Last week my baby turned one. As I mentioned in a recent blog post, we didn’t make a big deal of it. There was cake, a gift or two, and that was about it (aside from spending a lot of time gazing at him and kissing his little peanut head and feeling like I couldn’t possibly have created a more perfect mini human). I was glad I’d decided to keep the festivities low key, quietly celebrating the fact that we’ve survived the first 12 months. But now that my very last baby is in his second year of life, I’m facing a completely different challenge: I can’t stop thinking, Now what?
I’ve been a full-time mother for eight years now. Eight. That’s longer than I’ve ever stuck with anything. And though I’ve always kept myself busy and my brain active through study, work experience, blogging, and theatre, the fact remains that I’ve spent a quarter of my life at home, building my family. And now that it’s built, my family is complete, I’m feeling impatient. I’m ready to move on. I want to see what the world has to offer me.
When I share these feelings with the people around me, I’m encouraged to work from home.
Why don’t you go back to working on your book?
Just throw yourself into Jamberry, you’ll love it.
You’d never forgive yourself if you got a job while the baby is still so young anyway.
I get where they’re coming from. I do think babies need their mothers. I know that my kids have benefited from having me at home. But I really, truly, honestly do not want to be here anymore. I just don’t. And the more I think about it, the more I’m realising that my kids would be better off having a mother who works, because I’m pretty damn sure that mother would be a lot happier, and therefore a lot nicer to be around.
Two weekends ago I was in a bad place. Realising I was ultra stressed (i.e. unable to stop yelling at the kids), the husband decided he’d take the three biggies out for the day to give me a bit of space. It was great, of course, but the second the kids got home again it was like nothing had changed. They filled the house with their little bodies and big demands, and I went right back to being the impatient and grumpy mum they’d been avoiding. I felt awful. Have I become such a horrible mother that five whole hours away from my kids still isn’t enough?
Last weekend, however, I went out. I left the husband and the kids at home, and I met a friend for lunch and bowling. We ate and chatted and laughed. I threw balls at skittles, and jumped around in excitement when I knocked them all down in one go. After that I went to the supermarket, all by myself, and took the time to read the labels on the back of all the packets, to really think about what I did and didn’t need to buy. By the time I got home late that afternoon, I was actually pleased to be there. I was in a good mood. I was a good mother. I was calm and patient, and even suggested that we play board games together as a family. Which we did. And it was nice. And I realised as I sat laughing with my kids, that there had been a big difference between my breaks: The former had been respite from the children while staying at home; the latter had given me time away from the children and the house.
Unfortunately there is no simple solution to this problem. I want to go out and stay out and do things for myself on a regular basis. I want to get a job. But I can’t just go and accept whatever’s on offer, because if I’m not earning a decent wage I’ll only be working to pay for childcare, and that seems pretty pointless. Not that I’m interested in doing any old job anyway. I want a good job. I want a career. And other than keeping an eye out for vacancies that are advertised online, I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do about that. It’s already been made clear to me that if I want to work for a newspaper or a magazine I’m going to have to get a journalism degree…
So I don’t know what my next step in life will be. I had a plan in place when my first three babies turned one (for two out of three that plan was having another baby…), but this time around I feel uncertain. Will I go back and study some more, or will the perfect job appear at just the right moment? Or will I sit with these feelings for a while, and then realise that I’d like to stay home for a few more years after all? Either way, I should probably stop obsessing over it. For now I can focus on this blog, my YouTube channel, and my new Jamberry venture, while looking forward to the day that I get to leave the house, alone, on a regular basis. It’s got to happen eventually, right?
– Fern xxx
Did you go back to work when your kids were little? Or have you been a stay at home parent for years, like me? I’d love to hear your stories and experiences in the comments section below.