Are you judging me?

Ok…are you prepared for a brain dump? This post is chaotic, and not remotely well written, but that sort of sums up my feelings on this at the moment – they are also chaotic, and not entirely clear. So…after that disclaimer, here goes:

Emmi is eighteen months now. (I KNOW. When did this happen?).

NB: This post will be interspersed with gratuitous shots of Emmi at home. What of it?

I could be back at work now.

Should I be back at work now?

Are people judging me for not going back to work the moment she was 9 months? Are people thinking that I’m less determined, or assuming I’m less educated because I’ve not wanted to jump straight back to work? Worse, are people assuming it’s because I’m unmotivated or lazy?

I know that pre-Emmi, I made assumptions about people who didn’t run straight back to work. Did they not value their own lives, and own worth? When did it all become baby baby baby? ‘They used to be so driven and now they’re happy to stay at home and look after babies all day?’, I thought, ‘what happened to them?’. I am not proud of it, but it’s true.

As women (in the UK at least) we are now incredibly lucky to have the choice. We can work or not work, depending on our life situation. I will always be grateful for that. But sometimes I feel like it’s not a choice. Not really. It feels like there is an assumption, that if you value yourself, you will go back to work. That you are somehow lessening your worth to society by choosing to stay at home with your child. And I think that’s really sad.

I am no earth mother. People who know me can attest to that. I’m not really into attachment parenting, and I don’t get huge satisfaction from spending hours crafting perfect organic meals for my child. I certainly didn’t grow up dreaming of being a mother, and didn’t really like babies before I had my own, if we’re being perfectly honest. And yet, here I am, saying that I think I’ve made the right choice to stay at home with her. That I can’t imagine CHOOSING to go out to work and paying someone else  to look after her whilst she’s in this amazing stage of her life.

I KNOW – I am in the very lucky position where we can afford for me not to work. Don’t get me wrong, life would be easier if I did work, but I don’t have to. I know I’m unbelievably lucky in that respect, and not everyone has that option. But being in that position actually adds to my confusion…when we don’t desperately NEED for me to work, is it wrong for me to then go and work, just for me? Or worse, just so that I conform to society’s idea of a strong modern woman?

I should be clear here; I’m not judging anyone for going back to work. Whether you have to, or choose to, it’s absolutely none of my business, or anyone else’s, and I’m so glad that we live in an era where you can choose to do that. So glad. What I’m fighting against is that either way, whatever you choose to do, there is judgement – I think that’s the whole point of this post  - is it really a choice, if either way, you will be judged for your choice?

It is my choice to not go back to work, just yet, and yet I know that people look down on me for that decision. Why do we as society place such little value on women, or people in general raising their own children? Does it stem from child rearing always being seen as the woman’s role, and historically (at least in recent history), women being seen as the lesser sex?

I admit that sometimes dream about going back to work and having meetings, and generally being ‘important’ again, so I do get it. There was a stage about six months ago where I was desperate to go back to work, but just couldn’t find a job here that worked for me, and now I’m glad. I still have drive. I still have opinions, and thoughts, and a life outside of babies. I have this blog with an amazing community of women who I am inspired by daily, I have my photography, which might one day be a career, I have friends who I can go out with and have grown up conversations with.

I’m not JUST a stay at home mum. I don’t want to be defined by that. And that in itself says something. That I feel the need to shout about the fact that ‘I’m more than a mum!’ – why isn’t being a mum enough? Perhaps a lot of this is me projecting my thoughts on to others, but I don’t think it is if we’re really honest. There are people out there, especially career women (and I don’t doubt that some of you fit into this category), who can’t help but thinking less of me for staying at home. You know you do, if you really think about it.

This isn’t a woe is me, send sympathy post. This is meant to open debate and discussion. Tell me, what do you think? Am I thinking too much? Do you (even subconsciously) judge women who aren’t working? Or who are working? What will you do, if and when the time comes? Or what have you done? How do you feel about that decision? And why is there so much bloody judgement in everything motherhood related?!

Categories: Any Other Baby, Becoming a Mother, Money and Career, Politics and Feminism
36 interesting thoughts on this

36 Comments

  1. Posted July 1, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I don’t really have anything to contribute to the debate (I’m very much to each his own) but I just wanted to say a massive YAY to your passing comment on photography, you have so much talent!

  2. Posted July 1, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    I just read “Lean in ” (I got it as a birthday present, I was curious about it but I am not sure I would have picked it myself as I have no interest in becoming a CEO of anything), and interestingly, she explains how maybe these awful judgements going on stem from each of us trying to justify our choices. It is another face of the “have it all” trap…. whether you choose to stay at home or pursue a career, there is always the mourning of the other option in the back of your mind, the “should I have done x instead” voice…. and by fiercely trying to defend our choice as the best (for each of us) we end up judging those who made different choices than ours.

    • Fee
      Posted July 1, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      Amanda, you are so very wise and summed up what I wanted to say far more eloquently!

      I don’t judge anyone on any of these matters as like Amy, I think ‘each to their own’. And then everything Amanda said about people projecting their own insecurities. I don’t seem to have any original thoughts today!

      I haven’t worked for the last year for personal reasons and I know some people, even people close to me, judge me for it even the ones who know the full story of why (they are few & far between). But absolutely no-one except my husband knows all of the thoughts, reasoning and feelings that have contributed to that decision so I just try to ignore it. Which is obviously easier said than done and I dread being asked ‘What do you do?’ in social situations.

      And I’ve just realised that the only ‘stay at home mums’ I judge are the ones who make ‘return to work mums’ feel bad (or vice versa). My friend was recently reduced to tears when her entire NCT group turned on her for deciding to go back full time. Who knew mean girls still existed as grown ups?!

    • Posted September 4, 2013 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      I agree! I studied psychology and there is something called cognitive dissonance which is what you are describing. When we choose something and invest time and effort into it our brains cannot allow us to believe we’ve made the wrong choice. If they did there would be dissonance between our actions and our belief which we would find too uncomfortable. So when we choose to return to work/stay home we invest a huge amount in that choice. Perhaps more than in many other choices on our lives other than perhaps deciding to have children in the first place (another topic ripe for judgment). As a consequence of feel compelled to defend our choice which necessarily means we are disapproving of those who choose something different.

  3. Posted July 1, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    BTW Emmi is so cute…. that picture by the swimming pool is priceless!

  4. Vivienne
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    No need for a disclaimer – your post seems pretty well written to me!

    Now that T is 7 months, I am at the stage where people are asking about my return to work. I’m going to be staying at home, and while this is a decision I am very happy about, I find myself making excuses for it. It’s not financially worth me going back/not going back just now but we will see how it goes and other fibs leave my mouth when in fact I should just say I’m very lucky to be able to stay at home. Most often, it’s other mum’s I find myself nearly apologizing to, in fear that they may think I’m judging them for returning, whether by choice or circumstance.

    I don’t think any less of myself for choosing to leave my job, and like you have other interests that help shape me. My brain still gets plenty of stimulation from my reading and writing, and while I might sometimes try to put the fabric conditioner in the fridge, it still works ok!

    As for your last question, I wonder if it were men who experienced pregnancy, birth and motherhood, would they be laid open to the same scrutiny and judgement we are?

  5. Posted July 1, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    This is how I feel:
    http://www.skinandblisterblog.com/2013/02/im-calling-out-your-bullshit.html?m=1

    I find it very frustrating that the only times I start questioning what I’m doing and how I feel about it is when it comes from someone else.

  6. Posted July 1, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    It wasn’t a million years ago that a similar post would have been written with a mother asking if she was being judged because she chose to go out to work instead of stay at home with her baby.
    Despite not yet having children myself i already envy people who do not have go work and stay at home and raise their child. I hope to do the same but realistic believe that financially this could be a struggle if I decide to not work permanently.
    My view is if you can do it then do do it! Relish the years where all your daughter wants is cuddles and stories because soon it will be money and lifts to the cinema and you will kick yourself!

  7. Posted July 1, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    The more wonderful, brave strong women who stand up and say I’m going to do what is best and right for me and my family, the better, and the sooner we’ll hopefully stop this awful cycle of not feeling good enough, and judgement.

    I completely agree with Amanda, above, I think a lot of judgement comes from self-justification, but it’s such a shame. I also think that there remains this persistent and pervasive myth that bringing up a child is an easy option, because if women can do it, it must be easy. We are such delicate little flowers after all, so emotionally weak and so hysterical and brainless. If WE can raise kids then it’s probably really simple and anyone who chooses to do it is clearly failing to be a strong woman, because to be a strong woman you simply must act like a man. Ugh. To quote Anna above, bullshit. Feminism is about choice, equality for all people is about choice. We DO hav a choice now, but constant judgement makes it less of one than it should be.

    I have a feeling I’ve stopped making sense, so all I can really say is I agree that you should do whatever is right for you, and Clare, Emmi is insanely adorable and you are a genuinely amazing photographer.

    KL x

    • Posted July 1, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      Love you lady.

    • Posted July 1, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      You absolutely NEVER stop making sense.

      Px

    • Posted September 4, 2013 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      What gets me is that in 2013 it is still women who are forced to make this choice in most cases. Where do men who would dearly love to be stay at home Fathers fit into this equation? Most of them don’t have that choice at all. Feminism means equality. There is no equality when it comes to child rearing. It is still assumed to be a woman’s job which is why women who return to work have to juggle far more than their husbands/partners do.

  8. Kate G
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Wow, absolutely beautiful photos.:)

    I cant really comment on your specific topic Clare,not having experienced it either way,but I do passionately believe if we could eliminate or at least reduce judgement that we – woman – cast on each other, it would make all the difference in the world.

  9. Posted July 1, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure I can comment fully on this without going into a panicky ramble about my own circumstances but suffice to say I stopped judging anyone on what they did for a living after I was made redundant and had a fairly long spell of unemployment as a result. Like Fee, I used to dread the “what do you do” questions. Weird though – if it hadn’t been for those questions and the judgment I feared, I probably would have had a lot less trouble coming to terms with the status quo. Amazing how people’s throwaway remarks can cut you to the quick in these instances. Comments you might dwell on for years are probably forgotten in minutes…we need more tact on one side and a thicker, more confident skin on the other.

    In the words of Fleetwood Mac, “you can go your own way…”. You can! And bollocks to everyone else.
    Px

  10. Pip
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    This is really timely for me at the moment and great to read your experience and thoughts. I’ve got a 4 month old and at the moment am not planning to go back to work, something that seems quite unusual in my group of mum pals. I’m in the same boat as you – lucky enough (and I really do appreciate quite how lucky) to not *have* to go back to work for financial reasons. I’m finding myself already starting to make excuses for this, but you’re so right that nobody should need to make an excuse for doing one thing or another when it comes to staying at home or returning to work. It’s a choice and no two situations are the same.

    Before I had a baby, a close friend who is a stay at home mum said that she felt there was such a stigma around not going back to work in the same way that there was in our parents’ generation of women who went back to work. At the time I said I didn’t agree with that, but being in her shoes now I’m really starting to see what she meant. We all need to just live and let live, right?!

  11. Steff
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I would love nothing more to be a stay at home mum, I envy anyone who can be and very much admire those who are – I’ve loved every minute of it. As it happens I’m returning to work in 6 weeks with very mixed feelings and very young 6 month old girls. Part of me is excited to get back to work, to enjoy a hot coffee in the morning, sit on a seat instead of the floor and talk to people in a normal tone of voice without narrating everything I’m doing to my tiny audience but the other part of me will miss them unbearably. I’m unspeakably upset about the prospect of potentially missing out on big firsts but I console myself with the fact that we’re incredibly lucky that, for the 3 days I’ll be in the office, they’ll be with either one of their grannies, spending time with cousins and aunties and I’m excited to watch them become independent little ladies. I’m contracted to work for at least a year following my mat-leave… I’ll reassess our circumstances when the time comes but at the moment, come that time, I’d love nothing more than to tell my employer to shove their job.

    Couldn’t be more on the fence about my own situation but everyone is different and everyone has their own reasons and individual circumstances which will influence their decisions and who am I to judge?

  12. Amanda M
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I am not remotely maternal so from that camp I can say that I absolutely think you should be able to stay at home and look after your baby if you want to – I certainly wouldn’t think any the less of you for it. As others have already said – why should there be one rule for everyone? I think a happy mother means a happy baby and no-one has the right to judge what is clearly not an easy choice no matter what you do.

    PS Fabulous photos and a very photogenic subject

  13. Gemma N
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I have a lot of thoughts whirling round my head about this at the moment, and stuggling to make something coherent out of them so apologies if this is a bit of a ramble!

    It’s something I’m thinking about a lot, as baby is due in November, and we’ll be relocating before baby is born which almost certainly means I’ll be giving up my current job at the end of maternity leave. It’s not something we planned or that I particularly want to do, but just the way life has taken us, and what will be best for our new little family. How I will feel about getting a new job next year I have no idea at the moment, and that scares me a little bit (ok, a hell of a lot if I’m honest). At the moment I think I will want to get a job, perhaps part time. I always imagined going back to work – I enjoy my job at the moment and really care about the organisation I work for. I also think that I would want something to have that’s ‘mine’ – so my life doesn’t revolve solely around looking after baby. But I appreciate that once baby’s here and I’ve had some time at home my feelings may change a lot.

    I’m finding that the more I look into baby/ parenting stuff and talk to friends who are parents that it seems judgement is everywhere, about everything. It’s sad, but I think comments above are right that it comes from the ‘women can/should have it all’ mentality, and people justifying to themselves that they are doing the right thing.

    The other thing that hasn’t been brought up yet, is where are the men in this equation? Yes it’s great that nowadays most women have the choice about whether to go back to work or not (although obviously financial circumstances mean it isn’t a real choice for some people). In the UK at least, we can take a year off work, and then in a lot of cases can choose to have flexible days/ hours (I know it isn’t always possible but there is a least a requirement for employers to properly consider this).

    But if things were really equal, then there would be options to share that first year maternity/ paternity leave between parents. For fathers to also request flexible working and for it to be given the same consideration. In an ideal world, I think I would like to work part time, but for at least some of that time I am at work for my husband to be at home, so he gets quality time with our child too, and there is less time in a nursery/ childcare. We are in a pretty lucky situation where his job is very flexible, and this may be workable (probably meaning he will have to work at home some evenings to make up time) but I know this is a pretty rare case. And of course I obviously have to find my ideal part time job first as well!

    I think it’s so sad that women feel such judgement whether they are ‘just’ a stay at home mum, or if they go back to work they are in some way neglecting their child. Men staying at work is completely normal and not remarked upon, and I imagine men who gave up work would be applauded and called ‘modern’ or something like that. I do know someone whose husband shifted his hours so he could stay at home and look after the children one day a week and got comments like ‘oh isn’t it wonderful he’s doing that, how selfless’ etc etc.

    I’ll try and stop rambling now. Everyone should do whatever feels right for them, I don’t judge anyone for their choices. But it just annoys me that those choices, although there, are still constrained.

    And Clare, those photos are amazing, you could definitely do that professionally (if you wanted to!) :)

    • Gemma N
      Posted July 1, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      sorry that was a bit of an epic comment! hadn’t realised how long it had got.

  14. gemma c-s
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I have no idea what I will want to do if and when the time for us to have children, comes. But I have never judged a mum who stays home with her kids as looking after a child is ABSOLUTELY a full time, rewarding and flipping hard job. I worked as a nanny for 3 or 4 years, and I’ve never felt such terrifying responsibility. I also never had time to read blogs/google Rose Byrne’s fringe/sit down and eat my lunch without getting indigestion or got to read fashion magazines as ‘part of my job’ when I was working as a childcarer.
    As a mum, I imagine it’s even harder because a, you can’t switch off at the end of the day when you go home to your childless flat, and b, because those moments (for example just after one of your charges has bitten you, hard, on the arm because you’re ‘so annoyyyyinnnnng’ and all you want to do is bite him back, but the only thing you’re allowed to bite is your tongue, take a deep breath) where you can’t help but resent the child a little bit come along with huge guilt and self doubt. A friend who I’m not in much contact with very much anymore described me at that time as ‘only a nanny’ and it cut to the quick. No one is ever ‘only’ anything.

  15. Posted July 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    have to admit I do judge woman for going back to work. I know some people need to and financially cant live with one income, but when that’s not the case I don’t understand why your would. why would you have a child and not want to stay and home and raise them, why is a career needed to feel ‘important’? parents are the most important people on this planet and there is a tonne of research on how important the early years are for children, so I don’t get it i don’t mean to be judgement I just don’t understand the logic to it. When I have kids, if I can afford to, I’m not going back to work till they are at least at full time nursery.

    • Posted July 2, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

      Lauren, I couldn’t be less maternal if I tried so perhaps I’m not a good person to respond to your comment, but I did want to say that my mum returned to work (part time) when I was 6 weeks old (yes you read that right). I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that she didn’t love me, but that her career was more than just bringing in money or feeling important, it was everything she’d studied and worked for her whole life (she was nearly 42 when I came along, so her career was clearly a longer part of her life than motherhood!!). Basically she was everything that Gemma has summed up so well and more articulately than I can. And I’m obviously biased but I think I’ve turned out OK…

      I like posts like this not because they feel personally relevant to me (they don’t) but because until they started appearing on this and other blogs I read, I too used to judge women but in the opposite way to Lauren- I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be a stay at home mum and not have a career. It’s posts like this that make me realise why people make the choices they do. Like Anna K says, it’s about the right choice for you.

  16. Posted July 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Hello Lauren

    I don’t think Clare’s point, or that of any of the comments above, is that a career is needed to “feel important”. I highly doubt women get jobs because they want to look good – slogging away at a job should be about personal fulfilment and very often, the paycheck. That aside, there are a number of reasons a woman may choose to go back to work that are way beyond economic reasons. She might crave the structure of the working day. She might feel she’s a better mother with something to occupy her during the day and with regular adult conversation to keep her brain ticking over. She may feel that contributing to the household income is fundamental to her sense of self-worth. We are way past the point where having a baby means one thing and one thing only.

    And really, the most important point here is that it’s a woman’s choice! Who cares whether she HAS to go back to work or not? What’s fundamental is that she can choose. The act of working doesn’t make someone a better or a worse mother. Choosing to spend time away from your child is never easy, I’m sure, but surely you have to make your decisions in the round, choosing what is best for your child first and foremost, but also thinking about your responsibilities as a parent as well. We’re all so different, we all have different motivations, we all need different things to be the very best of ourselves, and subsequently the best parents we can be.

    It’s deeply sad that you would judge someone because their choices are different to yours.

    • Posted July 1, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t mean to cause any offence in my comment. What I was meaning is I don’t understand that choice. No one should judge anyone, especially when you never know everyone’s circumstances but was being honest that that thought does cross my mind. I have a lot of friends that have kids that work and its not that I think of less of them as mothers or as people but I was surprised when someone of them decided to go back to work and wondered what their motivation was and still is.

      • gemma c-s
        Posted July 1, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        I think this post is partly trying to explain that the choice to go back to work IS the right one for some women so that we can all understand both sides better… I can only speak for myself, but I have worked long and hard, and not only that, dreamed, planned and emotionally invested in my career. I don’t know for certain, but I doubt that part of my identity will disappear if I have a child and I CAN imagine wanting to go back to work because I know that being out of the game, so to speak (I’m not on the game) will adversely affect my career. Not because my job makes me feel important, but because my job makes me feel switched on, adult, hardworking, creative and engaged.

        • Posted July 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

          thanks for replying Gemma. I really didn’t mean to cause any offence, Clare said she wrote the post to open debate and that why I said what I said, perhaps not as articulately as I would have liked, I wasn’t meaning at all that it is a good thing or right to judge others. I’m sure many others on here have had some kind of judgemental thoughts on the subject, its such an emotive topic and they can just creep up on you if you have a different view. I appreciate you sharing your view on it.

          • Posted July 1, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

            No worries Lauren, just been a manic afternoon at work so couldn’t respond! X

  17. Leni
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Before I forget as I feel I am about to ramble – Clare, your photos are utterly gorgeous as of course is Emmi.
    Right, here it goes …….I agree with lots of the comments above about how women feel the need to justify their decision to work or not and that perhaps our insecurities come from this need to justify it rather than just saying “This is what I’ve chosen to do, I am free to make whatever choice I like, deal with it!”
    But what about when you really want to be a good mother, be there for the milestones and spend time with your child but you also really want to continue to develop the career you have worked hard for upto this point.
    My first child is due in October. I have read lots of baby books / blogs / articles and spent time with friend’s babies and how have curbed my fear of looking after a completely helpless little person. This said, i am absolutely petrified of how I will juggle a baby and work.
    So in 3 months I will be a mum….. but I am also a teacher. I have worked my arse off for 7 years to become Second in Department and to become confident that I really am good at my job. I thoroughly enjoy it most of the time and aspire to be Head of Department and then one day Assistant Head at least. Mr Gove and Mr Wilshaw seem intent on ruining teacher’s reputations so I often feel the need to justify my profession (again – probably only because of the il-informed opinions of others). I am passionate about what I do even though I know some people judge me for being “only a teacher” or “working 9- 3 and getting tonnes of holiday” (I have a whole other rant on this subject!)
    Because of money I will have to return to work. Probably when the baby is 6-8 months old, depending how much I can save before hand to cover some of the costs whilst earning £585 a week Statutory Maternity. Through reading alot more on babies development etc I know this means I will miss alot of the weaning, crawling and other developmental bits. That makes be really sad… really really sad. I also feel bitter that I will be spending £900 a month to let someone else look after my child whilst I work. I know I have to, and it is nothing against childminders or nurseries, I just worry that maybe I will become jaded with my job when realistically it will be earning me half the money I used to before paying child care.
    Even if financially I didn’t have to return to work, I don’t want to stall my career – its important to me. I can’t say what I’d do in that situation, and I am certainly not judging anyone else for returning to work or for not, but I am hoping (maybe naively) that I will be able to balance being a mum and a good (or outstanding in ofsted speak!) teacher.

  18. Katie
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful photos.

    I would love to be a stay at home mum, and dont judge stay at all. However, it’s not an option for us. I work freelance, and I don’t need to earn a fortune (aiming for £600 per month, working after Ava’s gone to bed, and with grandmother’s helping with childcare for deadlines and meetings). Whatever works for you and your child I say.

  19. M2B
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Not quite ready to un-anonymise at the moment but this post (beautiful photos and even more beautiful daughter, Clare) and many of the comments have resonated with me. We are expecting our first baby in December and I was fully expecting to come back to work, hopefully part time, after a year off. However, life has a habit of throwing stuff at you and I have discovered I’m being made redundant in October. This is either horrendous timing or fantastic timing, I haven’t quite worked it out yet. On the one hand, I won’t have the pressure of my current work (and it is a high pressure job) trying to get me to come back to work sooner than I am ready. On the other hand, what do I do now (or in a year’s time? Or 18 months/2 years/5 years)?

    We can’t survive financially just on my husband’s salary so once the redundancy pay runs out I am going to have to go back to work. I love what I do – I don’t do it to feel important, I do do it for lots of other reasons, and Gemma C-S’s point about staying in the game (not being on the game) is a really valid one for my line of work too – but the fact is I won’t know how I feel about going back to work after I have been off on ‘maternity leave’ (I’m not sure if it counts as leave if you don’t have a job to go back to…). I expect I will feel a bit conflicted, as a lot of people on here do.

    Gemma N’s point on paternity rights is a good one. We have looked into the rights my husband has at work but my reading of it is that if I am not in work during my mat leave, so that we are not sharing a ‘maternity leave’ as such, then he’s not entitled to time off. This seems pretty unfair for people who have been made redundant – or people who have had to relocate. We are planning to share the childcare when I go back to work so that my husband works a 3 or 4 day week – no idea how that will work out at the moment.

    This is a bit of an incoherent ramble I’m afraid and I don’t think I have come to any conclusions yet but I hope that when it comes to it, I am kind and non-judgemental towards other new mums as I hope they will be to me.

    Oh, and Anna S&B’s post linked above really made me stop and think a while ago about things I had casually said to people without thinking about how they might have taken them, so well done for that too!

  20. Posted July 1, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    I’ve just nodded my way through this post like a nodding dog: yes, yes and more yes! Yes to the wanting to stay at home and witness the amazingness, yes to having the odd pang for being in meetings and being “important” and YES to not JUST a stay at home mum!

    I handed in my resignation in January (you can read my brain dump here: http://sittinginthekitchensink.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/my-new-boss_16.html ) and wasn’t quite prepared for the feelings of guilt I would have about not returning. I felt so awful that I wasn’t going back but all my friends were having to return to work against their wishes. Sure, there are teething days when I wish for the chance to drink a cup of tea while it’s hot, and wee in peace, but then again, I wouldn’t want her being comforted by a nursery worker instead of me when she feels like that.

    I’ve struggled with the lack of intellectual stimulation I think, so have volunteered as editor of my local NCT magazine and have a few other irons in the fire too which helps keep me feeling useful. I think it’s the lack of satisfaction that gets me the most – although it is a big achievement to have got through each day with a happy, clothed, fed, watered and exercised toddler, it doesn’t feel it sometimes. And said toddler doesn’t turn round and say ‘well done Mummy, you’ve done really well today’, she just says ‘Dah! Miaow! Schooosch!’. I’ve got a blog post about satisfaction and motherhood rattling around my brain at the moment, so perhaps one day I’ll put fingers to keyboard and let it out…

    As a society, it’s become the norm for women to return to work after having their children. Mortgage costs have risen, and to keep living the lifestyle they have become accustomed to, a second income is often necessary. There is also this pervading sense of ‘Women can have it all’ – give birth, drop baby off at nursery, work a full and successful day, collect baby from nursery, have dinner with your husband (and then no doubt have sex with said husband), then relax in the bath with a glass of fizz and chocolate dipped strawberries. Or some such nonsense. This article spoke a lot of sense to me: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/apr/20/choosing-between-child-and-career
    and made me even more certain that I couldn’t return to my job as a primary school teacher working all the hours in the day.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. High five mama for going with what is right for you and Emmi, not feeling like you should be getting a job because of other people’s thoughts. People schmeople.

    Oh and one more yes – definitely do something with your photography! You take such beautiful, light-filled shots…just gorgeous! And your model is uber cute.

  21. Claire
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Great article Claire and really good comments above too. I don’t really have anything original to add to the debate but just wanted to say that for me, this is one of those things I won’t really know until I get there, no matter what I think now. I think that all we can do is try to do what is best for our families and ourselves, which will be different for all of us. We only ever really know our own whole situation, as Fee said above, so I think we definitely need to support our friends and each other, even if we wouldn’t personally do things the same way as they are.

  22. Holly
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    It really bugs me that there are people out there who assume that, just because the world does things differently to them, that people haven’t made the best choice possible (which let’s face it is entirely subjective), that they could or should be doing something else – you should work! you should stay at home! you should have a career and a family!

    Well if you’re an adult, and you’ve made a choice, then I’m going to assume that your choice is the right choice for you. I don’t have any children myself yet (we’re getting there!) but I have friends and family who have young children, some are in the fortunate position of not needing, financially, to work. Some don’t need to work but do anyway because they enjoy their jobs, some need to work but wish their job would let them go part time, and some neither need nor want to work.

    I used to be a bit judgy, when I was a bit younger, and career was everything to me then, but I like to think I’m mellowing and better able to understand how things that are important to me aren’t necessarily important to other people, which is totally fine. We don’t all like bananas. I’m fortunate to have a job I love, so ideally when the time comes I’ll be able to return to work part time, a bit because I want to work, and a bit because I like earning my own money, and a bit because I went to nursery part time from when I was 1 year old until the age of 3 and I like to think I turned out ok!

    Clare if you want to stay at home, and you’re able to stay at home, they why should you be judged for having what you want? It’s not illegal, it’s not controversial. Some other people do, and some other people don’t, but most importantly it’s what you do.

  23. Posted July 9, 2013 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    I am currently in KL with a 3 month old baby “serving” what would’ve been my maternity leave in the UK.. as it happens, this maternity leave will last the 2 years of my husband’s post out here (unless I can find something purposeful to do.. which I doubt will be paid employment in brand management which is what I do). The thing is, I genuinely know that for me.. THAT’S the easier life. After my first child Holly I went back to work after a year. That’s when I realised that work, with all its challenges is WAAAAY easier than staying at home with babies and children. Its controllable, issues are solvable with a bit of brainstorming or throwing a bit of moola at the problem (if available). I admire those who stay at home.. same way I admire those who breastfed for year(s).. I couldn’t (didn’t). You’re right some people probably do judge, but that’s got to be about their own self issues. So.. I’m going to be flitting round a Condo and the ‘burbs of KL for the next 18 months.. and I personally think I’m frickin’ amazing for even attempting it.

  24. Posted July 23, 2013 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    My 12-week maternity leave is almost over, so thank you for this post. It definitely helped me mull over where I am!

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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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image by Lucy Stendall Photography

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