As I prepare to return to the workforce after 15 months of looking after my two boys I am torn in two. One side of me is terrified of the potential negative affects that my absence will bring, the other is excited to be going back out in to the world and dealing with adults every day. A third side is the constant guilt that seems to sit in the pit of my stomach whatever I do.
My guilt is mainly based on the conundrum most Mums face at one time or another that is, “Are working Mums sub-standard to stay-at-home ones?” Society seems to be split down the middle on this, and each side passionately highlights the pros of their view. For me despite Motherhood being the most rewarding, fascinating and important work I have done to date, I need to maintain a sense of purpose outside of being a Mum and housewife. I also need a break from the relentless intensity of Motherhood. But does that mean I am being selfish and shirking my primary responsibility to my children?
And then a thought occurred to me, maybe I am thinking about this the wrong way. Surely who you are, rather than how much time you spend, has so much more influence on how your children develop? When you hear about children who are traumatised it is rarely because of a Mother working, and more likely to be based on the mental health, or lack thereof, of their parents. I can’t help but think that all this focus placed on whether Mothers who go to work should never have had children, would be better placed on ensuring the stability of all Mothers.
Having grown up under the care of a lovely but very anxious stay-at-home Mother, I believe the greatest gift you can give your children is your own security. The saying goes “Happy Mum=Happy Child”, but I think ‘happy’ may be too glib. Happiness for me is just a symptom of something altogether more profound and that is an inherent belief in and acceptance of self.
That means when you look at your true self, you know the flawed one you hide under the surface, you don’t cringe or feel anxious. Instead you feel love, you understand and accept. Actually you just like yourself. Sounds simple, but for me, self-loathing comes a lot more easily, and a Mother who can’t look after herself emotionally, will struggle to properly care for others too.
In my view you can stay at home and give up everything for them but if you don’t like yourself you may not be doing them the big favour that you think you are. Equally going to work maybe the thing that stresses you out and makes you doubt yourself. Whatever the reason, if your stability is compromised this may have a much greater negative affect on your children, than whether you spend 100 or 60 hours with them a week.
So for me I am trying something that makes me feel more secure and content, if it doesn’t or it looks as though my boys aren’t thriving in their new routine, I will try something else. All I know is with my housewife hangups, working out in the world is the healthiest option for my sense of self and therefore despite what others may think, it is also the best thing for my beautiful boys and the confident, understanding and respectful future I dream of for them.
This might help with the guilts: a study of more than 5000 children over a period of 8 years, has found that there is no long term negative impact on children who were in care earlier or for longer.
iVillage.com.au reports that:
Based on thousands of children tracked in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, the study examined how the children got on with the other children and with childcare workers in the centre, the level of problem behaviours they exhibited, and how much they appeared to enjoy what they were doing during the day amongst other things. The findings were based on reports by teachers and parents.
A significant difference between the groups was apparent on only one measure – boys! Boys who had been in a combination of centre-based and home care as babies tended to have more conflicts with childcare workers.
Have you got kids in child care? Do you ever feel like Nicole did? Were you surprised by the findings of this new study?