been about to move because of my husband's job within the next 6 months, or maybe year ... so it has been impossible to commit to a job, knowing that you may be quitting within 3 months. It's not fair on the employer, as much as on you.

This has given me the time to write, so I have written about our travels and time in Zambia. This keeps my little grey cells ticking over. And I am aware that I am always there for my children, which has on occasion been invaluable.

But, I do miss meeting people. And I am very aware that the money I spend is my husband's, and I would love to be earning something to give myself some self-esteem.

Maybe when the book is published...!!

The Dotterel said...

Hmmm, that post has got me thinking. Not about why I'm a working mum.. (I'm not a mum; at least I wasn't last time I looked) but about why I'm a stay-at-home dad. I'll keep you posted...

scaryazeri said...

Thanks, WM for mentioning me here...
I just wanted to add, as well have you guys noticed how many successful businesses had been set up by SAHMs?
The choice is particularly hard in the UK I find ( as a foreigner) because commuting hours and and nanny costs are so unbelievable. People cope how they can, but it is complicated. So I can understand why so many mothers do not want to go back full time. I myself never managed to go back to a proper full time job since my daughter was born. The choice is hard!!!! And yes....there are many writers who are SAHMs too. There is hope for us all, eh. LOL

Working Mum said...

Oooo, it's so interesting to hear other people's thoughts and experiences.

Especially Scary Azeri's who brings a different perspective to the whole debate (if you haven't been to her blog, do, it's fascinating)

And Dotterel, it would be great to hear your thoughts on being a stay at home dad because, let's face it, it is quite an unusual choice. (I know only one other SAHD)

Keep the comments coming on this one!

Amy said...

I got a similar question the other day 'you've got 4children why do you work.' well i work to contribute to the household (equal rights and all) to have a bit of independance. I don't miss out on the girls because i work at night all i miss is the school run 3mornings a week. So i think i get the best of both worlds, being a full time mum and a part time employee xxxx

rosiescribble said...

I love this post as ot really made me think, not because I'm a full-time working mum, but because I want to be, sometime soon. And the reason? For my sense of self, that's all. The independence is definately a factor but more than anything I want to regain a sense of who I am and what I'm really about in addition to being a mum. My daughter is older now so it's more of a viable option.

Mummy Cow said...

Great, thought-provoking post WM. Like you I'm a teacher so I don't experience the guilt my bf experiences every time she has to arrange child care for the holidays.
However, I do struggle with the time my full time job takes and how many hours I work each evening. Sometimes my daughter asks me if school work is more important than her. Of course it isn't, but you know what it's like!
Very helpful post - you write VERY well!
MC x

Polly said...

While I love my job and Im happy to be working and contributing to my family, I think the thing I resent the most is not having a choice, simply we couldn't survive without my income and I hate that I am unable to make the choice to go to work or stay at home. Id love to have a couple more years at home with Ollie, but Id also love to make the choice to work too.

Michelloui said...

Independence is the number one reason I enjoy working (even if part time and from home). I like having my own money, my own interests and my own 'thing'.

I also like being able to answer the dinner party question 'and what do you do?' with something more than a witty version of 'Im a housewife'. On the other hand, I know how hard it is to run a house and a family so I have respect for those who choose these jobs as their sole work!

Working Mum said...

Yet more interesting additions to the subject. I'm fascinated to hear other mums'(and dads') choices and reasons.

Polly - I am very lucky to be able to choose to work; we couldn't afford this house without my salary, but we could choose to live in a smaller place if I didn't want to work. To be forced into work must take some of the joy out of it.

Michelloui - here's a tip for dinner parties - make up what you do! I often say "I'm an opera singer" or "I'm a freelance photographer" - much more interesting than telling people I'm a teacher and hearing them bang on about what an easy job it is and that I have too many holidays!

mater familias said...

You might be interested to know that this SAHM is expecting to be back to work (3 days) this week till end of term! See you Tuesday . . .

Working Mum said...

Mater Familias - that's great! See you at lunch.

scrappysue said...

when i was pregnant, it never occurred to me to STAY at work - i don't think it's generational at all, it's very much a personal decision.

as for independence, i certainly couldn't support even myself on my wages, and i would never work with that notion in the back of my head.

another thoughtful post WM - bound to create lots of discussion!

Glimmer said...

Everyone but me thrived after I gave up my job to stay home. I haven't decided whether sacrificing the career was worth it. I am not bitter, I have a glass full person. I am simply being honest. I think that is important when having this discussion.

Starting the blog was a first step on the path to reclaiming a vital part of myself. The next step is finding a way to make money. I look forward to it. I have missed myself.