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09th May 2015

The transition from working mum to stays-at-home mum: Our Office Mum diarist spills

"I’m about to face my biggest working-mother challenge yet"

 Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been writing Diary of an Office Mum here on, about the day-to-day challenges faced by working parents.

Like dealing with work when your child is sick, or getting through the day when you’ve been up all night with a baby. There’s the positive stuff, like the lessons I’m teaching my kids, and the not so positive stuff, like when the best part of the day isn’t really the best part of the day.

But for me personally, I’m about to face my biggest working-mother challenge yet. I’ve just finished up in my 9-to-5 job in Financial Services, and transitioned to work-at-home freelance writer. With no childcare. Let’s just say, the fear-factor is pretty high right now.

The move isn’t quite by choice – a restructure means my job is now in a small European landlocked country where English is not the first language. Understandably, my husband and kids were not enthusiastic at the idea of a move. Neither was I.

So I took redundancy, and after seventeen years as a 9-to-5’er, I’ve just stepped off the ladder.

At this point, I should say, I’m still standing beside the ladder, and feeling a bit dazed and confused. I suspect the realities of WAHM life will kick in soon.

Over the years, I’ve often had moments when I’ve wished I could stay at home with the kids – especially going back to work after each maternity leave – when the guilt is at its highest, and thoughts of throwing in the towel are strong.

But I’ve also had many moments when I was happy to go to work. For all the reasons lots of parents are happy to go to work – it’s a break, it’s a change of routine, it’s challenging and interesting, and it gets you out of emptying the dishwasher and sweeping the floor and breaking up squabbles.

Financially, I had no choice but to work all these years, yet I often wondered if that was a handy (albeit legitimate) excuse.

“I’d love to be at home with them more, but, you know, boom-time mortgage…” I’d say if asked, while at the same time questioning how I’d feel if suddenly it wasn’t financially necessary to work.

Would I really embrace stay-at-home motherhood?

The answer to that changed from day to day. A bad day at work made staying at home seem very attractive. A tough day at home made the office look good.

In the end, redundancy made it slightly easier to step off the corporate ladder and try something else, which is how I’m officially now a freelance writer, working from home, with no childcare. Did I mention no childcare?

So in the midst of emptying the dishwasher and sweeping the floor and breaking up squabbles, I’m checking emails and sketching articles in my head. And tough as it may be to juggle everything right now, I have a feeling that the writing side of things is making me better at emptying the dishwasher and sweeping the floor and breaking up squabbles.

And actually, the kids haven’t squabbled too much this week – it’s been pretty nice, if full-on and insanely busy.

It does feel like there are eighteen school runs a day (really, it’s just three), and I don’t know how many more times I can tidy the same Lego back into the same box, then watch the smallest delightedly spill it all over the floor again.

But the kids seem happy, and they reckon I’m doing a pretty good job as a childminder so far (they are assessing me it seems).

I suspect we’re in the honeymoon period. I’ll let you know how it goes. For now, I’m exhausted, I’m unsure but excited about the future, and I’m enjoying the moment. Now excuse me while I go pick up some Lego. Again.