No more Stay at Home Mum v Working Mum – please!

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My decision to become a stay at home Mum was not an easy one, there were so many factors that needed to be taken into consideration. In a nutshell my internal monologue sounded a little like this:

Is this the best decision for my child? Yes, he needs to be with his Mum. Is this the best decision for me? Yes, I gave birth to my son, because he was wanted and not to hand him to a professional to look after. Best decision for my husband? Yes, bless him he agreed with my beliefs 100% and whilst it hasn’t been easy, neither of us would change that decision we made nineteen years ago. I have blogged about the financial implications of being a stay at home Mum, in my very first post. So I won’t go over them again, needless to say from a purely financial basis this was not the right decision to have made. I would imagine financial implications are one of the strongest reasons, why some Mothers decide to go back to work. Of course there are many other valid reasons, the desire to have a career. To be a good role model, especially to their daughters, to demonstrate that women can have it all.

All perfectly valid reasons from both sides, so why are we constantly at war with one another?

I admit that there have been a few times in my life, when I too have judged working Mums. Occasionally when I have heard that a Mum’s main reason for going back to work is financial, I have found it hard not to look at their large house and two cars and think that if they moved to a smaller house and only had one car, surely they could stay at home with their child? That said I have been careful to keep that opinion to myself, I would never say that out loud to any working Mum. As I have grown older and hopefully a little wiser, I have became less judgmental.

In my humble opinion, both sides have equally valid reasons for the decisions they have made. No one should be judging women for what is, let’s face it, an extremely hard decision to make. We certainly shouldn’t be judging each other. We both do marvelous jobs, neither of which are particularly easy. We both often want what the other has. I would love a high powered, well paid job where I get to use my brain. One where people remembered to say thank you or compliment my skills. Feedback from my teenagers is never the kind I was hoping for. Most of all I would love to never have to clean a toilet, belonging to not one but five boys! Speaking to my working Mum friends, I know that sometimes they would dearly love to attend every single assembly/sports day/school play that there little angel is starring in. Without wondering how on earth they will pluck up the courage to ask for yet another afternoon off work. I know that they dread phone calls from school to say their child has fallen ill and please come and pick them up immediately, do not attend any meetings and do not return them until at least 48 hours after symptoms first occurred, even if you have to use your precious holiday time to do so.

So why do we judge each other, why do we each think that the choice we made, was the correct one? Giving little thought to how hard the decision was for all of us. I think it’s because we are always a little worried that we made the wrong decision and spend a lot of our time defending this choice, even at the expense of others. A quick search on Google revealed a vast amount of blogs devoted to why being a stay at home Mum is the best and of course an equal number extolling the virtues of being a working Mum.

From my own point of view I constantly fear I made the wrong decision. Do my children suffer because we have little money to spend on them? Would they have preferred me to have gone back to work, so that they can always wear the same clothes, have the same must have gadgets or go on foreign holidays as some of their more privileged friends. Has my brain withered away to the size of a raisin, because I rarely get to use it these days? Will anyone ever want to employ me after this very long career break? Or if I’m being completely honest, apart from a brief stint as a trainee manager at Tesco, I have yet to have an actual career. Getting pregnant whilst still at University put paid to that one.

I’m almost positive that working Mum’s have cried many tears, when leaving their precious babies in the hands of others. Will this somehow harm them in later life? Do they worry about being too tired to play with their kids at the end of a long and hard day at work, followed by making meals and cleaning their houses? Quite frankly I don’t know how they do it all, I’m not sure I could.

I have oodles of admiration for a working Mum, a fellow sister who is busy proving to the world that we women can and do have it all. It wasn’t the right decision for me, but it certainly was for them and I salute that bravery. So I hope others will do the same, let’s agree to disagree and support each other’s difficult decision!

Mum of four boys ….

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I have been so busy blogging about the things that affect my life as a stay at home Mum, I plum forgot to write about my boys.

Four boys is quite a lot and I receive many comments along the lines of ‘Wow, how do you manage?’ Often accompanied by a wide eyed stare and a small sigh of relief, that they don’t have four boys too. Usually I just laugh and say the wine helped. Which is true, but I’m also not entirely sure how I did manage. Certainly immediately after my fourth son T was born, life was tough going for a while. We lived in a small two bedroom house, with three occupants in each room.

T’s birth had been a little dramatic; we had moved from Devon to Gloucester and had only been here for nine days, when I attended my first midwife appointment. We had no car, so it was a bit of a hike with three other children in tow. At 39 weeks and in a July heat wave, an ungainly waddle was all I could manage.

The midwife performed all of the usual checks and then grew rather alarmed by my blood pressure, it was ridiculously high something like 150/100 and climbing. (This was nearly eight years ago so I might be remembering incorrectly. Just in case this blood pressure is impossible!) After my urine was checked she announced that I had pre-eclampsia and an ambulance was called. To cut a long story short T arrived the following day, beating his Dad by ten minutes to my hospital room. To be fair I was 4 cm dilated when they rang P at 6:30am and when he arrived, less than an hour later I was already cradling our newest son.

T was a fractious colicky baby and breast fed little and often. We were readmitted into hospital three days after leaving at 4am in the morning thanks to my still sky high blood pressure and an intense migraine. Luckily all was well and this time when we went home, we stayed there. My hormones were all over the place and looking back now I can see that I had a definite case of the baby blues if not full blown post natal depression. Living in a too small house with no relatives nearby to help, no car and three other children aged 12, 8 and 4 is not something I would recommend to anyone.

Play dates were tough going, I found 4 boys hard to cope with, never mind any extra! William once had twins over to play for a few hours after school and after coping with 6 boys, I was on my knees calling for Chardonnay to be administered intravenously.

Life slowly got better, we bought a car and with the help of housing benefit we moved to a 3 bedroom house. I slowly started to make friends and as T got older he finally began to sleep through the night. In fact as all of our boys got older life in general became easier and when Jack was fourteen we were able to leave him at home when we went to the supermarket. Dragging four reluctant boys around Tesco, could easily be one of the nine circles of Hell, in my opinion.

Money was and still is tight, feeding and clothing 4 boys is not cheap and got even more expensive as the boys grew. There’s nothing like a hungry teenager or two for eating you out of house and home. Having so many children also means that there is always at least one of them with some sort of crisis. Just when you think one boy is sorted and happy; another problem with a different child will appear. If one has just finished his GCSE’s another might be being diagnosed with dyslexia. If one has been acting out at school and is finally settling down; then another one might be miserable, because he is finding it difficult to make friends and so on.

One of the biggest drawbacks about having four children? Spending alone time with your partner is nigh on impossible. No one wants to take all four boys off your hands very often. To be fair I can’t blame them! That said, my parents kindly had them all for the day on our tenth wedding anniversary. On my 40th birthday P and I finally spent our first child free weekend in almost eighteen years.

Of course no one forced me to have four children and hands up; it was completely my own choice. I hadn’t realised quite how difficult it would be but I also hadn’t realised how wonderful it is to be the Mother of 4 boys. I am never far from a hug or a kiss and even though, this is not allowed in public for three of them anymore, they are all four of them Mummy’s boys, through and through. My eldest boy left home for University last September and my heart broke in two. I cried every day for a fortnight and we spoke on the phone every day for a month. Even now we Skype twice a week and I am always on the look out for ways to increase this. Burnt the toast this morning, do you need me to call and talk you through this terrible time? Please? Needless to say I am already dreading W leaving and that’s still three years away – thank goodness.

 

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At least it’s not all pink

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I have ‘stolen’ this post from my cousin’s blog, because it is a topic that has puzzled me for a long time. Why are toys advertised as gender specific?
I have four boys and each one has demonstrated a ‘feminine side’ for want of a better phrase. They have all enjoyed putting make up on as toddlers or having their nails painted as young boys although as soon as they reach school age, they sadly become more self conscious and are less likely to share their pretty coloured nails with their friends.

All my boys have played with dolls, W in particular owned several dolls, pushchairs and specifically asked for a pink car for Christmas when he was three. At that time in 2001 the only one I could find was a large Barbie convertible in neon pink he was thrilled! When T was four he dressed up in a Cinderella costume at play school and I have a wonderful photo but it was rather spoiled when five minutes later he was in floods of tears because another little boy had teased him about wearing a dress.

 

If I had had a little girl then I would have been delighted to see her play with lego or enjoy the Star Wars films that her Father and Brothers love. That said I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to resist putting her in a pink dress from time to time. But that is the point I’m trying to make, children should be encouraged to play with whatever they choose, be it dolls or cars, and not what society dictates.

As a mother I would dearly love to see other parents encouraging their children to play with EVERY type of toy and shops leading the way by not displaying so called boys toys and girls toys separately!

Training A Gamer

In a bit of a diversion from the usual subject matter for this blog I’d like to say just a few words about the gendering of toys.

Umm, isn't Lego, like, for everyone? Umm, isn’t Lego, like, for everyone?

Why today? Well, today I popped in to our local WH Smith’s shop.  For those of you not in the UK, WH Smiths is a chain of newsagents/stationers with a shop on most high streets in the country.  They sell toys and games too, the quantity varying from store to store.  Today, however, I actually noticed that the toys were divided into those for boys and those for girls.

This is an unsettlingly common practice, and one that a lot of people are trying to change. Why can’t toys just be toys? Sure, you can have sections for construction toys, cars, dolls, domestic toys, and stuff like that, but why do you need to send a message…

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