Wednesday, 23 September 2015

I'm a stay at home mum and that's ok, for now

After months of agonising about whether or not to return to work, it didn't end up being my decision. I'd extended my maternity leave from 12 to 18 months but then was retrenched before the 18 month mark came up. It wasn't my choice but at the end of the day I think it was my preference.

I was a staunch advocate for women in the workplace. My job actually included promoting the successes of working women and facilitating support of women at work. I argued for flexible working hours, I campaigned for part-time, job share, working from home. All these things. I'm very keen on women working and parenting concurrently. I want it to work.

For me personally, I didn't have good feelings about returning to work after the twins because my previous attempt at working part-time wasn't particularly successful. I certainly wasn't looking forward to it but I don't think I would have been able to say no when the time came. I might have extended another six months but eventually I would have taken up the role that was waiting for me. I'm now glad I didn't because at this point in time I actually think me being home is the best thing for my family. I guess I should say thank you to whoever it was that made my position redundant. I'm pretty sure you've made a better decision for me than I could have made for myself.

Not entirely able to let go, I attended a meeting with the redeployment agency I was signed up to. Apparently getting a new job when I'm ready will be all about building and maintaining my network. The consultant suggested that I craft some words about what I do and what I want so that when I'm at parties I can easily put myself out there. Parties? What parties? Does he mean toddler parties? If I actually finish a sentence about the weather at a party I feel like I've successfully networked. If I get the opportunity to talk to someone coherently for more than a few minutes it's probably going to be one of my best friends. To be honest, I wasn't into networking when I had a full-time job and I really can't see it becoming something I'm interested in any time soon. Thankfully we have online social networking these days so I've signed up to Linked In. Consider me networked.

I have to admit while happy not working right now, I'm nervous about not working in the future. My four year Council term has come to an end and I won't be running again. I plan to volunteer at a few places so I'll have things to think about but this is the first time in over twenty years that I will have no income at all. A few people have asked me when I'll go back to work. I have no idea but I saw a job advertised last week that could have been perfect for me and I made a decision not to apply. Sometimes I feel like a traitor to feminism but I simply don't want paid work right now. 

There was some media buzz a few weeks ago about the CEO of Yahoo announcing that she's planning to take just two weeks maternity leave when her twins are born. I feel for the lady. No matter what she does she's going to be scrutinised for her decision. A lot of the criticism seems to be around the fact that she's setting unrealistic expectations for women who she is a role model for. For me though, our lives are so completely different that she's not a role model at all. In fact, our lives are so completely different that she may as well be some kind of alien creature. Apart from anything else, she earns over 40 million dollars a year. If I earned that much money I would work for a year (maybe six months) and then retire. Clearly we are very different with very different lives. She's not making the decision I would make but I have absolutely no idea what her life is like and I certainly don't feel any pressure to behave like her.

I relate more to whoever it was that coined the phrase, "You can have it all, but not all at the same time." Being a parent is taking up a lot of energy at the moment. Maybe things will change tomorrow, maybe in a year, maybe a few more years. If an amazing job fell in my lap today of course I would consider it, but I think it will be a while before I actively start seeking paid work. 

I'm not even sure what I want to do when I return to work. There's a strong likelihood I'll go back to what I was doing before but maybe I won't. Who knows? If nothing else, parenting causes you to be extremely self-reflective. Maybe I'll develop a passion for something new and start in a whole different direction. I definitely like to think the best years of my career are still ahead of me. Maybe I'll even be a late bloomer, Hillary Clinton style! 


  1. Well I'm about to start part time work after 18 years - transitioning to retirement.
    But either myself or my husband/father of my children were at home for the first ten years of their lives. Different times, different strokes and certainly different financial pressures for different folks. Your children will appreciate it - even if they don't realise it at the time!

  2. I love the bit about parties - I'm guessing the redeployment consultant doesn't have small children! So funny!
    Another great piece Julia.