When I was a kid, I didn’t think much about what life would be like as a mum.
I always knew I wanted children, but when I pictured my future it was more like this:
(That’s not me by the way – it’s an image from 4photos.net that was captioned ‘woman relaxing at home’ ?!?)
When I used to think about life as a ‘grown-up,’ I didn’t picture evenings at home with a family. Instead, I fantasised about late nights in an office. Weird, huh?
My dream was to work as a journalist, chasing stories right up until deadline, heading home in the dark with the sound of a police scanner still buzzing in my brain.
And, eventually, I lived out that fantasy.
Then I got married and had kids.
As my second round of maternity leave draws to a close, I keep finding myself justifying and even lying about the need to go back to work.
Most of the other mothers I’ve met in my community work in part-time paid jobs or they stay at home with their children full-time.
‘I can’t believe you have to go back to work soon,’ they say.
‘Can’t you go part-time at least for a while?’ they ask.
I respond with lines such as, ‘you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,’ or ‘we’ve got a mortgage to pay,’ or ‘I need to keep my job.’
The truth is, if I didn’t want to go back to work I wouldn’t really have to.
My family could make some adjustments and we could live within a stricter budget. Our mortgage isn’t that big. And my employer is hugely understanding and flexible.
So, why am I going back to full-time work so soon?
Because I want to.
Until now, I’ve been scared to admit that for fear of being labelled selfish or a bad mum.
But I love my job. What the world needs to realise is that doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids too.
Who knows if I’m confusing ambition with ability or if it will all get too much come 2015?
What I do know is a stay-at-home mum isn’t necessarily a better parent than one who isn’t with their child 24/7.
Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg puts it best in her famous Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead:
‘Just as expectations about work hours have risen dramatically, so have expectations of how much time mothers will spend focused on their children. An employed mom today spends about the same amount of time reading to, feeding and playing with her children as a non-employed mother did in 1975.’
There’s time and there’s quality time.
There’s no right way to be a family.