On wanting it all: Working Parents



Today’s topic is a subject close to my heart for obvious reasons, and it's something on which I'm still not clear about my feelings, so I've been looking forward to hearing your opinions onit all.




This afternoon’s take on working parents is slightly different to Cat’s post this morning. And that’s what I absolutely love about AOW – I know that in one day we can post two totally different points of view, and that whether you agree or disagree with either of them you’ll have rational and hugely interesting discussions based on them, showing respect for others, without going down the usual internet forum route of descending into nastiness and irrationality. 

You guys are, in the words of Aisling, truly amazeballs.
With that, I give you Frankie…


A quick preface from me:
I would put myself into the categories of career woman’ AND ‘independent woman’ yet what I am about to write about will probably make me seem like neither.  I’m worried because the views I express are probably not very popular, but I felt, having talked to Anna K, that this discussion is pertinent to quite a few women our age at the moment. I’d love to hear your views and you can tell me I’m wrong… but I’ll share what I know. Ps. At various points, I refer to the Mums of my two best friends – for simplicity’s sake they are Mum 1 and Mum 2! 
Frankie

Looking after your own child is the best start you can give them in life…

I have a truly hilarious yet grounded husband, brilliant supportive friends, lovely family and a career I enjoy. But the day will come in the future where hubby and I will be planning to have children. You’d think I wouldn’t worry about it until the time comes and that I’d be waiting before I make any crazy decisions about parenthood… um, no! I’m basically paranoid about becoming stuck in a situation where both hubby and I need to work full-time in order to pay the rent/mortgage, and I’m thinking about this LOADS at the moment.
The reason for this is that if we have children I don’t want to have to go back to work while they are young. I agree with my best friend’s Mum (Mum 1), a former childminder, school inspector and all-round education guru (seriously!), who says: Looking after your own child is the best start you can give them in life”.
(Just to clarify early on, this means looking after children until they start Nursery at the age of 3, and then potentially continuing to be available during the first years of school to pick them up, drop them off.)
You might think a person believing that, and who gives the not-working thing more than a moment’s thought, must be in a luxurious position, be paid loads, or have rich parents or assets of some kind. Well, er, no – I’m none of these things.  I’ve never been in the position of having financial back-ups.  I’ve worked pretty much non-stop since the age of 16.  While others at university were having fun times travelling abroad, I was in an office full-time every holiday.  While others were lying in bed hungover on a Saturday morning, I was working in a bookshop.  I never stopped: it was the only way I could get through… a student loan was not enough on its own.  My point in telling you all that is that I fully, fully appreciate the need to work and earn money and the lack of options so many people have in that respect.
I was brought up by a single working Mum and she was, and is, pretty legendary in my eyes.  She worked so hard and put herself second in order to do well at work, and, later, study hard, so that she could bring me up as comfortably as possible, and achieve a better life for us.  She is a fantastic role model, a brilliant career woman, and I doubt I would have achieved half of what I have done without her to look up to.
The downside of course is that I didn’t always get large chunks of time with her, I spent a lot of time with friends of the family, childminders and in holiday play-schemes.  (The latter being pretty dire.  But that’s another story!)  I don’t have a chip on my shoulder about any of this. In fact I genuinely spent most of my twenties believing if you have children they could just happily fit into your life as it already is without anything much changing, and that it’s normal for children to not spend much time with their parents, because parents have to work.
Then a few years ago I trained as a teacher and all my views changed.
I now know how children learn, and what is vital to their wellbeing, and what happens to a child in the first few years of their life is ridiculously important to them later on.  Early experiences are vital to children’s physical, social, emotional and intellectual development.  It’s too much to go into in this short post, but essentially children who are happy and secure and feel loved do develop better and achieve more.
Many things affect this, not just working parents, obviously.  I’m writing about this assuming the children we refer to are from relatively stable families where there is love, an engagement with learning, not terrible poverty and so on. All those factors and more obviously have a huge impact, against which the issue of ‘working parents’ pales into insignificance.
Children who spend a large proportion of time in their formative years with their parents are often the happiest, most confident, content children there are.  I’ve seen it first hand in the Nursery and Reception classes of inner city schools I’ve worked in.  That is NOT at all to say children with working parents, who are partly brought up by nurseries or childminders, are made to feel unloved. However, there is a very special level of security afforded to children who spend more time with their parents than other adults.
The upshot of this whole blog post is just to tell you that I know from research and from seeing it myself that children flourish with their parents as their main carers.
As women in the modern world it has long been unpopular for us to be stay-at-home mums.  The feminist argument tells us we are equal to men, we should be having the same careers as them and making as much money as them.  I agree with all of this, and I equally advocate fathers being stay-at-home dads and mothers being the ones to go out to work.  But at the end of the day if you are to have children, you are responsible for bringing them up, and in my eyes, that potentially means someone’s career coming second.
If both parents must work a lot, here are things which make a difference to children:

Clear routine, regularity and consistency;

Children knowing about changes to the routine and having time in advance to prepare for something different happening;

All adults caring for your child having similar expectations and boundaries and communicating them in similar ways;

Once children start nursery and then school (aged 3-4), parents being the ones to drop them off and pick them up;

Parents getting back from work in time to see their children, or leaving for work late enough to have breakfast with them;

When children are ill and are sent home from school, they need their parents or close family members; and

Parents, despite being busy and stressed, making time to talk to their children, to read with them, and laugh with them.
Both my best friends were brought up by fathers who went out to work and mothers who stayed home with them, until school age when they went back to work but for school hours only.  Both my best friends’ Mums separately told me of the financial struggle which not working brought them, meaning they had to do things like: living without a car, taking on lodgers to help pay the mortgage, relying on second hand or handmade clothes and toys, having no holidays and generally spending very little on anything.  As Mum 2 put it “just not wanting for anything…not wanting a bigger house…being happy with the small and modest things you’ve got”.
I don’t know about you but my friends and I talk about “being skint” and “not having much money this month” when that often means “I still have my phone, my car, still went out for a nice meal recently, still spent £30 on a friend’s birthday”.  What I’m trying to say is I’ve got to the point where I am all for making changes in lifestyle in order to spend more time with our potential future children.  Think how much some people spend on their wedding day!  And think about it again in terms of it possibly covering a few months extra maternity or paternity leave.  Or fund part time work for a year.  It’s surely got to be worth fighting for?  Why would you want someone else bringing up your child, moulding their views of themselves and their world, unless circumstances mean you really can’t do it yourself?
I leave you with the words of Mum 1. She explained her reasoning for going through extremely tight and tough financial times so she (along with her husband whenever he was not at work) could be bringing up their children, and not other people:
“I wanted to be there for their first smile, steps, fall, fight, word, sentence.  I wanted to be the one, along with [her husband], that interpreted the world for them, was with them as they explored, discovered and learnt.  I wanted to be the one that took them to the park, swimming, the swings, the forest, the zoo, read books with them, put a plaster on their knee, kissed and held them until they felt better if unwell, frustrated, had a temper tantrum.  Also guiding them when they were naughty, setting consistent boundaries and expectations for their behaviour towards others and themselves.  I wanted it to be my eyes they saw pride and affection in when they painted their first picture, stomped in a puddle whether they were wearing wellies or not, and so much more.”
Do you believe in parents going back to work when their children are young?  What would you do/ are you doing?   Also, how were you brought up and will you follow a similar path with your own children?

Categories: Becoming a Mother, Family, Friends and Relationships, Politics and Feminism
32 interesting thoughts on this

32 Comments

  1. Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I was brought up by a mum who worked full time, at one point she did 3 jobs in a day (cleaning, delivering papers and working in a restaurant. Every day). I didn't know any different. We'd come with her for most of it, were never bored or felt we lacked attention because she always made time for us.

    My sister has a 2 yr old and a 3 month old. The 2yr old went to nursery from a very early age for 2 reasons – 1 she became miserable being at home all day, without much adult conversation and she felt guilty for wanting to go back to work. She lvoes her little boy to death but she also knew she needed to have something for herself too. 2. She believes nurseries (good ones) are fantastic for a child. And it's worked for him, he loves nursery, he came on in leaps and bounds after he went there 3 days a week, he loved being around other children, he was quick to speak. And every evening he had 3 stories and playtime before bed. They got up every morning early to give him breakfast and play with him. And then she went to work as a solicitor in a top law firm. She leaves at 5:30 to see him before bed.

    She always wanted to be a stay at home mum, always. She wants 4 children. But she realised early on that she also needed to work. For herself.

    However, for other friends nursery and going back to work isn't an option – in London nursery for 3/4 days a week costs £1000. That's a salary for a lot of people.

    I am hoping to go full time as a wedding photographer soon, it means that I can be there to pick them up etc. But I will also try to afford to send them to nursery too, even if I'm at home. Because I see how much it benefitted my nephew, and my sister.

  2. Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Love this post, Frankie. My mother left work for five years to raise me and my sister. We are both very close to her; but I have no idea if having that early bond has anything to do with that. Also its important to remember that she was lucky enough to be able to give up work, because my dad had a steady job, and not everyone is in that kind if financial position.

    I have every intention of continuing working, but I have no idea if I'll contribute to feel that way once I have a baby.

    That quote is enough to make me reconsider!

  3. Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Oh Frankie this is just so… yes, for me. It sort of resonates throughout. My Mum worked part-time through my childhood, she was there for the early years and there before and after school, she fit her working life around her parenting (because her and my Dad couldn't afford for her not to work). I love my Mum, I think she is quite frankly phenomenal, I have an incredible relationship and I feel lucky to know her, let alone be her daughter. My Dad worked very very hard throughout my childhood, to give us everything we had. He wasn't around as much as my Mum, I love him equally, I don't feel closer to my Mum, but I know HE feels he missed out on some of our growing up.

    As a result G and I are planning to both try and work part-time, so we are both around as much as possible for our kids, but neither of us have to give up our careers entirely. I will be staying at home more, mostly because he (at 9 yrs older) has much greater warming potential. Financially we're better off with him working more than me! But I don't want him to miss all those things anymore than I want to miss them. He will be a magical Dad, I want to make it so he brings up his children too.

    I may have gone off-track there! Final thought: The end quote from Mum 1 made me cry.

    K x

  4. Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    G has greater EARNING potential. Not warming. He isn't a human radiator (although he is actually always very warm). Stupid iPhone!

    K x

  5. Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I don't know what the future holds for us. But there are two issues that my husband and I both feel strongly about:

    1. My husband, before he trained as a teacher, worked in a private nursery for a long time. He saw children coming in from as young as six months, and saw many children who were in nursery from 8am to 6pm, five days a week. In his experience, the more hours a week they spent there, the worse their behaviour was. That's not to say there isn't a sweet spot where you're spending enough time socialising and interacting with other children to help development, balanced out with time with your parents. But beyond that, it had a demonstrably negative effect. And many private nurseries, staffed by underpaid and undervalued people, aren't providing a great quality of care, no matter what bullshit Nursery Conglomerate plc might sell to parents or whatever they might tell themselves to ease the guilt (which I'm not underestimating – it cannot be easy for the parents, at all).

    2. I too am very, very wary of trapping ourselves in a position where we both need to have full-time jobs to get by. I sometimes think the so-called two-income trap is the biggest barrier to happiness facing our generation. That's not to say you can't or shouldn't both work, and I know that for many people it's simply not financially viable to do something different; but to get tangled up in big mortgages, expensive car loans, astornomical childcare costs, and the rest, is a dangerous game.

    I have no idea what we'll do, if/when we have children. And right now, honestly, there is no way I could afford to give up work – I earn more, and if we had kids, I guess it would be Fin to stop working, unless something drastically changes our circumstances (we are working on that). But those two things weigh on my mind, and thanks Frankie for addressing them so honestly.

  6. Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I love the quote from Mum 1 at the bottom of this piece. That's exactly how I feel.

    For myself (and I can only say this for myself), a large and sweepingly generalised part of me thinks "What's the point of having kids if someone else ends up raising them?" But this works for me. I would happily go without any and all luxuries for the rest of my life for the privilege of being a dad. But some things aren't luxuries, are they? Like the mortgage. Like food. Some people work to give their kids a good standard of life, to send them to a good school and give them nice holidays. I believe all of that kind of stuff comes second to being there for a kid in its formative years. But when both people in a relationship need to work to get by and still want kids… I guess I don't have a good answer for that. I would never judge others for choosing to work to provide for their kids or to maintain their own sense of self. I know plenty of people who do things this way and they've turned out great. But in the end, I believe that one stay at home parent gives a kid the best shot at an awesome start in life.

  7. Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    My initial reaction was to nod my head in agreement, if I have children I want to be there in the formative years.

    But, friend's who are both working parents (in the double income trap to pay mortgage, that Kirsty talks about), have very well mannered delightful children, and are relying on grandparents doing much of the childminding, along with other family members. They are getting on with it, as best they can, muddling through, and their children seem very happy, and the grandparents genuinely love caring for their grandchildren.

    It all depends on circumstances. I've always planned to juggle children with being self-employed.

    My parents are farmers, my dad worked on the farm all day, but was there at breakfast lunch and tea, everyday, and if I wanted to spend time with him, then I could help with the milking, or sit on a tractor. My mum did the farm book-keeping, fed the calves (with her children assisting), helped sort the cattle, and from time to time took on paid childminding. I would like to muddle through the same, but I appreciate not everyone is able to work from home.

    xx

  8. Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    P.S. It's wanting to be there to raise our children, which is making us put back having children, so that we have enough savings to make it work.

  9. Posted January 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I think it's such a personal decision, and the danger with painting one way as better than another is that it piles more pressure onto parents already agonising about what is best for them.

    My mum worked, and I'm very close to her. Maybe I would be closer had she been there until I was school age, but I can't imagine it.

    There are up-sides to being socialised with a few adults at a young age too – don't forget that. Providing it's a safe and secure environment (obviously). A mother who is going to lose her sense of self by giving up her career for her children might not be as good a parent than if she had decided to continue working.

    However. If you have a choice, then you are extremely lucky.

    If I am ever fortunate enough to have children, I will have to give up my job. Childcare costs total more than I earn. I wish I had a choice, but I don't. I'm not unhappy about it (I would love a family), even though it would mean giving up a business I have put three years into building. I understand that is the sacrifice I have to make if I want to be a parent.

    If you can choose, then do what you feel is best for you. Don't be swayed by what society, your family, your next-door neighbour thinks. It's YOUR life. Your child will be fine, so long as you love and care for it in the way that is best for you.

    Px

  10. Posted January 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I don't really know where to begin but Frankie this is exactly what I think but haven't been brave enough to say.

    My parents are amazing and gave us incredible opportunites which meant not that much time with them and having to accept that they probably wouldn't be there on sports days, plays, end of term events, sports matches and that they probably would be late to pick me up.

    I never really had a problem with it, it was just the way it was, our schools were expensive and we were so lucky.

    But I decided at a young age that I never wanted my children to worry about whether I would be there to pick them up on time, or be one of the few whose parents couldn't see them perform. I want my kids to have my constant support and for me to drop them off and pick them up, listen to them read, do fun activites with them, Like you friend says I want to be there for all those firsts so they grow up into a confident well adjusted children.

    As a couple me and my husband have decided that this is what we both want and luckily fingers crossed we will be able to make it happen.

    It is a hard topic though as it is so personal and people are so sensitive about their beliefs and whether they are doing the right thing, so thanks Frankie for sharing.

  11. Posted January 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I think it is interesting that both of these posts today and a lot of the comments were written by women who do not have children yet.

    The reason I say that is until their is an emotional connection with a child it is hard to say what you will actually do. If everyone waited for what they considered to be the perfect time I'm almost certain no-one would have children!

    My son is now three and I have been at home with him all that time. I have done some freelance work in that time but only when I needed the extra money.

    A childminder or nursery costs a minimum of £4 an hour and you pay for food on top of that and a nanny approx minimum of £6 an hour. The term after they are three you get 15 hours a week funded by the government but that still adds up to a lot of money for full time childcare. I used to earn approx £1200 a month in my job which is pretty average for a 24 year old I guess. If I went back to that job i would take home £200 after paying nursery. To me, it is not worth working that hard to pay someone else to take care of my son.

    I am the eldest child of four. My mum stayed at home with me, my sister and brother until we were 8. Then she had my sister and did a degree with four children under the age of ten. She got a first class degree in Physiotherapy and went on to set up a successful private practise. She is currently on a tour of India with a leading surgeon lecturing on their research paper. She is proof to me that just because you have children doesn't mean everything else stops.

    All of the mums I made friends with when George was tiny have either already had another baby or are currently pregnant. One couple are planning their third. I get so uncomfortable when people ask (and they ask a lot!!) when we are having another one. I am not having another one. It is hard work and I feel like I am just getting back on track with things. I don't want to mess that up with another baby.

    One of my very good friends had an incredible job as an Editor, she always planned to go back to work but her baby girl was diagnosed with a very rare form of bone cancer. She has to attend appointments at Great Ormond Street once a week and has nurses come to give injections in her home up to four times a week. She quit her job to make sure she was there for all the appointments.

    You can't always plan everything. You have to just make the best you can given the time/money/beliefs that you have.

    My mum always says 'We are the imperfect products of imperfect parents' It used to always really annoy me when she said that but as I and George get older I can see her point more and more.

    Personally, I have mixed emotions about being a stay at home mum. People always tell me that George is clever and polite and I would like to think this is because we do fun things together, I try to teach him things and always explain things properly even when he is saying 'whyyy?' for the 500th time that day.

    Some days are brilliant, others are a complete pain in the arse and I wonder how I'm going to get through the week. But I used to feel like that in my job too!

    When people ask me what I do I struggle with what to say. If I say 'I look after George or i'm a stay at home mum' I get a strange reaction, people look bored some even say 'yes, but else do you do?'

    I find the best reactions come from older people. 'Good for you luv' is a common response from ladies at the bus stop/supermarket.

    Anyway, I am rambling now. Sorry. Over a year ago I found a post about being a stay at home mum that made me cry my eyes out. (It had been a particularly shit week) A lot of it sums up how I feel and is certainly worth a read.

    http://www.lottieloves.com/stay-at-home-mums

  12. Carolanne
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I've made pretty mammoth decisions around work to raise my daughter. The job that I love to do has been put on the back burner and I have worked other (much harder, poorly paid) jobs in order to be around for her.
    Freedom to accept a job at a days notice is gone. Certain days of the week are off limits for work which is tricky when you can't guarantee where the next job will come from. Our families aren't close these days to be around for support and we are pretty self reliant. Thus far though, I've been there for every 'first' and I'll be there for the school runs. A time will come when my life will be all my own again. In the meantime I'm glad that she's had me around for stability, consistency, support and to run to in the playground at pick up time….

  13. Posted January 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    * £1200 after tax.

  14. Posted January 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Hmmmm, it's very much swings and roundabouts isn't it and I do worry that mums bear much mopre of a burden of blame than dads ever do. I can see it from both sides – my mum was at home with both me and my brother until we started school, at which time she started working again (as a teacher, at our school) and in terms of development I feel we benefitted enormously from this. On the other hand we live in London and are very much in that mortgage trap without throwing extra people into the mix, I honestly don't know how anyone affords kids either working or by staying at home.
    Choosing to become a parent is essentially a selfish act driven by your own wants, but being a parent and making sacrifices for your children is a selfless thing – that's a hard balance!

  15. Liz
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    This is soo difficult. We are hoping that children will be in the very near future (fingers are permanantly crossed), but I still don't know how I feel on the 'working mum' issue.

    In my heart I want to be at home and take care of any children, as my mum did, I don't want to miss out on it all. However, when my head kicks in its a different story – work has an evil maternity policy which delays payment during your maternity leave and then pays a very decent amount of back to work bonus. So you are coerced into the mindset that you need to go back or you are forfeiting your money.

    At the moment I leave the house at 7.30 in the morning and get home at 7 at night, which is just not doable if you have small children (or more of a sacrifice than I want to make). I have considered looking for jobs which don't involve the 1hour + journey to and from work but at the moment, given the economy, they just don't exist. And if they did I would have to wait for a while until maternity benefits kick in.

    Everytime I think about this too hard my head spins and I have no idea what to do! I think the best I can do at the moment is hope that babies do become a reality, muddle through as best we can and makeg the decisions when they need to made rather than now – and hope that M and I are sufficiently intelligent and well-adjusted that any children will follow suit!

  16. Posted January 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    I just had to pop back to say, if you want to read something *really* controversial on this topic, try this on for size. I accept no responsibility…

  17. Posted January 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Great link, Kirsty. I strongly disagreed with the comments on getting plastic surgery and homeschooling children, but it did make me laugh, and I actually agreed with her on practising austerity.

    xx

  18. Posted January 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Hello,

    I've loved reading all your comments. It was nail-biting writing this piece and sending it off to the AOW girls, but I'm pleased I did.

    I just realised we often (as demonstrated in the comments after Cat's piece) talk about the practicalities of bringing up children to do with what's best for us ourselves as women, or us as couples, rather than what's best for children. I wanted to write something that focused purely on children, rather than the career/practicalities focus.

    Obviously for some people a stay at home /part time parent may never be possible – particularly hard in London as Amy F pointed out – but there are are also many people who could achieve this but choose not to, for fear of ruining their careers, or other reasons. Bringing up your own children is uncommon nowadays which is sad – and the economic climate doesn't help.

    As Mum 1 said to me, government could do more to change things to support parents being around to bring up their own children e.g.: " realistic financial allowances for one parent to be at home full-time or two parents part-time, tax relief on mortgages, long-term parental leave from jobs, changes to cultural expectations and views of mothers or fathers who choose to raise their own children etc etc …"

    Anyway so much more to say but it's great to hear all your views and thanks for the nice tweets too!

    Frankie x

  19. Posted January 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    oh man this issue causes me a fuzzy head. like you frankie, i work with kids. as a student nurse and support worker, i see the absolute worst in parenting. 7 week old babies black and blue with bruising, toddlers left in cots for days after mum OD'd on heroin, you name it. working is not the worst thing you can do for your kids.

    That being said, i'm not sure when or if i'll go back to work if i'm lucky enough to have my own. nursing is pretty flexible, so i know i'm lucky, but staying at home is an option too. at the end of the day, you have to make the decision you can live with best. i'm certain i'll regret something either way, but i think that regretting missed career opportunities will sit better with me in my old age than regretting time missed with my children…

  20. Anonymous
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    "As Mum 1 said to me, government could do more to change things to support parents being around to bring up their own children e.g.: " realistic financial allowances for one parent to be at home full-time or two parents part-time, tax relief on mortgages, long-term parental leave from jobs, changes to cultural expectations and views of mothers or fathers who choose to raise their own children etc etc"

    I understand mum's 1 sentiments, but totally unrealistic, considering the existing government overspend. The government cannot cover the costs for only one parent to work, and neither should business with long-term parental leave or other assistance. In the 1950s/60s, when nearly all mums had the choice to stay at home, rents and mortgage costs were lower, there was no broadband, two cars were not considered a necessity, no mobiles, laptops, foreign holidays as standard, Sky TV etc.

  21. Anonymous
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    If we are lucky enough to have children then I think I'd quite like to stay at home with them for the first few years. However, I feel incredibly guilty for thinking this and it's not even a reality yet. I am constantly having internal arguments with myself that my parents didn't instil feminist ideals (both parents worked, very successful), provide me with a wonderful education, fantastic university life etc, encouragement and support when I decided not to go for money but to do something I love, for me to simply give it all up to be a stay at home mum. What was the point? It's like the first 34 years of my life might just have not happened. I don't ever feel any guilt about the prospect of being a working mum, but the prospect of being a stay at home mum is another thing entirely.

  22. Becca
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    This makes me feel physically sick. When I read the post this morning (already in the office) at 7.30am I felt sick too. Now I feel worse. I tried to read this at lunchtime but got SO SO SO angry about life that I had to go for a cup of tea and scour the office for biscuits.

    I have no idea. Absolutely none. And as the losing the slightest bit of control makes me want to stick my head in an oven, its not going to get easier.

    There is SUCH a huge part of me that wants kids, wants to be at home and wants them to grow up like I did – feeding chickens and all of that jazz which I realise, in London, my children will never do. Then there is the part of me that has worked damn hard to get where she is and doesn't want to throw it away, even for the minimum three months maternity leave I'd take. Hell, I couldn't afford to take more than three months maternity leave.

    I know nursery school is expensive. About £1,000 a month for BASIC nursery (no chickens or organic crap) and I know that as the main breadwinner, I have to keep working. Could HE stay at home? He's the thinker, he works to learn more and be challenged and be the best. I work to get paid and go home and lie on the sofa and afford all the kettle chips I can consume. He admits he couldn't stay at home, it would drive him nuts and he's the type of genuis type person that can change the world. Unfortunately, changing the world doesn't earn very much. So like Kirsty said she didn't want….we are….stuck in double dip, both wanting to work and both needing to work. So even if we had children, we would still need to work. What we want to do doesn't come into it.

    We both earn good salaries and our monthly income is enough that maybe, if we saved for the duration of the baby growing we could afford to take six months rather than three months. But that would be all. And then it would be back to work so we can pay our killer mortgage and put Baby 1 in nursery. Baby 2? No chance.

    I'm often faced with comments from my extended family with comments like "when you have children you'll quit your job" or "you can't work the hours you do AND have children". Ummm yes I can. Because we.don't.physically.have.a.choice.

    I'm off to get drunk. Anyone?

  23. Posted January 17, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    My mum was at home with us till I was 10, and the youngest was one year old. She then went on to study for the next 10 years, from HNC to PhD. We were very lucky in that we were cared for by her, my farmer father (who was 'around' all day) and our grandparents. And while I am as proud as punch of her achievements, I also am very thankful that she chose to stay at home with us for the majority of our childhoods.

    I will be a stay at home mum, until at least our children are at school. I will be giving up my job, and by some measure, my independence because I will eventually lose my income. Therefore I will depend on my husband to support us. And that's fine by me – I know I won't see myself as any less of a person, nor will anyone else I know.

    I do plan to take on doula clients at some point soon, and know that this vocation will work in around my family life.

    I understand why women HAVE to work, and why some CHOOSE to work when they have children. And that's also fine. But it's not for me, my husband, or my future family.

    xxx

  24. Posted January 17, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    'If we are lucky enough to have children then I think I'd quite like to stay at home with them for the first few years. However, I feel incredibly guilty for thinking this and it's not even a reality yet. I am constantly having internal arguments with myself that my parents didn't instil feminist ideals (both parents worked, very successful), provide me with a wonderful education, fantastic university life etc, encouragement and support when I decided not to go for money but to do something I love, for me to simply give it all up to be a stay at home mum. What was the point? It's like the first 34 years of my life might just have not happened. I don't ever feel any guilt about the prospect of being a working mum, but the prospect of being a stay at home mum is another thing entirely.'

    I don't think staying at home means that it effectively cancels out all you have done in the past 34 years.

    That 34 years experience is what will shape and mould you as a mother, and ultimately mould your children, the future adults of the world. So if anything, putting your needs on the backburner to commit solely to a tiny person, a completely blank canvas shaped by the experiences you show them, is hugely commendable?

  25. Posted January 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Hmm, this post nicely underlines my point about the need for *high quality*, subsidised, national childcare. Interestingly, Canada makes it work very well from a financial point of view – parents who are freed up by the availability of this kind of childcare can go to work, thereby paying more taxes and earning the government the money to support this kind of programme.

    I will admit to not having read enough research about this to feel terrible firm in my opinions, but my general understanding is that once children have a loving, secure attachment figure, they will flourish. There is no prerequisite that this carer be one of their parents. Hence, my emphasis on *high quality* childcare, where the workers are well trained, genuinely enjoy their work and are well paid and supported in it, and are therefore able to form real loving attachments to the children in their care.

    Personally, I'd like to stay with my children for at least their first year of life, and I'm grateful that we have maternity leave arrangements in this country that make this possible. Of course, who knows how I may feel once I've actually got the little buggers – I may decide to never go back to work or I may be desperate to get back to that part of myself sooner than I thought possible. It would be lovely to have a sensible choice, which is unfortunately not easily available at the moment, as so many of your horror stories about what is currently available in terms of childcare highlight.

  26. Anonymous
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    This is such a difficult post for me but once again loving AOW for giving us all this platform. Both authors are so brave and I value both your opinions.

    I'm currently 7 weeks pregnant after trying for a long time and undergoing treatment. I'm also at quite a crucial point in my career that I've worked up to for many years. I always thought I would take 6 months off and then go back full time but now I have no idea what I'm going to do. I want to be there for all the moments that Mum 1 talked about at the end of the post but it's sometimes not that simple and wanting to be there and actually being able to are sometimes different. Really interesting reading everyone's views on this, you're all giving me much food for thought, huge thank you to you all.

  27. Posted January 17, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    AOW Team. I'm relatively new to the blog but have become an avid reader. I just wanted to comment that it really is a remarkable place over here.

    Sensible conversation takes place without the bitching and sniping that goes on so frequently when more than a few people comment on a subject. It's refreshing.

    {I'm fast becoming a rambling commenter though. Sorry for that}

  28. Cat
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree with you, Frankie and, depsite the different emphases of our posts, I think that we have very similar views on bringing up children. If I had a child I would absolutely want to bring it up myself and be the kind of mother Mum 1 described. That's why I feel like I have to choose career over children, because I am just not prepared to sacrifice my career and spend those years at home. I don't want a 'part-time child' that I see at evenings and weekends – I don't think I could live with myself. At the same time I don't want to give up all the advancements I have made in my career in order to stay at home. That's why I wrote in my post that I feel like I have to choose.

    I was brought up by a stay-at-home mum. We had so many great adventures together, of just the kind you describe. I had a great childhood. If I had a kid I would like to give them a great childhood too, but I have other priorities and I don't want to do things by halves. Not the career, and not the family.

    Our society is so muddled! If only it were organised differently, around principles of social solidarity rather than of alienation and atomisation, perhaps we really might be able to 'have it all'.

  29. Posted January 17, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Frankie I think you have genuinely touched on a unique point of view here. Choosing parenting over things that you can do without. I can see where you are coming from and I share a lot of your views on this. I do however think there is something to be said for socialising children (and stay at home parents!) and I went to nursery a couple of mornings a week to help me develop my speech (and yes, it totally worked!)

    I work for myself so I hope to manage this with child care if the time comes. We chose a small house, close to our parents, with a small mortgage. We live modestly. We save like mad, well not mad, but combined we save more an double what our mortgage costs every month. All because we want to be free of our mortgage, in about 3 years time, so we can afford kids, afford to save for retirement, afford even the occasional holiday (gasp!) whilst still prioritising time together. This might seem a little extreme and even entirely impossible for some in more expensive areas, like London, or for single income households, but we've made our choice and we're making it happen and it's incredibly satisfying. It works for us and if other people want this kind of life with or without kids, on a modest household income it's possible (tho not in all areas of the country, granted)

    And yes, we'll never be rich, or live in a bigger house in a more expensive area, but we will have enough, and we'll have each other.

    Ps. Great point about comparing stress at work to stress being a parent.

  30. Posted January 17, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    The whole kids v work thing is so very hard, and as others have said it's so hard to know how you will feel until you are actually in the situation. I know that I've been guilty of over-thinking the whole baby thing – am I ready? Will I have to give up my whole life/my sex life/my relationship with my husband/our holidays/my career/my sense of self? – and though I haven't entirely shaken off my doubts and questions, I've got to a point where the desire to build a family beyond just M and I outweighs all those worries.

    In an ideal world, both M and I would be freelance when we have a baby and thus able to juggle work and childcare on more or less our own terms. But in the current economic climate that's looking unlikely, and even the prospect of one of us being freelance is less likely. If we both have to work then I'd love it if we could both work part-time, and so cover the childcare between ourselves still. But we both work in creative industries, which don't pay very well, at all, and we live in London, so there's no way that we'd be able to survive off the equivalent on just one salary.

    It's depressing, really. Depressing that not many of us are in a position to do what we want – whether that's not being able to work because childcare costs so much, or not being able to give up work because the cost of living is too high – when we should be in the glorious position of being able to choose what we want to do. I want to be able to stay at home with my children, not because that's what society tells me I should do, but because I personally want to be able to be with them through those first few years, to watch them grow and change and develop, just as my mum was when I was little (which, coincidentally, and despite everything she has achieved since and the financial stability that my parents enjoy now compared to the 80s, she says were the best years of her life); yet because I chose to work in publishing, because I chose to marry an actor, because we live in London etc etc, it's highly unlikely that I will actually be able to choose the path that I want to choose.

    So, as much as the feminist in me says "It's great! We can CHOOSE what we want to do!", it's disheartening to kow that in many ways many of us are still trapped and forced into making choices that we might not otherwise choose. And that goes for men as well, because M would love to be a stay-at-home dad as much as I would like to be a stay-at-home mum, and he too feels constricted by possible financial concerns (of course, because they're OUR possible financial concerns), and by the lack of opportunities provided to fathers for taking time off after their children have been born.

    Okay, stepping away from the computer now. Thanks, Frankie and Cat, for two great, thought-provoking posts today.

  31. Esme
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Wow, some absolutely amazing and interesting points made by everyone both on this post and this morning's.

    Well done to the authors and to AOW to posting – you've done us proud again girls.

    I think the only thing that I can add is that, for me, being a feminist and a modern woman means that I am able to *choose* to get married, *choose* if I want to have a baby, *choose* if I work or stay at home (along with discussions with my husband). I'm not saying that these choices give me an obvious answer, but I will be able to make the best decision for my family, not the decision that society tells me to make.

    xxx

  32. Anonymous
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I think that as with all things in life there is a balance to be had. It doesn't have to be either / or, it can be both. I have a 1 year old son who goes to nursery 3 days a week while I work. He is an extremely happy child who loves the interaction that he gets with children and develops skills that he wouldn't by being with me all day every day.

    I think its very important to bring up my son as an independent, balanced child who feels secure at the same time as having a strong female role model so he doesn't grow up as one of those men who only get married to replace their mothers!

    Incidentally my mother worked full time and I am completely happy about that. On the other hand my husband and his sister had a mother who was a full time mum until they left home however his sister went completely off the rails and still lives with all sorts of insecurities so for me the argument doesnt stand in so many cases.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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