At University I studied English Literature and wrote my dissertation on feminism – specifically on Gothic writing and how, through that literary method, women could assert their voice against the patriarchal domination of society! OH MY GOD – what a useful topic! As I am sure you can imagine, my expertise in this area hasn’t exactly had heavy usage in my life since I wrote that twelve thousand word thesis. I wasn’t sure what feminism actually meant in real life – all I knew was this: there should be equality in everything, as why not? And I went about getting a career and a husband and a beautiful family (pretty much in that order).
People ask: can women have it all? I could do whatever work I wanted to do, to earn money, to share the burdens of home life, to bring up my children in the way I wanted to, to acknowledge no boundaries to what I could achieve that were associated with my gender. Then over time these lofty aspirations whittled down into one thing: being a (very busy, very harried) working mother. My expectations of sharing the burden started to fade as frankly my husband had a job that was three times the size of mine and he rightly needed to focus on that. Someone had to hold it together at home.And the answer may be, yes of course women can have it all. If they work hard enough (harder than the men?!) and are lucky enough. But there is a cost. It’s a choice and when I look at younger women, searching for their big three of career, husband and family I wish I could whisper in their ear ‘choose wisely and think ahead.’ As no matter how smart I thought I was having it all, I didn’t grasp that there were unseen consequences. Being the pioneering working mother would mean I would miss crucial moments of my children’s upbringing. Tiredness from work would result in snappiness and lack of patience when at home. Relationships were strained. Life seemed a chore. Sleep eluded me in favour of ‘to do’ lists. Competing against contemporaries at work, who did not have the home commitments that I did, would eventually become a futile and soul-destroying exercise. Trying to have it all and be it all would represent a labour of love that in the end did not make me happy.
And so, with all of this in mind, I have decided to leave my job! A working mother no more! I leave in August!The idea of being a stay at home mother is synonymous with opting out of the working world; deliberately and meaningfully. It means accepting the routines of daily life. It means taking full and total responsibility for all tasks associated with house, food, laundry, social life planning, school, homework, sports clubs and so on. It means being there. It means there is not the excuse, ‘I’m working’ to explain absences or tiredness or forgotten birthdays or delinquency in writing timely thank you cards. This and so many other things…
So this is new to me – although I had a taste of it, as many of you have commented – didn’t I seem so very happy when I was not working?! It’s taken me a very long time to reach this decision, meandering round and round it but now it’s a decision made, done, signed and sealed, I feel it’s the right thing (although I am a little heavy-hearted).
I went for a walk earlier with the pup – round the fields as ever – and I thought how lovely it was to be in the air after a day spent at my laptop, talking on the telephone; working. It’s all started to make a different kind of sense and I am sure the future will bring good things.