Monday, August 23, 2010

Work, identity and staying at home

This is another in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Zoey from Good Goog.

Guest post by Zoey from Good Goog

In a little more than two months I will be stopping work entirely. No more working from home, no more going into the office once a week. Finished. I've worked my whole life. And although I'd planned to take 6 months off when Riley was born, I ended up taking just 3 months off because the idea of working from home was just too tempting.

And as excited as I am about not constantly having my attention pulled in a million different directions, I know it's a big change. There are all sorts of words to describe mothers who choose not to work.

Full-time mother. I don't like it. All mothers are full-time mothers. It also makes it sound as though I'm completely defined by motherhood which I'm also not keen on.

Stay-at-home-mother. Also, not a big fan. It makes it sounds like I have some impediment which stops me from leaving the house.

Home-maker. Not used that often in Australia, but I couldn't even say this one out loud without laughing and/or vomiting.

There are a whole range of reasons why I'm making the choice. The primary motivation is that I am personally against using institutional child care until Riley is at least three. It's also a lifestyle choice for us. A division of labour thing. So that we're not running around before and after work organising pick ups or having to do all of our shopping and errands on the precious weekend. But also, it's really an emotional decision. I don't want to miss anything. And being away for one day at the moment when I go to work is about as much as I am willing to do. We've only had two nights apart since she was born and I can't say that I really cared for either of them.

I'm in the position of knowing what I'm getting myself in for, at least. Although I've been working, the vast majority of it is done from home. The biggest misconception about being a stay at home parent is that it is unfulfilling, boring and not stimulating enough intellectually. And I'm sure there are plenty of loving parents who feel that way. But I just didn't. Which was as much a surprise to me as anyone. It was quite a shock to find out that I found looking after a baby (or now a toddler) far more interesting, stimulating and just plain fun than doing my paid work. That I found just as much reward from baking bread in the morning and cleaning the house during patches of quiet play or napping as I did from my career. And the joyful discovery of everyday with a little one far surpassed anything I had experienced in my former life.

Of course, not every day is like that. Sometimes the whining never ends. And the house is a mess. And there are no naps. And I'm exhausted. And I dread going to the supermarket because I'm not sure I can cope with another tantrum. But that's all part of why it is so rewarding.

But I'm not going to kid myself — it's still a big life change for me. I'll have to work out what to say when people ask me 'what do you do?' I can see what it's like to live without deadlines for awhile. And I can do everything I want to do without feeling like my contribution to home and to work are equally substandard. I've felt for some time that something had to give with my writing as well — either I was going to need to scale it back or I would need to stop working and see if it turned into anything. I'll have run out of excuses, too. At the moment my response to demands are often 'when I stop working…' We'll see how true that is. Because we all know the whole line about stay at home mothers' not working is a little ridiculous.

Zoey is a reformed perfectionist, writer, parent adventurer, toddler wrangler, social media addict, photo enthusiast and book devourer. She blogs in words and pictures at Good Goog.


Yuliya said...

Well Zoey you certainly get around! (I found you on Scary Mommy today)I too struggle with ill fitting descriptions of what I "do"...perhaps Unpaid Momma would work?

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I stayed home with my boys then taught at the school they attended. Now I'm writing from home full-time.

In the stay at home world, there were definite biases against those who worked. In the working world, there were biases the other way. It's weird/sad/interesting how much of our identities are tied up in what we do and what others think of what we do.

Jenny said...

I switched from full to part-time when I had my first and then stopped working after my second was born. Even though it was only 20 hours a week at a low-stress job and my mom *could* have kept my girls (I think that would've been a serious handful for her), I wanted to stay home. I would've had to go back to work at six weeks. Not cool for breastfeeding! Quitting was the obvious choice for me, but sometimes it is hard. I don't get much done some days, I miss having work friends, and being with my kids alllll the time can get frustrating. I love it too, though. I used to work during a lot of my husband's Christmas break and other times off work, which I hated. Now there's nothing I'm unavailable for when it comes to my family, and like you said, I don't miss things :-)

Taking Time said...

I think to say 'I am a Mother' is a sufficient enough job description when you stay home. Mothering is the most challenging and most important thing we will ever do. I would also not be so down on home making:-) making a 'home' in which your children feel safe and loved and where your husband is uplifted goes far beyond housework and is its own super challenge. It is far easier to just work at a 'job'!

Zoey Martin said...

@Yuliya I'm certainly getting everywhere at the moment ;-)

@Jenny I agree! I think that one of the hardest things with my first was to get her to take the bottle when I was returning to work at 9 months. It was so traumatic (for both of us) and I am looking forward to not having to do that again! And while I will miss my me-time at work, I won't miss being chained to my computer

@Earth Mama *LOL* I'm not at all down on the idea of home making as an idea. In fact that's the main reason that I want to stop working so I can have time to clean the house and make meals and make bread (and generally have a nice environment) but in Australia I would be laughed at if I used that phrase - just a cultural thing ;-)

suzannah | the smitten word said...

so glad you're able to be home like you wanted.

i agree, all those labels are all horrible. i am a mother (like all mothers, working or not), but not *just* a mother. no qualifiers:)

Michelle said...

I say I mother full time. I also use the word homemaker. I feel much better about it after reading Radical Homemakers!

Anonymous said...

I was laid off last year and decided not to return to work outside the home. While I do have some paid work that I do at home, it's scant at best, and doesn't really amount to a 'career', per se. It really does leave me at a loss when someone asks me about what I do.

For the longest time, I was an engineer. A professional. A respected member of society. Now? Not so easy and clear. But I love my life even more. It's just finding a way to communicate that clearly that I find challenging.

Lindsay said...

I call myself a stay-at-home-mom usually, but it does seem a little silly since I don't actually stay home all day, I just stay with my son all day, whether we are at home or the park or library or mall!

I was a retail manager before baby so there was no competition. Being a mom is about a million times more fulfilling. I'd be a SAHM even if it meant giving up a career as a rocket scientist or neurosurgeon or anything else too though in a heartbeat!

Christine Wang said...

i feel you. i was laid off recently, just had a baby, and am learning about what it is like to be a stay at home mom while holding onto my other identities.

Sheila said...

This is great. I stay home with my little boy, and it is the most rewarding "career" I could ever have! I did accept a part-time job for the upcoming year, but I will be bringing Baby and slinging him as I teach. I don't think it matters much whether I work or don't work (for pay, that is), what matters is that I'm there for my son when he needs me.

I certainly don't feel intellectually stifled by being at home, though! I feel really freed by not having to drudge through a 9-5 job, so I have more time to spend on intellectual pursuits like writing and figuring out how my baby thinks. :)

mamapoekie said...

Great post. Sunday Surfing it!

Welcome to the Wondrous World of the Hausfrau ;)

Here's a little something about meaning

Michelle @ The Parent Vortex said...

I love being there with my kids and I know it's the right choice for me right now. Where I get hung up is in thinking about what other people think of me. Like Amber said, there is a respect given to professionals that doesn't seem as forthcoming for full-time parents.

When I can ignore what everybody else thinks and focus on what I know, I'm quite happy with the mix of SAHM/part time freelance writer that I've got going on right now.

Casey said...

When people ask me what I do, I say, "I'm home with my kids now." I was a special education teacher before they were born, but I don't think I'll ever go back to it, so I just leave it at that. I also love the choice that I've made, so I don't feel the need to qualify, justify, or explain it.

Melodie said...

Great post. I'm actually returning to part time work out of the house after being a WAHM for the past 6 years. And I am in the opposite boat of wondering what to call myself now. I don't want to define myself as a WOHM because it *sounds* like it goes against everything I cherish as a WAHM. Even though I will only be working 3-4 days a week at 5 hours a shift and coming home to homeschool my almost 6 year old daughter. I guess maybe I'm trying to bridge the gap between full time WAHM and WOHM by only being away part time so I can still devote most of my energy to being a SAHM. Phew. Confusing. I think this require a post of my own! Thank you for the inspiration!

Christie - Childhood 101 said...

After two and a half years at home I find it hard to even imagine going back to work outside the home.

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