by KIRSTY RICE
I was 31 when I had my first child. We’d been living in Jakarta for 5 months when she was born. I was a long way from family but I had an amazing support network of friends and fellow new mothers to talk to.
When I think about how we got together for coffee while talking about nappy rash, boobs and bottles – I also remember a lot of conversations about careers, future study, travel and the current rate of the rupiah against the dollar.
The group was like any group of women, amongst them was a chef, a nurse, a lawyer, a teacher and a few of the woman had already began studying either for a career change or just to improve their chances when returning to work.
I just assumed I’d take a year off and then return to the world of HR and recruitment – I loved the industry and I’d watched other woman take time off for children and return to work. No big deal, right?
Except it didn’t quite work that way. To say my career faced some obstacles would be an understatement. We moved, I became pregnant again, I was told “we don’t do part-time” by the office in KL (the same company I had worked for in Australia) and then we moved again, and again, and again. In each location I would find the same thing, a network of displaced women. Women who’d all assumed and hoped that finding work in their new country would just fall in to place.
Eventually though, it did all work out. We moved to Canada and after getting the house set up and the children in school, I investigated hiring someone who I could trust to look after the Little Travelers (Hello Rona – we miss you so much!) and I went and got myself a job back in the industry I loved.
In those first few weeks back at work I came home exhilarated. People asked my advice, I went to meetings, I found people jobs, jobs that they really needed and wanted – people thanked me. I spoke to different companies about their recruitment needs. I went on sales calls. All of the things I had taken for granted before children, I now lived for. It was as if my brain exploded, words I’d forgotten returned to my vocabulary.
I just never mentioned my children.
For the first month my desk was bare. There were no pictures of Travelers 1, 2, 3 and 4 – I didn’t bring them up in conversation. At the time, the guy who sat in the cubicle behind me was about 25, I’d listen as he explained his woes of tiredness to me. He was so busy.
“You should’ve come last night! The DJ was awesome – he didn’t come on until 1 though” and I’d smile to myself thinking that it was about the same time that the youngest little traveler woke up and wouldn’t go back to sleep. For that entire first month I went to work dressed as one woman and came home and became another.
Tell me which one of these terms sounds appealing to you?
– School Mum
– Soccer Mum
– Stay at Home Mum
– Class Mum
– Stage Mum
– Tiger Mum
Or, if you really want to make a woman feel good, try calling her “Mumsy”, as in, her hair/jeans are a little “mumsy”. Why thank you very much!
Being called a “Mum” still has an undertone. We all know it, we’ve all talked about it, there’s been films, books, articles, it’s all been said before, but we still haven’t quite worked out how to change the perception.
If we choose to have a few years at home with our children, how do we deal with the image change. How do you deal with the person at the dinner party who has assumed your days have been spent painting your nails in front of Oprah while reading about Kim Kardashian and a desperate Housewife. If only Stay at Home Mums really got to stay at home.
After I’d been at work for a month there were a few changes. The area that I was working in experienced some growth. My role changed and expanded. As time moved on we hired another person, then another and another and then we moved to our own office because we’d outgrown the one we were in.
In my new office my desk was littered with pictures of The Little Travelers, I spoke about them daily and it’s highly likely I bored my colleagues with stories of their conversations. The Little Travelers had people in the office that they adored and looked forward to those trips to the office where there was a possibility of a sneaky Mars Bar from one of Mums work friends.
When I look back at that time in my life I realize I needed to compartmentalize those two women. I was nervous about returning to work and feeling very insecure about my time away. I felt tremendous guilt about leaving a baby at home and not being able to have the same presence in my the little travelers lives. I wanted to be able to just put my head down and get on with the job.
That’s what all us “Mumsy” folk want. We just want to get on with the job, wherever that may be.
Kirsty Rice is an Australian writer and Blogger currently living in Qatar. After calling 7 countries home over the past 11 years she’s embarrassed to admit she still can’t pack a suitcase properly. Visit Kirsty’s blog here.
Have you ever kept your children a secret?