Is it true that to be a good mother, your child must not spend time in paid for childcare? Do you think this ‘fact’ is just another way of putting a wedge between women? I believe it could well be a way of holding women back from achieving their dreams?
Before my husband John and I got married, we talked and agreed on the type of childcare we wanted for our children (if we ever had children). The agreement was that one of us would have to sacrifice his or her career for a few years. Well, at least until the children were in full-time education. And this was what we did when our first daughter was born. Practicality meant I was the one who gave up their career because it made sense to; John earned far more than me.
I remember the day I called my former employers (a well-known pharmaceutical company) to resign. I felt sad and angry that I had to give up my seat at the table. A seat I had worked hard for. A seat I was just beginning to feel comfortable sitting on. Please do not misunderstand me… I was really lucky and appreciative that John was able to bankroll the family. This must have been a big weight on his shoulders. And for this, I thank him. Not all families have the luxury of being able to make the choice we made.
For almost eight years I have lived for my children and husband. Living for them meant I was just a mummy and wife… and not Yvonne. For a long time I struggled with my identity as a woman and most especially as a human being. This identity crisis sometimes made me angry, emotional and sad. In saying that, staying home with my daughters has helped me to have a strong emotional bond with them. I have always been physically there for them, and perhaps for this reason they talk to me about what bothers them, no matter how difficult or embarrassing the problem may seem to a young child. I am not saying this bond is going to remain for ever, but we have laid a solid foundation for the future.
For some weeks now, I have worked part-time on a freelance basis assisting a Finance Director of a company based in Mayfair, London. And guess what? I love it! And surprisingly for me, my daughters and John are happy for me too. They can see that I am no longer a frustrated and angry woman who is living her life for them. I am now doing something good for myself. Something that allows me to dress up in my Sunday best, wear a bit of makeup, get on the train, interact with different people and to top it all, earn some money.
I never thought the day would come for me to say this, but I am a happier and better mother than I have ever been. I am still struggling with the balancing act needed for a home to run smoothly when both parents are working. I am getting there. So please, for those of you who are going to start pointing a finger at me – like I used to working mums – I say, judge me by how happy my children are.
I do understand why you may want to point your finger at me. Don’t forget that I was once brainwashed into thinking my daughters needed me 24/7 too. Like you, I also felt I was doing what good mothers are meant to do. I was under the delusion that good mothers must and should give up their careers to give their children a good start in life. A good start that can never be replicated if the child is cared for by someone who is paid to do it. I deluded myself into thinking these arrangements were not ideal.
But now, I have done a U-turn, and I say whatever works for your family is your business – so don’t go pointing your finger at working mothers. Working mothers like me. I was guilty of finger-pointing too and for this, I apologise. We, mothers are all just trying to do our best for our children. But first, we need to ask ourselves if we are really happy with our choices with regards to childcare. Or perhaps our children will be better off if we choose paid for childcare. Either way, no child deserves a miserable mother.