When I was younger (like MUUUUCH younger!) I thought I’d go back to work after having a baby at 6 weeks post partum.
I guess I thought I’d be a career mum and back in my Jimmy Choos. Christ knows why. Maybe movies? Media? It felt more feminist to teenage me? Who knows. (Still a strong feminist along with my husband of course but work and motherhood look different than I’d ever have anticipated they’d look for me and motherhood makes my feminism look different too – see below!)
I suppose pre baby you have no conception of what loving a tiny little person so much will feel like and what you’ll want to do.
I loved the team I worked with in my relatively new job before I went on mat leave but I knew I’d want the full 12 months with my daughter. I expected to be back at 12 months, and didn’t even really question it.
I never planned to be a stay at home mum.
I’d tell you straight up it wasn’t for me.
But my daughter had colic, silent reflux, suspected allergies, all kinds of things that made our first 6-8 months actually quite traumatic (I mean don’t get me wrong, I adored her and being her mum and it was also amazing but it was super tough!)
She’s a highly sensitive, super spirited girl.
My husband and I couldn’t find childcare we were happy with for a return to work at one year. Even if we had, none of us were ready, least of all my Cub – I’d never realised before how young one year olds really are, it’s considered so normal to leave these tiny infants.
I realised that as much as I wanted to keep the job and the team, and they were amazing and willing to let me go back part time… I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t right for Cub, so it wasn’t right for me or our family.
I resigned, which felt hard but also it was so clear it was the right decision for us.
So I resigned (luckily leaving the door open for a return in the future) and here I am at 16 months, currently a stay at home mum, something I’d have told you was impossible for me.
I struggled for a while feeling like it was just not feminist, I hated the idea of being considered a homemaker, and had so much resistance to the idea of being a stay at home mum… as much as I’d always have said I’d support other women who chose it.
I came to make my peace with it though because ultimately my daughter’s needs were my priority.
And then recently I was listening to an old interview with Eloise Rickman, a writer, parenting educator, homeschooling mother and children’s liberationist I find so inspiring and she describes leaving her civil service job to stay at home with her daughter. She also describes how it is a radical feminist act and I just love what she said as it made me realise being home with my daughter IS a feminist act and doesn’t change my core beliefs, it supports them –
*taking a moment here to acknowledge the privilege inherent in having the choice not to return to work*
She discussed choosing not go back as a senior government press officer, her « proper job » and how we live in a very capitalist patriarchy and that a lot of feminism now, for example Sheryl Sandberg Lean In style feminism is how do we get women to where men are, smash the glass ceiling etc, get as much free childcare as possible as early as possible, so women can return to work and catch up with their careers [my insertion: which is of course fine for those that want that], but what this kind of capitalist feminism misses is for so many mothers [and fathers] wanting to look after their children and stay home [or work flexibly, so both parents can be more involved], and that we’ve systematically devalued mothering and/or caring tasks which are seen as women’s work and not valued under the patriarchy. Caring tasks are devalued such that it’s often assumed that if you’re privileged you want to ship these tasks out to the less privileged so you can get back to your ‘important work’ of contributing more to the economy. She says « for me there is something deeply radical and powerful about saying I don’t care if I’m contributing to the economy, this work matters, and I can’t honestly think of many works, many jobs, many careers or vocations that are as important as raising the next generation of children and I think we can extend that to homeschooling and say that educating the next generation of children… we know from fantastic research that those early years with our children matter profoundly in terms of how children are raised, how children develop, how children’s brains grow… […] and yet we take children in those really precious early years of their lives and we tell women oh well that doesn’t matter, go back to work, contribute, pay your taxes, be an upstanding member of society. So I think there is something still very radical in saying you know what, I am opting out of this, partly or fully, or saying I don’t want to even if we have to because we still need to pay bills. […] For me it feels like a very feminist act to be able to educate my daughter myself and say I don’t want the state to educate my daughter actually… I’d quite like to teach my daughter feminist philosophy, I’d like to read anti racist books with her, it feels like a really political act to say you know what, we want something better for children. »
The full interview is linked here if you’d like to listen: https://youtu.be/x6Cky0h7Uik
So there we are. Parenthood – expect the unexpected. You never thought you’d see me stay at home mumming right?! (I do work for myself here and there where I can fit it around Cub with @infantsleepclinic and @clubstrongmama but it’s by no means the same!)
Thoughts for a Monday.