But that’s taboo: The modern mother (or complaints of a stay-at-home-mum or fear of missing out or navigating modern motherhood)

I’m becoming just a teeny bit afraid that I’m missing out on something really good and I’m going to regret it! Basically I’m what is called a stay-at-home mum and I have been for most of the past ten years. Partly by choice, partly by circumstance. What is dawning on me is that, in staying home for so long, I might have seriously undermined my chances of a career. Or at the very least, I’m looking back on the past ten years and wondering if I could have used them more “productively”, if I’ve missed out on opportunities that were there, in terms of career, that I just didn’t take!

I feel like in the modern world, due to the enormous efforts of feminism, there is a place for me in the workforce while I raise children. It feels like feminism has made it possible (and so much easier than in previous generations) for me to participate in the workforce while being a mother. And what concerns me or worries me is that, for some reason, I haven’t taken up this option, this hard won “privilege” or “right”. Instead I’ve just stayed at home…

I have previously been broadly confident and content the in choices I’ve made in this sphere. But last year, as my most recent two years maternity leave came to a close I become a little panicked. It felt like a huge fork in the road moment. My career has been so stop-start for nearly 11 years. I’ve had three children and moved twice since leaving university. I’ve put on hold the final two years of my post-graduate training so that I can focus on parenting. And now as a nearly 40 year old, with only the equivalent of 2 years full-time post training work experience, it feels very, very daunting to try to get back in the game again.

My fears and possible regrets centred around this one question – What have I done?! Have I recklessly thrown away my career? Possibly unnecessarily? These questions and their answers have unsettled and disturbed me for months now. What’s done is done. I’ve made my bed so to speak and I can’t by lie in it. Clearly, I can’t change the past but I do want to, at the very least, learn from it. I want to mine the past, my choices, both my active choices and my passive ones, for any possible clues which might help me make better decisions now, and in the future.

So I’m asking myself a bunch of questions about the past, the present, the future and the future I would like to see for my daughter. For the past my question is this: as happy as I am in my decisions to be with my children as they grow, why have I at the same time neglected my career so badly? Could I have done both?

For the present and for my future the question is: what do I do next? I am having just the darnedest, most difficult time figuring that one out. I’m asking myself all the questions for this one – Do I even want to work at all? Why do I want to work? Do I have to work outside the home in order to live a “good” life? Am I missing out if I chose to remain at home longer than is fashionable these days? Am I allowing myself to be mindlessly swept up in views and opinions that are not truly my own? Are there things personal to me that are preventing me from taking the awkward leap back into the workforce? Am I settling for something less than what could have been? Should I have wrestled with these questions, like, 20 years ago?

For my daughter future: if I could go back to my 12 year old self, my 18 year old self, my 24 year old self, what would I want to tell her? What do I want my daughter to think about when she turns 12, 18, 24 in terms of her place and value and potential in society? And, possibly more importantly, what do I want my sons to think about their place and value and potential in society as well as the women around them when they turn 12, 18, 24?

That’s what these posts will be about. Trying to answer these questions. It’s a personal as well as a social critique of the issue of combining paid work with parenting, especially in the early years. It feels taboo because it so personal and so tricky because, well, we all know that children, especially young children, need a lot of input in order to grow and develop into strong, happy, healthy adults. We all know it takes not just one or two adults to raise a child well, but that children flourish in communities. We all flourish in healthy communities.

And yet, in the west, we live in capitalist economies where time is money and goods and services are traded for profit and jobs are not just for money but for status, purpose, meaning, and community. But you can’t take your kids to work so….it gets tricky.

Be warned: this is a rather long and rather messy, rambly post. There is not much structure to it but I’m posting it in three parts (or more!) to break it down a bit. It is a bunch of thoughts and ideas collected from everywhere and anywhere: comments made by friends or family or friends of friends; blog posts; newspaper and magazine articles, the Bible, podcasts and books.

The months and months I have spent wading through this collection of opinions and facts and personal experience have proved to be invaluable for me personally. I still don’t have solid answers to all my questions and I still don’t know which path to choose regarding paid work. But I do have a more clarity of thought around this issue compared to six months ago and I wish I had taken the time to do this thinking years ago, like, probably when I was 12!

I hope that these posts may be of some help of use to others as we all navigate our own paths through the challenges of motherhood in the modern age.

And on that note, let’s dive in.

(Part 2 out next week)

5 thoughts on “But that’s taboo: The modern mother (or complaints of a stay-at-home-mum or fear of missing out or navigating modern motherhood)”

  1. Bronnie,

    I can appreciate your feelings. Mum has often wondered how different life might have been if she’d married someone from the Con. in the 70s and gone on to have a musical career.
    But she’d not have given birth to me and my siblings and her musical quirks would not have filtered through to US as children. Those memories are priceless.
    Children change our lives: that is absolutely true. When we’re young, thinking of a career is most important, drilled into us from school. Children are usually not part of that equation.
    Then we age and our thinking matures. We see our friends produce offspring, nieces and nephews start springing up and we begin to rest more comfortably with the title of ‘Uncle’ (or the like). Thinking of Little Ones who look up to us; that’s pretty rad and some consolation to the thought that perhaps one has fallen behind in the game of life.
    But here’s the thing: no two people play the game quite the same. Things happen and we all make choices which seem right to us at the time. Were we not who the individuals we were, we would not respond as we do. Wondering about their ‘rightness’ years later seems counter-productive, for it those choices which make us who we are TODAY.
    I look forward to reading more of your thoughts as you process this, Bronnie. A mother who considers such things- I bet many will be able to relate. And consider this: if you’d instead gone on on to have a ‘career’ as such, who else could have written of this as you do?

    Tim.

    1. Hey Tim,

      Thanks so much for your thoughts 🙂 It is lovely to think that in having children you pass on gifts and abilities to them, like the musical gifts you mentioned and the priceless memories of growing up in a family.
      It is curious how the ides of a career is presented to us so strongly during our education without the corresponding skills and information needed to effectively combine a career with children (whether we are a man or a woman). Careers are truly wonderful things but they aren’t the whole sum of life!
      “Falling behind in the game of life” is a tragic reality of our societies tendencies to create what feels like clubs – either you’re in or you’re out of this club or that club. If you’re in – you’re successful, you’ve made it, if you’re out, tough luck or try harder or something. Life is so much more complicated and more wonderful and more free than that! Being an Aunt or Uncle is an amazing thing and is truly a gift to the child. Parents and grandparents are important of course, but Aunts and Uncles – so special ❤️
      “No two people play the game quite the same” – that’s so true Tim! Couldn’t agree more And what a dull world it would be if we all just did the same thing!

  2. I reply only because you say you’d love to hear from readers, not because I have anything much to say. But I think you outline your dilemma well, and I feel for that dilemma and hope you can resolve it in a way that brings you peace and satisfaction. I will be interested in reading more of your thoughts.

    1. Hi Eric, thanks for reading along and for your comments too. It has been an excellent exercise for me to pause and take stock and plan more intentionally for the future of our family (in so far as any of us can plan for the future!) I am coming to a peaceful and satisfying solution. I just need time to get it all down on paper!

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