When I had my daughter two and a half years ago I took an extended maternity leave of 15 months and I didn’t know if I had the intention of returning to work. Then the pandemic hit (incidentally at that same time I was due off of maternity leave) and I changed my mind. For the first time in a while, I wanted to do something for myself again, especially to take my mind off of the pandemic. I still had the privilege of being the parent that stayed home, did some work for myself in the evenings, and helped contribute financially in a time where things were more uncertain.
As time went on I found that my unpaid work, the work of being home with my toddler was all-consuming and I found it difficult to carve out time to do my paid work, especially when my heart was in parenting and not in my paid work. I worked until I went onto maternity leave with my son this past spring, but it got me thinking about how being a stay-at-home parent is no longer the societal norm, in fact, it’s becoming a radical choice within our parenting.
Recently, I had an appointment and as part of the introduction we went through a few things about me, so I could get the best out of the service and one of the questions I was asked was what do I do. For the first time I proudly said that my job was being a stay-at-home parent, and it’s not that I am even ashamed by it, but it is one of those things that can be taken either way and in some situations consistently looked down on by some people, that it ends up irking you every time you have to try and justify it.
Being a parent that stays home with their children is a whole job, it’s just as valuable as being a parent that goes out to work. There is no us vs them. Some of us parent full time at home with our children 24/7 and some of us parent full time from the office (or at home) while working for ourselves or someone else. It feels like returning to work is the norm now (and if that works for you and your family then that’s all that matters) and staying home is a radical act.
Choosing to stay home
Before we had children, when we first got married (and discussions happened even before that) we knew the kind of life we wanted to set up for ourselves, and although things will never go to any exact plan, we had a rough idea of what we wanted our life to look like. We knew we wanted to have one child (and later decided that actually, we wanted two), that I wanted to stay home with them, that we were extremely passionate about home educating them and not putting them in any formal school or educational setting and that we wanted to set up our life to facilitate that. These things are paramount to us, and while I am acutely aware of the privilege that I am afforded in being able to do this, it’s not by accident either.
So often in the media or maybe even on social media portrays parents who chose to stay home as parents who sit around socialising, drinking tea (or coffee). It’s viewed the lesser of the two options, it’s not celebrated and it’s rarely considered a legitimate career choice. In fact, if anything, it’s an incredibly undervalued way to spend your time.
Living a slow, smaller, more intentional life
We chose to purchase a home that we loved but also one that didn’t overstretch us financially. We have never factored my income into what we needed to survive. This way we have never had to worry about whether I work or not. Again, it’s a privilege I recognise. It is important to us that we prioritise this way of living over everything else. So often in our lives, we are almost conditioned to want the next bigger and better thing, a bigger house, a newer car, constantly creating a bigger and better (and more expensive life) that we end up needing two incomes to be able to achieve. This way of living is so deep-rooted, engrained and that it is expected that this the way we should live and raise our children.
Let’s not confuse things though, we live the fullest life. We do everything we want to do, we have a home that we love, and despite common perception, we have enough space for us all (and more). We focus on the things that we love and that bring us joy, being together, raising our babies as freethinkers, being dedicated to their experiences, home education, exploring outdoors, raising up and allotment from the ground and in the not too distant future we hope to purchase our dream camper van and travel, love, learn and explore.
Walking a different path
Walking a different path to the societal norm and not wanting to keep up with the majority brings up so many questions for so many people. Walking your own, outside of the norm, path seems to awaken something in others that makes them think that your choices directly questuon theirs. I can’t help it if my way of parenting and living life gets other people’s backs up or makes them feel like their own choices are being attacked, it’s certainly not my intention, but I also won’t water myself down to make others feel comfortable.
It’s about creating a life that not only looks good but feels good too.