What is with this guilt crap? I kind of understood that I’d feel guilty when I was working and parenting but now? What the actual fuck? I’m deliberately not working and I still get to feel guilty? How is this a thing? I assume I’m not the only one feeling crap no matter what I do…right?
Here’s the rub: we just got back from an extended trip where neither of us were gainfully employed. We deliberately took time out to slow down our family’s life and to spend more time together. Upon returning to the UK we discussed our options and agreed that it makes more sense for only one of us to work. If we both return to work then we return straight back to the life from which we extricated ourselves: wake up kids, yell at kids to eat and get dressed, rush kids out of door so we can work eight stressful hours before picking them up and rushing them through supper and bed so we can finally stop rushing and sit down prior to going to bed ourselves.
And that didn’t appeal to either of us.
While we are an egalitarian, feminist household, the reality is that my husband can earn far more than I can thanks to us both having chosen stereotypically gendered career paths. So as soon as we got home he went back to work and I am sorting out schools, home, kids and general life. I thought I was totally fine with it. I have always had good jobs but I’m not especially career driven or ambitious and I’ve never felt I had to prove anything to anyone.
So then what the hell happened to me today? I was on the bus on the way home after a very thoughtful birthday massage from my husband (he paid for it, he didn’t administer it) when all of a sudden I found myself full of self-loathing and worry that I’m no longer a useful member of society. I’m not contributing anything financially, I’m not providing a strong and independent role-model for either my son or my daughter and I’m no longer actively working to make the world a better place. Ugh. What happened to me?
I tried laughing off the guilt. My lovely friend from @keepingmummighty recently told me I should acknowledge this guilt so I did. I smiled and reminded myself that what was happening was just one of the many joys of parenting: no matter what you choose, you can find moments of doubt where you think you’ve chosen entirely the wrong path.
This isn’t a judgy-mcjudgy article aimed at either parents who do work or parents who don’t, this is just me, chronicling my own thought process. We have explained to our two small ones why I’m not working right now and that we’ve chosen for one parent to work and one to not; that sometimes the daddy works and the mummy stays home, and that sometimes it’s the other way around (yes, before you ask, my kids do know about single parent families and same-gender families too) and sometimes both parents work. We have explained that part of our trip away was about spending more time together and that my not working is a way of continuing this.
But also, when so many people in the UK seem to be working just to cover child-care costs, when you’re the second earner in a family, what’s the point? If I worked now I’d probably cover the cost of someone looking after my kids in the summer holidays and not much else. Thankfully we’re through the most expensive time, two kids in private nursery and only one of them old enough to receive the free 15 hours but still, it ain’t cheap. I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth because I love my daughter’s nursery but it’s open three and a half days a week. I’m not entirely sure how that helps women/parents to work. By the time I’ve dropped off two kids at nursery and school it’s already 9.15. On one day a week that gives me three hours before I have to pick up the little one again. True, I then have three days when I don’t have to pick anyone up until 3pm but it’s still not long enough to work a full day unless I pay someone else yet more of my hard earned money to look after my kids.
Before we decided I wouldn’t go back to work I did look on all the websites offering jobs for mums and women returning to work but the vast majority of the jobs seem to be offers to buy franchises, part-time book-keeping or administrative roles. You know what? Many of us aren’t book-keepers or administrators, we’re people with other skills that are being lost. I have two degrees from excellent universities in this country, I have over ten years experience in project management for various NGOs and I speak three languages to a passable level (and a few more at a basic level). I shouldn’t struggle to get work I can fit around my family. And nor should other women. It isn’t right.
Look at that, my mummy guilt is gone and instead I’m filled with self-righteous anger that it isn’t easier to work when you have two small children.