That single mother who must work part time to make ends meet is also trying to be around as much as she can for her two children. Her parents help her out but the to and fro of daily life is not easy; there is a constant harassed air about her. Whilst mothers on the school playground gossip about how chaotic her life seems, she’s making things work the best she can.
That part-time administrator who earns barely enough to cover her childcare costs works so she can get out of the house a few days a week. Staying at home with only her small children for company all day, every day was driving her slowly insane. It was gnawing at her, day after day. Even though her in-laws disapprove of their grandchildren going to a crèche she loves the balance she has created in her life.
That mother who chooses not to work during school hours stays at home because she hates the idea of her daughter being in childcare every school holiday. Despite the whisperings that she’s lazy and should be helping out with the bills she is grateful that she can be intensively involved with her child’s school during term time.
That mother who works full time drops her children off at school every morning and picks them up from after school care every evening. Working is an essential part of who she is. Her circle of friends wonder why she bothered having children when she spends so little time with them but she knows her career choice helps her be a more focussed mother when she is with her children.
That teacher who gave up her career when her second child was born wanted to do it differently the second time around. As a stay-at-home mother she has no regrets but she senses the doubts about her abandoned career in the faces of her former colleagues. She can hear the whispers about the years of wasted training.
That stay-at-home-mum with a Masters Degree, the one with years of expensive education under her belt, worked full time before her maternity leave. She never felt the need to return to the corporate world once her maternity leave was up. Her baby tugged at her heartstrings and she knew she couldn’t leave him in the care of another for a job that left her feeling hollow. She reads the articles about politicians trying to get women back to work, offering child care vouchers as an incentive, but she can’t be swayed away from her stay-at-home role.
The parenting decisions we have made have arisen from necessity or choice, to do the best we can for our family, our marriage and our own well being as we see fit. These decisions are personal. Our opinions are personal. Our choices shouldn’t need to be defended. We shouldn’t need to apologise for our choices. As mothers we are often our own worse critics. We don’t need external critics too.
We read a blog post that puts stay at home mums on a pedestal and working mothers strike back feeling aggrieved by one man’s opinion. The online world descends once more into a whirlpool of working mums pitted against those that stay at home with their children. Article after article one group of mothers is judged, made to feel like they must defend themselves. Everywhere we look strangers are telling us what is best for our children.
The truth is this: only we know what is best for our children, what makes our family work. What goes on behind the closed front door of any home is a mystery to the rest. The tears of a working mother who missed her son’s first steps trickle unseen by her colleagues around the water cooler. A long distance caller doesn’t see the regret her good friend wears like a shawl on her shoulders about the career she gave up under duress from her partner. The stress a working neighbour feels trying to keep all the turning plates balanced for her family is not evident in her wave and smile as she steps into her car across the street.
We cannot pretend to know the intricacies of lives played out behind our neighbour’s front door, the emotions that hide behind the façade of a smiling mother’s face. We each have a family that no one else fully knows the complexities of. We all have our own battles, our own guilt to conquer, and our own puzzles to solve. The reasons behind the choices we make are not written in black and white for the world to read about. Nor should they be.
As parents of highly sensitive children most of us know what it’s like to feel judged, to feel the lack of support from those that should provide the most. Many of us know what it is to fend off those looks of bemusement about our parenting choices. We know what it is to doubt ourselves. To doubt our children. And we shouldn’t.
Let’s concentrate on our own happiness. Let’s concentrate on our own families. Let’s do what works for us as individuals, as mothers, as workers, as women, as partners. Let’s make decisions that work for our own children.
As mothers, we all have a story to tell. Some of us work; some of us stay at home and look after our children. You ask why? There is no why. Behind every decision there is a story. Our own, personal story. Let’s not have this conversation.