My daughter is 6 months old now, so when I meet people. they often ask “So, what do you do?” When I reply “Well, I take care of Madelyn,” they look kind of put off by that, so I always find myself qualifying it by saying “I do teach 3 dance classes a week…”
Because it seems there is something wrong with spending your days caring for your family.
Women are assured that they’re not “just” a mum, that what they do makes a difference, that they have an important role in society. But I don’t really think that society’s view of stay-at-home mums is always that they’re unworthy. Mothers are becoming more and more valued, and raising a child who becomes a successful adult is considered significant. No, I don’t think that people are put off by my doing “nothing” because of their view of me as being lazy or not making a difference.
It seems to come from the perspective that I could not possibly be fulfilled by staying at home with my child.
They don’t look at me with disdain. They look at me with pity. I am educated, and have a high earning potential. And it seems to be generally well-accepted that someone like me, who could do very well working outside of home, would be bored at home with my baby. So they really can’t understand it when I claim to be so happy. In fact, the answer I get when I qualify myself by mentioning the dance classes I teach is a relieved “Oh, it must be nice to get a break from Madelyn.”
I don’t know if I’m a member of the norm, or not, but having Madelyn in a different building to me stresses me out. A different room is bad enough. The longest I have been away from her, apart from the 2 hours of surgery the night she was born, is an hour. One hour which felt like an eternity, where an invisible hook in my stomach pulled me towards the door, compelling me to go and find her.
Time with adults is wonderful. Time to dance, to shop, to read a book, is fantastic. But time away from her is not what I need. On days where I feel like it’s all too much, what would be far more helpful than being away from her, would be to have someone come and spend time with us both. Play with her while I have a shower, take a nap, or just sit and do whatever I want. Come and do my dishes, vacuum the house, or fold the washing. Time away from her isn’t what rejuvenates me. Time away from the heavy responsibilities of my new life is what rejuvenates me.
There are a whole lot of things that I love doing, and could do as a job. But I love kissing the soft underside of her chin more. I do have days where I wish I could be more involved at the dance studio, but I remind myself that I’m never going to regret the time I spend with Madelyn. There is not one moment of her life that I have missed. I received her first smile. I made her giggle her first giggle. I saw her first clumsy attempts at crawling. I wouldn’t swap those moments for anything.
I am so, so thankful that my husband and I are in a position that allows me to stay at home for as long as I like. I know how rare that is these days, so I don’t take the privilege lightly.
I don’t need pity. I don’t need assurance that time without her is good for me. At home with my baby, I am more happy than I have ever been.