Stay-At-Home-Mum: Me? NO WAY!
I am a stay-at-home mum. After 26 months at home I am able to admit it.
Up until now I have always felt the need to tell people that I am on parental leave and that I have a paid job to go back to. A sensible, grown-up responsible job with travel and decisions, smart clothes and high heels. For some reason I can't explain, even to myself, I didn't want people to think I am a full-time stay-at-home-mother.
I suppose I thought people would expect a clean house, tidy children, a weed-free garden and a set routine. I was afraid they would only talk to me about breastfeeding, parent-teacher meetings and bake sales, not books, politics, travel or art.
I didn't think I'd be able to take it.
The day of my return to work is not far away. I can count on my fingers how many days are left. By some kind of paradox I am not excited about it. After many months of making sure that people were left in no doubt as to my employment status, I now find myself wishing for the stay-at-home life. A life I never thought would be the one for me.
When my first child was on the way, I remember telling my boss I would be back within the year. We joked about me staying at home full time. Hah, as if that would be enough to fulfill my life. After nine months I was back at the office, enjoying my new role as a working mother.
When my second child was on the way, people at work asked if I was going to come back. Two is more than double the work of one, they said. Are you sure a year off will be enough for you? In that year we bought a house, renovated it and moved in. The eldest started kindergarten full-time. The youngest went to our childminder. Work was a bit of a relief after all the events of the year. I got to drink hot coffee and listen to the radio in peace.
When my third child was on the way, people wondered at me even considering returning to work. What about the housework and the garden, never mind the school runs and extracurricular activities? Look, I shrugged, we've managed until now. We'll make it work. Anyway, I don't need a clean house.
After two bouts of parental leave, I still assumed that I needed work to keep me sane, to keep my mind occupied, to keep me in adult company. I'm not SAHM material, I thought.
I was wrong.
26 months have passed since my last day of telephone conferences, status meetings, business trips and presentations. Those months flew by in a whirl of nappies, first days of school, first steps, camping holidays, feeding chickens, walking the dog, tending the garden, discovering blogging, making new friends, volunteering and enjoying life.
I'm still sane. My mind is occupied all the time, and largely with things I want to think about rather than have to think about. I have lots of adult company and, you know what, my children are pretty excellent company too these days.
But I was right about one thing. I don't need a clean house.
Fionnuala is a project manager and mama to three bilingual boys living in Germany. Coffee in hand, she is usually found minding the children, planning projects, writing or cooking, all while keeping an eye out for vintage treasures and taking photos for her brilliant Three Sons Later blog.