Stay-at-home mums reveal their struggle: 3 women on the decision to leave work 8 years ago

Stay-at-home mums reveal their struggle: 3 women on the decision to leave work

Nikki Walsh brings us more rants from the regions. This week she chats to three mums who decided to become stay-at-home mothers.
Lucy, 38
If you had told me when I was pregnant that I would end up at home with my son, I would have been so shocked. I have always been very driven in my career – I did a Ph.D. alongside a full-time job - and when I got pregnant, I assumed I would take 6 months off before returning to work. But I ended up resigning from a job I loved because I did not think I could do the job to the best of my ability and be a mother to the best of my ability as well. Am I enjoying this time at home? I don’t know. There are days I don’t get to shower. I am exhausted all the time. I can’t get anything done. Sometimes I wish I could just put him in a creche and get on with my life, but every time I decide that’s what I’ll do I go and see one and I cannot imagine leaving him there. Friends tell me it’s my perfectionism holding me back. I know I’m lucky to have the choice - I'm not a homeowner and my husband can afford to support us - but most of the time it doesn’t feel like a choice. Sometimes I wish I had a mortgage to pay and that the decision was made for me because then I think – and I know this is dangerous thinking - that I would be free.
Clare, 38
I always wanted to have children, but I did not meet my husband until I was 38. As a result I’ve never taken my two little girls for granted – I still can’t believe they are here. Even so, I did not realise how fulfilling I would find being a mother until I had them. I had an awful childhood– my mother was an alcoholic and our home was a shambles – and creating something different has been incredibly healing. But making the decision to stay at home with them has not been easy. We have made a lot of sacrifices: we’ve sold the second car, there are no holidays, there’s no money for a babysitter. It’s been hard on my marriage: sometimes I think my husband would respect me more if I was at work. I hate the label of stay-at-home mother. When I tell people I am at home, I am disregarded as some insipid sort of sweetie, or worse, as some lady who lunches, who must have a rich husband and the life of Riley. I can’t believe people think it’s the soft option. Friends tell me going to work is much easier. I feel a little isolated from my working friends, a bit out of sync with my generation, a bit unliberated. And yet having children has liberated me in ways I could not have thought possible – I’ve let go of vanity and a lot of concerns about money. Surely that’s a good thing?
Mary, 33
I have two children and I am at home with them until we can avail of subsidised preschool. It’s a decision based solely on economics – my husband has the secure pensionable job, I’m the freelance creative, and my salary couldn’t cover two kids in childcare. I have good days and bad days. On my good days, I feel so privileged I can be with my children. I lost both my parents in my early 20s so I’m very aware of how precious this time is. We don’t have to rush, everything happens at this lovely, easy pace, and I have memories I wouldn’t trade in for anything. But on my bad days, when everyone seems to be crying, and I’m so tired I can’t think, I would give anything to be in work, ticking jobs off a list, high on my own competency. Do I feel judged? Not really. I live in a very settled area, so there are lots of older people here who are very supportive of what I am doing. I probably have more in common with them than my own generation. Older people seem to delight in children more than my peers. I think that’s sad. A lot of my friends don’t have time to enjoy their children.

Nikki Walsh is a writer and editor with a passion for what makes us tick. She lives in Dublin with her husband, her son and a heap of books, mostly on psychology.

Join Nikki next week for more mum rants.