These days there are so many different methods used to raise a child. We have those parents who work, the stay at home Mum/Dad, the attachment parents, the ones who love to do their crafts, the parents who bake, the hands-on parents, the sporty family, the ‘naughty step’ parents, the strict parents, the on the go parents, the TV babysitter parents… Each dependent on the parent’s lifestyle choices, attitudes, their own upbringings, their career choices and the way they want their children to eventually turn out as adults. Yet even with the diversity of people in society today, parents are still judging and comparing one another and I really cannot understand why.
Up until I had a baby my life was focused on work, being successful and enjoying myself. I had worked from the age of 16, yes I had changed career paths a few times but work had always been important to me. It enabled me to buy my house, live the way I wanted and to have the security I so desperately needed in life (lots of moving around as a child led to me wanting to stay put once I found a home of my own).
When I fell pregnant I had every intention to return to work after the 9 months maternity pay ended. Not working at all had never crossed my mind, but then I had never experienced being a Mum before! As the date grew closer, my anxieties about leaving Jake increased. I not only worried about leaving him every day but also about the costs of childcare, my own tiredness and missing out on huge milestones in his life. Nobody can prepare you for the bond you feel between yourself and your baby or explain how young 9 months feels to leave them. I completely understand that for a lot of people there is no option in returning to work and for others work is their passion, but for me, at that moment, I just knew I needed to be at home. My husband could see how I felt and I didn’t even need to express it to him. This is where I was lucky. Not only did he see my distress, he also had his own strong feelings towards me becoming a stay at home Mum – he wanted our son to be with me, to learn from me and for me to the person who was reporting back on all those ‘firsts’.
We sat down and discussed it and it turned out that with me going back to work we may have actually been worse off. I had recently changed my career path by becoming a teaching assistant. The pay was nowhere near as good as a retail manager but it was a move I needed to make in order to fulfil my need to help others and to move away from the endless hours and stress found in running a shop. I loved working with the children, so it was a perfect step for me. Unfortunately, if I had returned to it, I would have been working to pay for somebody else to bring up my child. Add on petrol, wear and tear on the car, the cost of work clothes etc. and all my money would have been gone. So we made the joint decision that we would see how we would get on for the first few months to a year and to just play it by ear.
That was almost 3 years ago and I am still a very happy stay at home Mum. I won’t lie, we are not as well off as before, but we do not struggle and there are ways to make things work. You know that saying that you live to what you earn? Yep, I have most definitely spent far too much in the past just because I simply could. Right now our money goes mostly on our son and that is all fine by me. His needs are not money based though, they are love. Having lost my Mum nearly 13 years ago I know that money is not everything, but that time together is; you cannot put a price on that. My Mum was also a stay at home mother and I am grateful for that every day. I no longer get to see her, cuddle her, chat to her and find support from her but when she was here, my God, she was my rock and my best friend. If I can do that, even if it’s only for the first few years, for Jake then I know I have done what I believe is best for him.
People may question why I don’t work, they may even assume that I am putting extra pressure on my husband, they may think I have nothing to talk about other than my child, they may question how we can afford nice day’s out and holidays but judgment will not stop me being the stay at home Mum that I need and want to be. Being a stay at home Mum is also not all playtime, laughs, drinking tea and watching ‘This Morning’. It is about keeping a routine, caring for a tiny person who relies entirely on you, there is cleaning, shopping, errands to be run, pets to be cared for, appointments to be made and kept, activities put into place, learning time added in and being the home organiser. This is by far the toughest job I have ever had but at the same time the most rewarding.
I find the different ways of bringing up a child an interesting topic and I am always intrigued to find out how other ways work for those parents. I don’t judge or see the negatives because they know what works for them. I am equally baffled at the labels that are now given out ‘willy nilly’ which are then used for others to pass judgment. Ooooo look she’s a ‘slummy Mummy’ because she lets her kids just get on with it. That one there she thinks she’s a ‘perfect Mummy’ because she bakes and makes things. He’s a stay at home Dad, he must feel emasculated with his wife earning all the money. She’s one of those ‘hippy Mummys’ who wears her baby all day long, she will have trouble later on. That’s a ‘helicopter Mummy’ there watch how she hovers over her child and watches other children too. Why can’t she just leave them to play?!
Where did these labels suddenly come from?!
We are all different, we all have differing passions and goals in life. All children are unique and what may work for one family won’t work for another but that is what makes every method essential.
So if you cuddle your baby to sleep every night or if you work away 7 days a week, if you bottle fed from day one or are still breastfeeding your toddler, if you use the TV to get some peace during your day or refuse to turn one on, if you babywear or use self-soothing methods, if you stay at home or work full time, if you make homemade meals every night or chuck some nuggets in the oven you all have one thing in common… You love and care for your children and are doing what you think is best for them and you as a family unit. Stop the questions, stop the judgment and enjoy parenting.
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