So this week has been quite surreal. I have told someone for the first time that I have no occupation, I am a stay at home mum, and I have spent time in the company of my much loved mum friends whose return to work is imminent.
Telling someone that I don’t know about my change in home circumstances is simple – they can chose to make a judgement or not, to care or not, to talk to you or not. Telling friends whose opinion of me I care about is not easy, especially when the are facing the same kind of family dilemmas and dramas that I am. As it happens I am the only one of my friends who is staying home, even those who have cried and told me how sad it must be to leave a child at nursery have decided that returning to work is for them. I will always support them – I am of the firm belief that motherhood is the single most difficult and challenging thing in the world, those of us who are attempting to do things the best we can need to stick together not tear each other down at any opportunity – however I am unsure that support is being reciprocated at the moment. There is guilt, envy, embarrassment, and sympathy between us, feelings unspoken are lurking behind the smiles and everyone carrying on as normal. But the comments about my sons social development being hindered, his opportunities for play and learning limited, and his enjoyment of life in general being dampened by being forced to stay home with mum have cut deep and hurt me.
By choosing not to return to work, I know that I am choosing (in part) a life of loneliness and frustration as much as cuddles and laughter. I have not made any mum friends outside of my existing circle (despite my best and at times desperate efforts) and my husband will be gone for the entire day, so by waving goodbye to work I am voluntarily signing myself to a lifetime of chores, meal planning, eating leftovers and sitting on the floor in my living room. The foreseeable future will be lonely and frustrating and I will be tired and sad. And we will be poor. But it will be worth it to know my beloved baby will be comforted every time he needs a cuddle and he will be protected from the scary world. My message to my friends: I know the decision you have made is breaking your heart, but the route I have chosen is not the ‘easy way out’. Whatever we do there will be some people who agree you have done the right thing and others who think you are making a mistake, just as there will be those who think you are mad those who secretly wish they had done what you’re doing. I’ll let you know later which of these applies to me!