Quitting my job as a solicitor to be at home with the littles.
This post has been on the tip of my pen, or rather, my keyboard tapping fingertips, for quite some time.
And yes, you read correctly, I quit my job as a solicitor to be at home with my children.
You’ll now be thinking one of three things:
- You did what?!
- You did what?!
- You did what?!
All perfectly understandable responses.
There wasn’t necessarily one single thing that made me hang up my nice proper leather handbag in exchange for a vegetable purée stained changing bag.
I wanted to be at home with my children; ever since my first child was born in 2011, that instinct was in me. We also had childcare issues that weren’t getting any easier and, quite frankly, my pay was shite – I knew we wouldn’t miss it. I also couldn’t quite shake off my childhood dream of being a writer.
And so, the decision came to pass, and I went from solicitor to “stay/work-at-home mum/writer thingy” in the time it took me to walk out of the office one final time and drive home.
I swapped my smart shoes for Converse, my case files for Hey Duggee and my previously functioning brain for pancake batter.
But, honestly, I like being at home with my children. I like being there for them 24/7. I like being able to take them to appointments and drama class and football. I like being the one to nurse them through illness. I like being the one to collect them from school and help with homework. I have contentment being at home with them. (Moments of tearing my hair out, yes, but mostly contentment).
What I do NOT like, however, is the way many people have me feel about my choice.
I’ve been on the receiving end of countless little passive aggressive remarks made by friends, even family members, to the effect that my life is pampered and easy.
I’ve been made to feel second best to mothers who go to a formal workplace each day.
(Don’t worry, this post is not going to spiral into a “woe is me” recount of how hard it is being a stay at home mum. Keep reading – unless you’re late for collecting your child from school or for a dental appointment, in which case, stop reading).
If that’s what it’s like for women who choose to stay at home, I can’t imagine what it’s like for men.
In the not so distant past, women were expected to stay at home but the modern phenomenon of the “stay-at-home-dad” is a new path being carved out by the brave few.
For what it’s worth, I think it is a wonderful reflection on a man that he is willing to be at home with his children. Society needs more people who are willing to shun stereotyping in favour of doing what’s best for their own family unit.
I for one bloody love the stay-at-home dads. Jonny from “What’s a Daddy For?” and Benny a.k.a. “Daddy Poppins” need a mention here – two of THE most witty, hilarious and talented “at home dads” I’ve ever known (if you do one thing today go check out their blogs).
Parents who don’t work are not lazy. Or pampered. Or second class.
Please don’t make presumptions about circumstance.
In MANY cases (including my own) the cost of childcare outweighs take home pay.
And that’s just one tiny possibility amongst thousands of other potential scenarios that lead a couple to the decision that one of them is better off at home. Please don’t ever be so ignorant as to think the decision is borne from laziness. In 99.99% of cases that’s simply untrue.
I urge you to challenge your misconceptions of the stay-at-home parent.
And, you know, it’s OK to engage them in conversation that’s not kid related; you might even be pleasantly surprised at their level of intellect, or their sense of humour, or knowledge of world affairs.
That parent you see in their jeans at the school gates might, in the not too distant past, have been the deputy editor of one of Northern Ireland’s biggest newspapers or have a Law degree from Queen’s University.
Without sounding rude, you know nothing of the path that lead them to be at home.
And for what it’s worth, being at home with children is not an easy, pampered life. There are factors to contend with that working parents often overlook; isolation from other adults, loneliness, feelings of inadequacy and of course, never getting to eat lunch, let alone eat lunch in peace. And certainly in my own situation, even though we didn’t depend on my salary, we have had to adjust our spending and inevitably many luxuries have ended up as casualties to that.
Equally, being a working parent is not easy (following the birth of my first daughter, I returned to full time work within 3 months so I do know what it’s like). There are feelings of guilt to contend with, pressure on organising childcare, logistical arrangements that are made so difficult when a child is ill or the usual routine is interrupted in any small way. It’s exhausting to keep all your plates spinning, having to hold down a job amidst the madness.
My point is (yes there is one), can we all please remove our judgey pants (not literally, because obviously that would be inappropriate, not to mention potentially illegal if you happen to be in a public place when you decide to throw pants to the wind).
STOP with the judging each other.
Parenting is hard whatever way you look at it.
So can we just support each other through the Calpol administering, triangular shaped sandwich cutting, snot encrusted journey of parenthood.
It’s not a competition.
(Unless you’re my husband reading this, in which case I am DEFINITELY more tired than you are.)