Thursday, 20 November 2014

Transitioning to being a Stay At Home Mum

I think that the transition to being a Stay At Home Mum has been the most difficult transition I have had to make. 

It was easier to move in with my boyfriend (now husband) and learn how to live with someone who I hadn't grown up with. It was easier to plan a wedding from a different continent. It was easier to move continents and set up a new life in the Middle East. 

I almost feel guilty writing that, because there are so many women who are forced back to work, because their family needs their financial support, who would much rather be at home with their kids. But it's the truth, and there's no point pretending that it's all been so easy and it's all rosy. 

Being a Stay At Home Mum is one of the most challenging and, at the same time, most monotonous job in the world. Firstly, there is no manual. Here is a child, now raise them. And raise them properly. 

I don't even know whether I am doing the right things. I read so many parenting blogs and books and Facebook threads on different aspects of parenting and I still don't know if I'm doing the right thing. Because the right thing is so different from family to family. We all have different limits on what we will and will not allow our children to do. There are differing opinions on when to just ignore them, and when to step in. 

Even with other mums who have a similar parenting approach, there are still so many differences. And this is a marathon, not a sprint. My decisions today may come back to bite me in five day, five months or even five years. 

I can't see the future, and the web of decisions that we weave is so complex and multi-layered that taking advice isn't the easiest either. There are no certainties. Sometimes the responsibility feels like a crushing weight and I'm not really sure how to take my next step. 

The thing is though, those challenges seem small on a day to day basis. They don't seem interesting. They certainly don't seem challenging. The choices I make on every day, several times a day, seem small and boring in comparison with my old career. 

I was a lawyer and I loved the excitement of preparing a case for trial. I loved the responsibility of sifting through the layers of information and instructions and trying to see a path way, to see our case play out amongst the tiniest bits of paper. 

I loved the tension and electricity that came with a trial or hearing. Loved sitting on the edge and observing, hoping to spot an inaccuracy, something that would add weight to our case. It was complex and demanding and exhilarating and exhausting, and I thrived on it. I love deadlines and pressure and, if I'm being honest, the feel of being needed and important. 

Obviously my children need me. They need me to dress them, feed them, change their nappies, carry them around, wipe their noses, hold their hand when we need to cross a road. My children need me for so many things, they need me every minute of every day. But it just isn't that glamorous. 

I speak to friends who are still building the career I have left way behind, and I have no idea what they are talking about. The law has moved on, even in the three years that I have been absent from the workforce, and I am literally at sea with the changes. 

I don't want to become "one of those" mothers, who talk of nothing but their children, but it's hard. My children have become my world, almost every little bit of it, and it's hard to suddenly wipe out their existence when you are out with non mummy friends. I try. I try really hard. Usually I try not to talk much about myself at all, but listen to them, and talk about their lives. And it's really interesting. I love hearing about the worlds that they live in, because they are getting further and further from my own. 

It got to the point that when my son was about four months old, I was so frustrated that I told Gary I wanted to go back to work. I had already been out of work for almost two and a half years and I wanted to get back to it. 

But when we actually went over the logistics, it was impossible. As I regularly say to myself and probably to everyone around me, you cannot have it all. Whatever your choices, there are sacrifices on the other side. 

And, for me, personally, the answer was obvious. I wasn't prepared to give up my children for a full time job. Especially not for a full time job as a lawyer. The hours are long, court cases mean 12-18 hour days, usually for the duration of the trial. To do it, I would have to literally hand over my children to someone else for almost all of their waking hours. I would not be raising my children, and I don't even have to go to work at all. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth. 

And it was that discussion, and my hours of pondering after it, that changed the way I see what I do. I'm making the right decisions for our family, and perhaps it's not the most exhilarating job on the planet, but it's the most precious to me. 

Those hours of pondering seemed to shift my perspective and my mindset. And it seems that was missing all along. I no longer feel resigned to my choice, I feel empowered by it. As if it truly is my choice, and not a lack of other options. 

I began to really look at my children. To see their smiles, their tears, and even the bags under their eyes. I found the wonder that had felt long lost to me. My kids can be chaos, and fussy and temperamental. But they can also be just amazing, even in their fussy periods. 

I look at my daughter and marvel at how she's grown in two short years. How her hair curls down her back and how she sometimes looks at me as if I've lost my marbles. How I know how to make her laugh, and how I love the sound she makes when she does. 

I look at my son and wonder where he got those long legs from. I can see his personality now, it's becoming more clear. His separation anxiety has kicked in, bang on six months, and I can finally work with him rather than just feel the frustration that I need to get things done. 

Don't get me wrong, I haven't turned into Mother Theresa, I can just see the good and the bad now. I know where my place is, where I want to be, and it's the acceptance of that choice that has made all the difference. 

I also gave myself permission to slip sometimes. There are days that are not filled with pinterest board activities. Days when the TV is on too much, or I don't have time to read the books my daughter brings me. I've cut myself some slack. I'm here, at home, doing the best I can for my kids, and that's ok. 

I can improve every day, and everyday will be better than the last, with some slips. It's a huge learning curve, and I learn things when I least expect it. 

I have also become more creative in myself. Which is why this blog exists at all. It's an outlet, a place that is just for me. A place that I can build on and discover and explore. Something that is outside the world of day to day childcare, but inextricably linked to it. 

I think that is the most important thing. To find things that are just for you, so that you can be a better person in the parts that are not just you. 

I'm a work in progress, but at least I feel like I'm progressing in the right direction now. 

Have you struggled with staying at home, or struggled with going back to work? I'd love to hear how you reconciled those struggles.