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I'm giving up my job to stay at home and wipe bums and snot off my legs

I wrote a letter thanking my company for the last five years, but regretfully handing in my notice. Now, I’m a mother who stays at home, writes Linda Duffy.

Linda Duffy

TODAY I GAVE up my job (pause for major anxious reaction). It’s okay, I think, but what the hell do I do now? The same thing I’ve been doing every day for the past year I guess.

So, the story is: This has been something we’ve been thinking about for a long time, since before Em was born really.

I’ve worked since I was 14. Actually, I worked before that, I’ve helped out in my family’s business since I was eight, but I’ve had clocking-in, rostered, taking home a proper wage jobs since I was 14.

And in all that time, in those 17 years I’ve never left one without a better one lined up or a plane ticket for some serious travelling booked…until today.

Today I wrote a letter thanking my company for the last five years, but regretfully handing in my notice.

Making the decision to stay at home 

Now, I’m a mother who stays at home. I’m an acronym! I am a game-creator, a snack-provider, a cleaner-upper, a bum-wiper, a referee, a maid, a punch-bag. This is going to take some getting used to.

This is what I always wanted, in theory. While I love my job, it has never been more important to me than my “real” life, not even close. I always thought that once I had kids I’d give up work the minute I had the chance.

I thought I might go back to work after the first, but definitely not after the second. I had visions of us going on days out, doing arts and crafts at home and having the house cosy and dinner cooked for when my husband got home and then we’d all sit around the piano singing songs before bedtime… wait, that last bit was Little Women, scratch that. But you get the general idea.

But in reality being at home with two small kids is tough. Like, really tough. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I had no idea how hard it was really going to be.

Often I am shocked by the shortness of my temper and by the tendency of my patience to desert me at the worst moments.

I have broken so many promises that I made to myself as a mother. Promises like “I’ll never say that” and “I’ll always be patient” and “I’ll never lock myself in a bathroom with a packet of chocolate biscuits while they bang on the door and cry outside”, you know, the usual.

sahm 9

You don’t automatically turn into Mary Poppins

Every time it happens, I make a new promise, and it usually holds a little longer, but something I’ve come to realise is that giving birth does not magically transform you into Mary Poppins.

I am still the same person I was before, and that person is pretty selfish, introverted and easily annoyed. I thought becoming a mother would magically do away with all that, or that somehow these traits would never come to the fore when I was dealing with my own kids, but that’s not what has happened.

I didn’t expect it to feel like work, but it does.

Everyday feels like those days at work where you’re so rushed off your feet that you can’t take your lunch and you have trouble finding time to go to the toilet. Except that your colleagues are all screaming at you and wiping snot on your legs and you have to watch them all the time to stop them sticking their hands in the toilet or shoving a bread stick in a socket. I find myself watching the clock when it gets near time for my husband to get home.

And yet, despite all that, I want to be at home with them. This phase is hard, but it won’t last forever, and when it’s over I’m sure I will wish for one more day where they cry for my attention and run to me with a million questions, trusting that I am the font of all knowledge.

The beauty of being a parent 

One day they won’t need me anymore, and I will be the one chasing them, wanting their attention. So, for now I want to be the one they follow around like little zombies, mindlessly moaning and screaming, covered in filth and gore. Parenthood, it’s a beautiful thing.

I took a year maternity leave with each child, the last six months were completely unpaid both times, so we had time to see if we could survive on just one wage. It took a while to get it right, but we learned how to make it work.

We made a budget, writing down everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) that has to be paid for each month. After we allocated money for bills we gave ourselves allowances for things like food, outings, spending money, and once they were spent that was it. I make a meal plan for the full week and only go shopping once a week so that we cut out waste. We drive a really crappy car so that we don’t have a loan.

So, basically we won’t be running off on any impromptu holidays anytime soon, but we have what we need and we don’t owe any money other than our mortgage, so we’re good. It’s hard work sometimes, and I do miss just being able to buy some new clothes or book a weekend away without giving it much thought, but it’s totally worth it.

shutterstock_182477483 Source: Shutterstock/Voyagerix

All kids need is food, shelter and love 

If I made more money than I do there might be an argument to be made for keeping my job in order to provide a better lifestyle for us.

Kids need food, shelter and love. They don’t need designer clothes or to be driven to kiddy yoga in a flashy car. If you want to keep working then I say go for it, that’s a different matter entirely, but if you want to stay at home, and you think you can’t because Santa needs to bring €500 worth of toys this Christmas then I think you need to re-evaluate.

Now, when it comes to the money aspect of this decision, there is also the little matter of how I feel about not having a job. I am and have always been, very independent. I have never, ever,  had to rely on someone else for money before, not while I was in college, not while we were planning a wedding or buying a house, never.

And I know it’s not the same, for a long time there hasn’t been any “my money” and “his money”, just “our money”, but all the same, it’s strange. I suppose I’m worried about giving up the reigns of my own earning potential and letting someone else take over.

What if I want to go back in a few years and I can’t get a job? What if our financial situation changes? What if I’m really not that good at being a stay at home mother type person?

What if. What if. What if.

What if I don’t do this and I regret it for the rest of my life I guess? That’s the answer to all that. What’s the point of going through all of this and working harder than I ever thought was possible, and still not doing it the way I know deep down I really want to?

I realised deep down I thought this was something that I wanted, but no matter what I told everyone else, I really hadn’t convinced myself that it was best for the kids. No, in the depths of my weird little subconscious I was afraid that I was using my kids as an excuse to opt out of working and take it easy.

Which is crazy. Obviously, I mean, I’m in charge of two other people’s bodily functions, come on! There are days that are just an endless round of bum-wiping and body cavity searching (I wish I was joking). That is not taking it easy! And also, underneath all that, lurking in the darkness, was another reason that I didn’t want to acknowledge.

I was afraid of what people would think.

I was afraid they would think I was lazy, or stupid, or that I wasn’t able to get a “real job”. I worried that they would have less respect for me because I didn’t “work”. I was afraid it would be embarrassing when I was asked what I did and I had to reply “look after my children”.

So, what did I do to fix these feelings? Basically, I got over myself! I realised that I don’t care what anyone else is doing when it comes to their childcare, so why the hell did I think anyone would care what I was doing? Women are really good at sabotaging themselves by imagining all this judgement being directed at them all the time. Seriously, I’m sure everyone else is so busy worrying about their own problems, that they really don’t have the time to give mine a second thought. I just need to remember that.

What’s important for my children 

And when it comes down to it, what’s best for my two kids is more important than my vanity, or my desire to have nice things, or my need for basic adult human interaction. It’s more important than anything, actually.

There we have it, I came to my senses and am now gainfully unemployed as a result. I may look for something very flexible and very part-time next year, because, being totally honest, I do miss all the speaking to actual adult humans that work involves, and it would be nice to have a little extra money coming in so that we can occasionally run away for a weekend and you know, stave off the encroaching madness, but that’s something I’ll think about a bit further down the line.

For the foreseeable future, I’m going to be focusing on these guys. Wish me luck, because I really, really need it!

Linda Duffy is a Limerick based blogger, sharing home decor inspiration and DIY tutorials along with occasional rants and ramblings about family life on her blog www.makedoanddiy.com

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Linda Duffy

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