You may have noticed that every week I pick out one of the members of the British Mummy Bloggers Ning to be British Blogging Mummy of the week. This means that I get to check in on lots of new bloggers and have a good old rummage around to find out what they're writing about. Recently I've noticed that a lot of them are touching on the angst of the Stay at Home Mum.
Then this morning I noticed that Sandy Calico has also written of how telling people she's a stay at home mum makes her feel awkward, and that sometimes she feels the need to justify her role. Checking in on her comments box, it seems that she's not alone in this.
Now, this post is not about the advantages or disadvantages of being a stay at home or a working mum. I've written before of how I see each individual's choice as the business only of those involved, and if it works for your family, then it works - end of conversation.
But I am a stay at home mum; I have been now for getting on for 4 years, and I totally identify with those comments and posts. It's hard, when for your working career you've been driven by tangible targets, regular feedback, appraisals and pay rises, to suddenly find yourself in a situation where none of that happens. And it's especially hard if you discover - as I did, when I stopped working - that you have previously almost totally defined yourself by job. It was who I was; the woman with the interesting career, who got to go to interesting places, and made fun products.
Obviously, in reality my job had as much crap involved with it as the next person's, but that's not what you share when a complete stranger asks the question 'What do you do?' You don't tell them about the boring spreadsheets, the early starts, the schlepping from one meeting to the next, the utter frustration of being mediator between clients with unreasonable aims and creatives with unrealistic ideas. No, you tell them about the foreign travel, the liaison with fun people at happening companies. You tell them about the great toys you've made, the exhiliration of being able to say 'I made this happen - and look, here it is, solid, real, in my hand.' In brief, you give them a good story.
But try making a good story out of being a stay at home mum to someone who hasn't done it, and never plans to. Not easy. Their mind is made up, and very little you can say or do is going to change their perception of your choice.
It took me a while to work that out. And once I did, I realised that frankly, there is no need to justify my choice to anyone else. If it's right for me, then it's right for me. Easy to say, of course, not so easy to actually believe it myself. And that's when my second epiphany happened. Until I began to respect my own choice, to see value in it, then what hope did I have of anyone else doing the same?
Suddenly I began to see being a stay at home mum / full time mother / domestic engineer as a job. MY job, in fact. It won't be my job for ever, I will definitely move onto other jobs in the future, and some of them might even - gasp - pay me, but for now, this is it. And, after 3 1/2 years of practice, I'm good at it. Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I even enjoy it. I have made a worthwhile choice.
Like any job, some of it stinks (quite literally, hence the title of this blog), some of it's OK, and some of it's great. OK, so I don't get performance appraisals (other than 'I'm not eating / drinking / tidying this up'), and I don't get time off. I can't walk away from it and close the door on the world in the same way I might be able to if my job were in an office elsewhere, and I most definitely can't throw a sickie. But this is still my job. It's not for ever, and there will come a time when I will need something else, but here and now I am caring for my sons and it's working; they're still alive and what's more, they're happy.
When I reached that understanding, guess what? I stopped feeling the need to justify my choice to others. If they don't get it, that's their issue. I'm at peace with my role, and that's all that matters.
I'm a stay at home mum - and I'm worth it.