Is it a good idea for mums to give up work?

And so the debate rages on: to work or to stay at home. Every mother’s million dollar question. Some reports say children are healthier if mums work, some say it’s bad for children to start nursery too young. Who knows. Tossing a coin or consulting the magic eight ball would give you more accurate guidance.

My son is 7 years old. And meeting mums at the school, where their babies are now Wii-playing and Tracy Beaker-watching children, I see them at the other end. It’s given me a new perspective to the SAHM versus the working mum debate. When baby starts school, lots of them who gave up work when baby first arrived, feel lost, lacking in self-confidence and unsure about what to do with themselves with all those free hours until Junior’s done at school.

Years ago, one friend told me her ambition is to be a housewife. Cooking and cleaning gives her satisfaction. But for every one of her, there are many others where playing domestic goddess holds as much appeal as eating rotten apples.

Chatting with a mum in the playground yesterday, she said how she wished she had a career. All her time is spent looking after her four children – three in primary school and the fourth nearly two years old. Before kids, she had a bog standard office job which she wouldn’t dream of doing now. Seeing how dejected she was, it made me wonder, perhaps it is better (especially in the long run) to persist and continue with some kind of work when the children are little.

Do it in whatever shape or form. In however big or small quantities. Just carry on working.

The principle that writers write through ‘mental blocks’ applies to work. To continue working, through jobs good and bad, until you find one that has the best fit. (Notice how I avoided saying ‘the perfect job’.)

That dream job you landed at 25 might be hell on earth when you become a new mother at 35. Life changes, priorities change. Tough! C’est la vie. First jobs often aren’t what they’re cracked up to be. But keep pushing, learn more about yourself, discover qualities you never thought you had (like filing perhaps. In my first job, I became an expert on the franking machine.) There’s bound to be some kind of good office experience to glean from every job. So get some and move on. Pay attention to those inner voices as you go along. But the only way to do it is to keep on doing it. By this, I mean to carry on working. No amount of theorising on the sofa while watching daytime television or bookshelf dusting can give you that kind of insight.

Much better to keep one foot in the door than to shut it behind you completely. Otherwise the next time you come up for air, it can feel daunting. I can’t speak from experience, but can only imagine the unimaginable fear for a woman going back to work after a five-year hiatus.

I’m not passing any judgement; it’s horses for causes. All I’m saying is, the decision is always yours. Do jump in with your eyes wide open. Understand that your post-pregnancy hormones could be tricking you into exercising your maternal instincts more than you’d like, and it’s not entirely in your best interest to give in.

What’s your view on the stay-at-home versus working mums debate?

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2 thoughts on “Is it a good idea for mums to give up work?

  1. Interesting! I think it depends on a lot of factors. My job was full-time and some, and my first baby was completely full-on. Also, I couldn’t have predicted the way I felt when she was born. I had every intention of going back but I just couldn’t even contemplate it. Then I found I was happy taking a break. Now they are at school and I write for a living. There is no way I would have discovered that career if I had battled on with my old one, so I am glad I took time out. Yes, it was difficult to get going and get accepted, but not impossible, and my children have benefitted from having me around.
    Thanks for submitting this to the Love Mummy Blogs showcase – great to have a bit of debate 🙂

    • There will never be a right answer to this one, I don’t think. It all depends on circumstances and you make the best decision you can at that point with the information you have. For me, I had to go back to work because we needed the two incomes.
      I think the most important thing is to be working on something you enjoy and are passionate about. If that happens to be looking after your kids (and the family doesn’t need the second income stream), that’s fine.
      And often, you close one door, another opens.
      It’s all a bit of a journey and an adventure, isn’t it?!

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