by NICOLE MADIGAN
Very rarely do you read an article by a stay-at-home-mother (the reason for that pretty self-explanatory really) describing working mums as selfish, reminding them of all the firsts they’ll miss or the difference in care their child will receive at a group centre as opposed to at home.
On the flip-side though, I’ll often read an opinionated piece by a working woman proclaiming child-care to be the selfless option (the children are being socialized) and using clever words (as we journos do) to imply that stay-at-home-mothers are simply content to be at home baking cakes, are over-protective and fail to encourage independence in their children.
While working mothers on the other hand, desire intellectual stimulations and are better mothers for it, putting up with the guilt of child-care for the benefit of their child and to keep their minds functioning well.
Let me say straight up that I support all choices – stay-at-home, work part time, work full-time – it’s a mother’s call and everyone of us chooses the option that works best for us and our families.
I am not a fan of any of the “choices” debates be it work/stay at home, dummy/no dummy, breastfeed/bottle feed etc.
I also hate the judging that goes with them.
But what I also object to is the frequent insinuation that women who choose to stay at home (or work from home) with their children are simply wired that way. Mumsy types without career ambition content to watch The Wiggles and sing nursery rhymes with their over-protected tots.
It’s simply not the case. I know from experience.
Until the day I fell pregnant, my focus has been my career. My parents raised and encouraged me to be that way.
Throughout school, I was focused on getting into uni (among other standard teen interests like boys and friends).
During university, I was focused on breaking into the media.
When I did find my way into the media, it was all about climbing the ladder and pursing my journalism dream.
And I was doing just that. I had a great job as a reporter and presenter for Channel Nine Brisbane when I fell pregnant for the first time.
I loved my job – and everything that came with it – the functions, the parties, the freebies, the fashion.
But when I had my baby, I just knew I couldn’t go back. Continuing in that position – as much as I loved it – would have meant seeing my son for just enough time to say good morning and good night. And for me, that wasn’t enough.
And so I left. Now I realise I am fortunate to have been in the position to have made that choice, but I do feel it was a sacrifice too.
And while I have been lucky enough to continue my career as a freelance journalist from home while caring for my two children – since neither are in care and I don’t have a nanny, it is, of course, limited.
That doesn’t make me a better mother than someone who makes a different choice – but it doesn’t make me an inferior woman either. It’s just my choice and what works for me.
It also doesn’t mean I’ve lost my love of writing or I now enjoy cleaning up vomit and poo all day as opposed to being out on the road, in a nice dress, meeting interesting people.
It doesn’t mean I’ve lost my ambition or look forward to working in the school tuckshop. Not that there’s anything wrong with that either!
And while I’d enjoy shooting a story a lot more than toilet training my son – I still choose to do the latter.
Not because I lack ambition or intellect, but because I feel it’s best for my boys. MY boys.
So when I read the constant stream of articles defending the working mother’s choice (not that I blame them for defending themselves in the current climate of parental judgement), I do have to wonder why there’s that need to put down stay or work from home mothers in the process.
It’s this notion of the inferiority of stay and work from home mums that often leads me to throw my former career (and current publications) into conversation for fear of being considered one of those mums who just don’t need intellectual stimulation or adult conversation.
I guess the moral of the story is that the choices we make don’t define who we are. There’s no stereotype for the stay-at-home-mum or the working mum or those in between.
Some choices are just that – a choice. Others are not a choice at all.
Yet we often put down the choices of others – intentionally or otherwise – in what I perceive as an attempt to justify our own choices.
Because let’s face it, who of us is actually sure we’ve made the right choice?
I know I’m not.
I’m just doing what I think is right for my family.
Do I have doubts sometimes? Sure. I think we all do.
But publicly pointing out the negatives of those who made a different choice won’t negate those doubts.
Nicole Madigan is a journalist, editor and communications specialist , an ambassador for the Miracle Babies Foundation and the full-time mother of two rambunctious toddlers. You can follow her on Twitter here.
Did you or do you plan to stay at home when you have kids?