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I'm Not A Stay-At-Home Mum, I'm A Work-At-Home Mum

Why is being a 'working' mum more prestigious than this no-pay, no-sleep, no-raise job?

20/04/2017 7:18 AM AEST | Updated 20/04/2017 7:20 AM AEST
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All my time was spent trying to find that sweet spot between her not being hungry, sleepy, bored, tired or upset, so I could get the bare necessities done.

Ever wonder who could have possibly coined the term stay-at-home mum?

I would like to know what they were thinking the job would entail. All I can picture is a mum sitting on a recliner with her hair up in a towel, waiting for her nails to dry as she finishes the last pages of the newest Vogue while her very low maintenance child with no demands or wants or moods is content to entertain themselves all day. And then the leprechaun enters.

I used to work three jobs a week as a student, then two as I was looking for real work, then finally one solid job that my education earned me. It kept me busy all week long.

The most challenging part of it all is that from the very moment my eyes open to see the light of day to the time my toddler goes to sleep, the sole purpose of my existence is to serve.

But even that job, as a senior account manager in cyber security working under high pressure to manage high-profile clients, still allowed me proper coffee breaks (rather than the ones where you scull the cup over the sink as you prepare to meet the next crisis cry from a toddler), chit chats with colleagues on what was going on in their lives (that doesn't involve the word kids) and the luxury of chewing and tasting my food, which I've come to learn is a much better way of eating than inhaling it. Oh, and most importantly, those glorious few moments where you can be lost in thought... Even though I am staring at the riveting contents of a spreadsheet, I am somehow also sipping wine on a white terrace in Santorini...

Then I had a kid and made the biggest decision of my life. I decided I would be the one to raise her, full time, until she goes to school. Yes, that means five years. That's 1826 days of 14-plus hour shifts. I won't be drilling that down to hours, in the interest of preventing a nervous breakdown. Big call, don't you think?

I will admit that I hadn't the faintest clue of what I was signing up for. It was all adrenaline (or oestrogen). Whatever it was, it wasn't logic.

Now, before I go on I want to tell you that if you are expecting a 'but the challenges were beautiful because the journey was magical' twist, this ain't that kinda story.

The first year I had one true mission -- feed, change, sleep, repeat -- until I didn't know what I did or when. All my thoughts were about the colour of poo or the cuteness of my baby, and I had a constant nagging voice in my head: "What is that cry? Is she hungry? Is she cold? Is she hot? Is she tired? Is she over stimulated? Is she under stimulated? Is she in pain? Oh gosh!!!! Is she is pain? Is something wrong? SAY SOMETHING!!!!!". Then I woke up and did it all over again.

If you thought that was bad, it gets worse. With every month and every year, the job was about juggling and handling demands, fussing, opinions, attitudes and let's not forget the icing on the cake... tantrums. Ahhh, the joys of tantrums.

I became a strategic planner. All my time was spent trying to find that sweet spot between her not being hungry, sleepy, bored, tired or upset, so I could get the bare necessities done, like grocery shopping or maybe even indulge in the luxury of a full two-minute shower.

That use of the term 'work' shouldn't be based on whether the job pays money or not.

And the most challenging part of it all is that from the very moment my eyes open to see the light of day to the time my toddler goes to sleep, the sole purpose of my existence is to serve. It throws in a bit of a twist when the kid is quirky, super active and gets everything out of an activity in the first few minutes. Then I start dividing the day into a gazillion 10-minute blocks and try and think of a million activities to do. Plus there's the must-dos that riddle the day. When it's finally bedtime for her, I don't have much steam to go on, either.

This job is rewarding like no other, just as much as it is challenging. And it's a choice I am very glad that I made.

I don't mean to take anything away from working mums, because I'm sure your lives are full of a different kind of juggling. But the only point I'm making is that as a mum, if I had stayed in my paying job which gave me sick leave, breaks and adult company, with the expectation of a 40-hour work week, I would get the grand title of being a 'working mum' which somehow trumps this no-pay, no-sleep, no-raise job with an expectation of 24/7 work.

The inadvertent judgment that you are subjected to by statements like "Oh, so you are not working?" or "She is just at home with the kids" makes that quite clear. Well all I'm saying is that use of the term 'work' shouldn't be based on whether the job pays money or not. I think it's time we changed the stay-at-home mum misnomer, don't you?


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