Is this thing on? I haven't checked by stats as religiously as I used to, and good god am I glad I don't. I stopped by the other day and I think I actually saw tumbleweeds slowly making their way across my screen. Initially I thought perhaps people have abandoned me because I am dull beyond words (true), but I have now convinced myself (irrationally) that it may be that I only post every few weeks. It's not that I'm too busy, I'm not. I'm just lazy, and frankly, very dull indeed.
I'm going to broach a topic that ventures into the idea of feminism, a subject that in the past has been about as successful and enjoyable for the reader as a cooter wanding sans gel. I'll go ahead and talk about it anyway, because I need to vent and this place is about due for a post, regardless of how yawns it inspires.
In the past few weeks I have slowly been driven mad by my new-ish role as stay at home mom. As I have mentioned before, the UK allows a new mother a full year of maternity leave if she so chooses. I elected to take a full year, believing that during this year I would do fun things with my new baby - go to baby yoga and massage, singalongs, story time at the library, walks along the seafront, and numerous other things that perfect moms do. Halfway into this gig it's not quite working out like that. I go to coffee mornings every Tuesday held by my Mums and Babies group with whom I took antenatal classes, and last Monday I went to my first baby singalong. That's all. Oh, I occasionally take P. for walks along the seafront, but that's only because it's about 30 seconds from my flat.
I am finding it difficult to find the initiative to do much of anything that requires leaving the house. I don't even change out of my pyjamas on most days. A few weeks ago one of the other mums in my group said she would stop by some Friday and drag me out for a walk. I told her that I most likely would not be dressed, and she said, "Oh, I wouldn't come until at least 1pm!", as if to imply I only stay undressed until the late morning. I set her straight right away and I was met with a look of pity mixed with shock that anyone would dare not be fully dressed and made up by 11am, let alone 6pm. Why bother changing out of your pyjamas when you only have 2 pairs of pants that fit you anyway? Sadly, they are 2 pairs of pants I bought when I first found out I was pregnant, two sizes bigger than I normally wore so as to accommodate my growing self. I wore both of them up until I was about 20-22 weeks pregnant, so yeah...I'm doing well well postpartum, aren't I?
The paragraph above reads like a pamphlet with a little anecdote about a woman who has postnatal depression, but I assure you, I don't. I've teetered on the end of that precipice so I know this is just me being my usual moody self. It has just solidified my desire to go back to work, which is what I was always going to do regardless anyway. Much as P. is such a good baby now, I confess I don't totally love staying home with her all the time. There, I said it.
I know we all need time away from our children, but even as much as I love spending time with P. and seeing her grow and develop, I need to go back to work. The stay at home mom thing is so not me, just as I knew it wouldn't be. When I was pregnant and asked what my plans were as far as going back to work, I would always be met with, "You don't know how you're going to feel until the baby is here!" I would reply that yes, in fact I did know that I would want to go back to work, and inevitably the other person in the conversation would tell me again that I didn't know that for sure.
Why is it assumed that once a woman has a baby, she will feel the powerful biological urge to stay home with her child? Why are men never expected to make that sacrifice? I know we live in a patriarchal society which insinuates that the mother's role far exceeds the father's, but I despise the fact that it is assumed that I should be the one to give up my professional life.
I think this is particularly an issue here in the UK. I'll probably upset some UK readers (all 2 of you), but I think the pressure for a woman to give up work - either completely or by working part time - is enhanced here far more than it is in the US. Growing up, only one of my friends had a mom who stayed home. My Mom went straight back to work after having both my brother and myself, and strangely we have suffered no ill effects. Well, my brother is a bit odd, but as I'm sure you'll all agree, I am bordering on deification.
Here in the UK, it seems most women I know don't go back to work at all after having a baby, or work part-time. I work at a university, and even within that sector it is the same. My Mums and Babies group is composed of university-educated professional women, but I am the only one of eight going back to work full-time. One of my SILs hasn't worked since she had her first child seven years ago, and the other has two kids in school but only works 10 hours a week. My MIL once said about a family member, "Well, it's no wonder the little girl is such a problem. Her mom works full time." Goodness no! Full-time? Whatever is this world coming to? That five year old will be huffing paint solvent any day now.
I admit that prior to having a baby, I thought being a SAHM was a cop-out. I wondered why a woman would want to give up the level of independence that a job provides, allowing the husband to have all of the financial control. Now that I've done the SAHM thing, I have the very highest respect for women that choose to do it. It's not at all for me, but I understand the amount of effort that is required to do it. I want to go back to my job to do less work than I do at home!
Someone commented on an internet forum recently that working moms only wish they could be stay at home moms. I suppose their assumption was that a woman would only go back to work after having a baby if she had to for financial reasons. There would be no possible way a sane woman would do so otherwise, right? I must be a complete freak, because I like working. I like interacting with adults occasionally. I enjoy earning money and contributing financially to the household.
I would love to hear different viewpoints on this matter. I know it's hardly a breaking and newly controversial issue, but as I find myself defending my decision all the time lately, I'm curious to hear what people on either side of the issue have to say. I have a specific question for the current or future SAHMs as well: By electing to be a SAHM, aren't you surrendering any hope for a future career? For example, a woman who is a SAHM until her kids are in primary school is still 5 years out of the loop professionally. Wouldn't it be hard to get a job if you haven't worked in that amount of time? That is particularly relevant for women who are SAHMs until their kids are off to college. By electing to stay home from when your children are young, aren't you sacrificing your entire professional future?
P.S. I cannot seem to comment on any Typepad blogs, nor Jenn's at ClubMom. What gives? Any ideas?