It will be nearly two years this October that I’ve been unemployed. It’s an odd feeling, sometimes, to be in my early thirties and when I should be aiming for the top, shattering the glass ceiling, seeking leadership and management, that I’m, well, not.
Most people have heard me tell the tale over and over again. How I had a rewarding career, gave it up to move to the UK with my husband, fell pregnant soon after, had a couple of abysmal experiences trying to get a job while pregnant, had the baby, and fell into this Stay-At-Home-Mother role. Partly by choice, partly not.
I documented in a previous jotting my feelings about this – how I’ve deliberated on society’s expectations of me and my struggle identifying as a woman who looks after her child full-time.
It’s taken these two years of being out of the work-force and one year+ of being a mother full-time to see the value, see MY value, as a stay-at-home parent and have the confidence in this choice. What eventually helped me get to this place, other than going with my gut about what I felt was right for my life and our family, was finding women who could, in a way, mentor me. Or at least give me a sanity check and an empathetic ear. Women (and men) have mentors in the workplace, why not as parents?
I suppose it’s that, traditionally, ones own family primarily stepped in to give those pearls of wisdom (…or unsolicited advise…you chose). But, one size does not fit all. The experience that my own mother had as a young stay-at-home Navy wife in the 1980s was different socially and culturally. And the same for my other female relatives who were raising children in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. That’s not to say that these women aren’t some of the first I turn to for parenting help, but I do feel a generational divide.
I was lucky (accident of birth?) that I had a fantastic education and parents who pushed me to seek success in an engaging and challenging profession. Thus, through friendships made at University and in the work-place, I’ve found myself surrounded with high-achieving, educated, progressive women. Women I’m not sure would, if given the option, choose to stay home once they had children (but let’s be honest, most parents don’t have the option). It goes without saying, I hope, that I support women with children who work full-time. But, I’m not one of those women. And I needed to find other mothers who could relate to my new lifestyle. Who might have asked themselves the same questions. Might have felt isolated and unsure if staying at home was the right thing to do in 2017.
In time, and it does take time, I’ve met women who made this decision well before I did, have been living this life for much longer than I have, and get it. Get the daily grind of parenting an uncivilised tiny human, get the frustration of sometimes feeling invisible in social circles and wider society, and get the desire to still be seen as an interesting and engaging person – covered in snot and crumbs non-withstanding.
As I had my eureka moment in the summer about the way ahead, it dawned on me just how important it is to find people, even if it’s just one person, who is in the same shoes and who can help you navigate the choppy waters that is being a parent in the 21st century. Be it a full-time working one, a part-time working one, a single one, or a stay-at-home one. I’m grateful to my “mum mentors” and decidedly looking forward to the future with my little lad….at home.