Last of a dying breed…

I’ve come to the conclusion that my mum could very well be the last of a dying breed. What I’m referring to of course are the famed “stay at home mums”. With changes in the economy meaning more parents are needing to work in order  to sustain their families and with more women actively seeking out their own careers it’s very possible that the days of stay at home mums/dads will be a thing of the past.

I’ve felt the need to muse about this today as I’ve noticed a lot of other issues that float around the role of what it is to be a stay at home mum. One concern I have is the increase in stigma towards being a home maker and the potential effects that this stigma could have towards both the mother and the rest of her family. Another concern I have is the consequences of choosing this path in life (or not choosing this path).

So let’s first talk about the stigma.

Child 1: “Hey, what does your mum do for a living?”

Child 2: “She’s a stay at home mum.”

Child 1: “Oh, so she doesn’t work?”

Child 2: “She does too! She works all day at home.”

Somewhere we developed this myth that “working” only ever occurs when we travel to a destination and then do something in return for profit… and soon as a stay at home mother neither travels nor earns a profit for her efforts then surely what she is doing is not entirely work.

When I was a child stay at home mums were relatively common with a lot of mums opting to look after their children full-time at least until they were in high-school whilst dad was the only proverbial bread winner. This option however has one major issue/drawback and that is simply put that by the time their small children are all in high-school, mum has been too long out of the workforce to get a ticket back in. In fact the odds are far greater that their children will enter the workforce before they do again.

So when a mother can no longer access the workplace (aside from volunteer work which though admirable isn’t truly perceived as work because how is that going to provide for her family?) and is left to continue acting as head of house cleaning duties what impact does that have on both her and her family?

One impact is the continuation of the above conversation “What does your mother do?” Wherein the answer begins to almost sound like a defence in the wake of what will surely be some level of scorn that one of your parents could be “unemployed”.

There is also a risk nowadays with most children having both parents working that when you come across a child that has a stay at home mum that they may be covered in guilt. “You’re lucky that your mum can stay and look after you at any time”. A child may feel guilty that they’re holding mum back from getting a career. A father may feel guilty that they’ve prevented their partner from chasing their own career… and a mother may feel guilty that her partner is working to provide for the family and that she is some how not as accomplished as her child’s friend’s mother who does have “employment”.

Either way you look at it, often the choice of whether to go back to work is a double edged sword for most. Going back to work means less access and time with your children, and more relying on others to do the right thing. Not going back can result in the worry of not doing your share financially to provide for your family, or dealing with the fear of never “doing” anything with your life. With society’s push that we should all be aspiring to have a career of some sort, to do something in life, we often discredit all those who just want to grow up and have a family of their own.

To all the stay at home mums out there, you’re job is the hardest. Each day you have to do the same things to ensure that your household runs the way you know it should. Each day you provide for your children and your partner and some days it feels too much and others it feels like a breeze. So mums, whilst there might never be a right choice between being a stay at home mum or going back to work don’t ever feel let down with your choice because it was the right choice for you and your children will be forever grateful. As for me? I know I’m grateful for my mum’s choice.

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