We would all be happier if we were gainfully employed. This is the conclusion of Wikipedia, so who am I to argue? Apparently, work is only second to relationships as the most important determinant of quality of life. Ultimately, work gives us a sense of identity and purpose.
I suppose how you define ‘work’ is the question. Would you consider raising children ‘work’? I have felt that having children is probably some of the hardest work I have ever done and it definitely gives you a sense of purpose. But it has also negatively affected my sense of identity. I have lost touch with what it means to be me, doing something outside the house.
I can’t even remember the person who used to get dressed and go to work every day, armed with the belief that it would one day pay off (or at least pay the mortgage).
These days, getting dressed before 10am feels like an accomplishment. I squander time on inane conversations about the potty, putting clothes on/taking clothes off, brushing teeth, the potty, eating food, washing hair and the potty. I once said to the Chatterbox, in a moment of exasperation, ‘You know, I feel like a broken record sometimes.’ She looked at me confused and asked, ‘What is a broken record?’
I’ve also become an expert in bribery and human manipulation. I could probably lead an expedition through Africa, doling out bribes like some people give out pencils and pens to children in rural villages.
But my circumstances as a stay-at-home mother are about to change. Finally, after more than a year of searching for a job, I am going to return to the ranks of the working again.
On Monday it’s back to five days a week, on a three-month contract. It’s going to be a shock. People tell me that I will enjoy it. I think there will certainly be an element of that, but after so much time outside the office, I am a firm believer in getting the right balance. Five days a week doesn’t seem like much of a balance to me. I am trying to raise children who won’t turn into neurotic adults, blaming me during therapy sessions for never picking them up from school.
The Pew Research Center in the United States did a survey of working mothers in 2009. An overwhelming majority (67%) said they would like to work part time. Only 37% of working mothers wanted to work full time. According to the US Department of Labor, approximately 59% of women are in employment or actively seeking a job (as of 2009).
Attitudes to women working have also changed. A Pew Research Center survey found that, in 1987, 30% of Americans believed that women should return to their traditional role of staying at home and rearing children. Today, only 19% of American people believe this.
Yet going back to work full time and juggling family life feels like it might overwhelm me. Perhaps that’s why many women choose to make a compromise. They let their jobs and ambitions drift a little, to make room for life outside the workplace. I watched a documentary about working women which stated that 83% of men and only 17% of women reach the level of executive board at companies. Ironically, girls tend to do better academically.
I have no ambitions of trying to be some high-flying executive any more. That is definitely behind me. I still would like to make some contribution to the workplace. Here’s how it seems to stack up for me:
Stay at home (pros and cons):
- I can lounge around in my pajamas until 11am (any later and I start to feel like A HUGE LOSER)
- I can’t usually drink a cup of coffee uninterrupted first thing in the morning
- I spend most of the day picking things up off the floor
- I will referree more fights than Muhammad Ali contested in his lifetime
- I don’t really need to get out of slip-on shoes
- I will freeze to death in the park for the umpteenth time this coming winter, cursing the swing, the see-saw and the slide for making my life misery
- I’ll put the Raging Bull in the stroller and will get drenched with rain (this will happen eventually)
- I’ll continue to feel dissatisfied about how much mental stimulation and adult company I have
- I’ll continue spending money on frivolous things
Go to work (pros and cons)
- I’ll need to be dressed by 7.30am, possibly in clothes that are more uncomfortable than fleece
- I’ll be able to drink a cup of coffee first thing in the morning and sip it leisurely
- I’ll spend most of the evenings picking stuff up off the floor
- The only fights I’m likely to witness will be between people trying to get on crowded trains in the morning
- My feet might hurt at the end of the day
- I’ll never have to visit a park during the depths of winter (except at the weekend, which is bad enough)
- I’ll be able to hold an umbrella if it rains
- I’ll be able to use my brain (if it still functions normally) and talk to adults about things unrelated to children for several hours
- I’m going to get paid money!
Are you a working mother? How does it stack up for you? I’d welcome any tips/comments/suggestions about how to get through the next few months without becoming a walking zombie.