Jessica Rowe’s sudden on-air resignation recently has critics in a frenzy, searching for the ‘real story’ behind her departure. As an educated, intelligent woman who made the decision to give up my career to stay at home for my children, I am deeply offended by this response.
Why is it so hard to believe that a woman would choose to give up paid employment to focus more on their parenting? Why isn’t this reason acceptable?
I for one would like to applaud Rowe’s attitude towards her children and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. The problem is that most of us who choose to stay home, whether we be mums or dads, are too embarrassed to own this decision.
For me personally, a public figure giving us the opportunity to begin a discussion about the value of parenting couldn’t have come at a better time. As in Rowe’s case, my children aren’t babies anymore, in fact my youngest, at 5, started school this year.
Naturally I have been quizzed by everyone I see about what I do to fill my time now, have I got a job lined up, will I be looking for part time or full-time work? I have been completely overwhelmed by these not so subtle suggestions that now that my kids are at school I really should be working, otherwise I am a drain on society or simply lazy, all because I am not in paid work.
Since the beginning of the school year I have been wrestling with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, often leading me to question my self-worth and my purpose in life. If everyone in my life sees the job I do every day, parenting my children and organising the household, as unnecessary, what am I doing?
I’m not exaggerating either when I say everyone is asking me about work – people I meet at social gatherings ask, my mum asks, the lady who works the register at my local supermarket asks, the waitress at the local café asks… as soon as I lost that little hand in mine, my situation became unacceptable.
Even the government disagrees with my decision, focusing all its attention on getting mothers back into the workforce as soon as possible.
I am not one of those stay at home mums who begrudges other women the right to pursue their careers, I am all for choice – if you want to work, you should, and you should do it without guilt. But by the same token, if I want to put my energy into parenting and being there for my family to make their lives run more smoothly, shouldn’t I be allowed to do that too?
My job is being a mum, and I don’t need my kids to be at home all day for that to be the case. I do the school run, the after school activity runs, I am the supportive parent attending their special events at school, I wash uniforms, I make Easter hats, I make nutritious food for the family, I book medical and dental appointments, I buy their clothes and shoes and most of all, I am there for whatever they need me for, whenever they need me.
On top of all this, I am conscious of making a positive contribution to the wider world and I am a regular blood and plasma donor, I sit on the council advisory committee for the local library service, and I volunteer my professional expertise in communications for community groups.
I write and do small bits and pieces of work when the opportunity arises, but when people ask me if I work, I should say in honesty, no, not in the way that the world wants me to.
A self-made millionaire has come up with three steps parents can follow to raise a rich child.
I want to stop coming up with excuses as to why I am at still at home when my kids are at school. I want all stay at home parents to be respected and celebrated. My husband and I made a conscious decision when we had children, that one of us would stay at home and be completely available to our kids, but for some reason, society cannot accept this.
It is going to take more people like Jessica Rowe making this decision and being honest about it, to see a change. Parenting doesn’t stop the minute you send your children to school, I would argue that it gets harder – dealing with the demands of school and homework; navigating the turbulent waters of friendship; facing disappointment and hardship; building confidence and trying new things.
It’s a hard job, and one without pay, or even thanks, but parenting is one of the most important jobs in the world, and it is about time we started treating it like that.
Next time someone asks me what I do, I’m going to say I’m a mum. That’s my job and it is enough.