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)