Halfway down the stairs

The day to day thoughts of mother of three, fledgling gardener, and policy analyst.

Are you my mother? December 3, 2009

Filed under: folding towels,mothers,working — halfwaydownthestairs @ 8:29 pm

We all know the story of the little bird who woke up in the nest looking for his mother. He searches for her, asking all the creatures he meets, from cats to dogs to boats to ‘snorts’ (diggers) if they are his mother. Having no experience of mothers, he doesn’t know what he is looking for.

Becoming a mother is a bit like this. For all that has been written about it, painted about it, and talked about it, each time a person goes from individual to mother it is unchartered territory. As you carve out your role as best you can, you might look to your own mother, to your peers around you, to what media may tell you for answers, but in the end how you shape your mothering is up to you.

There are thousands of books which will tell you how to be a mother. I don’t intend to add to the litany. If I have any advice for you in your mothering it is – Trust your gut. Allow yourself the space to listen to yourself. Regularly assess your choices. Do what makes you happy. A happy mother is a far far better one than one who feels trapped.

I have been prompted to think about these things by reading Deborah Hill Cone’s latest on mothers. I was disappointed, if I’m really honest. I’ve always enjoyed DHC’s writing. DHC has written a reflection on her own current experience of becoming a solo mother: she says that all she sees around her are picture perfect families with stay at home mothers. I think that’s a bit like when you are thinking about becoming pregnant, and all you see around you is pregnant people. Your own experience colours your vision. I happen to live in the same suburb as Deborah. I know it’s a white suburban oasis. I know. But don’t expect me to beat myself up about it. I don’t happen to be a millionaire, I don’t happen to own a house here, and I haven’t stayed home with the babies over the last 6 years they’ve been around. Up to now, I’ve been working.

I’ve been a mother who works largely because I wanted to. I enjoy my job, I enjoy the work I produce, I get a kick out of getting things done. For me, that has meant getting out of the house and away from the folding of the towels. I have always said that for me, this has been the right choice. I have been a happier mother because I work.

However, in recent past, we had master 0, bundle of cuteness that he is. So for the time being, I’m at home, living the home life. I’m still not folding the towels – well, not today. I got masters 3 and 6 attacking the laundry mountain, and they did a great job. Note to self, that’s a good daily activity for them.

Anyway, being at home is good. Good, because family life has become less stressful. Weekends are not longer taken up with all the housework, shopping and cooking. I can focus on planning our household expenditure, meals, vege garden. I can spend time with my son on his homework. Does this make me a 1950’s housewife? Perhaps. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.

As I see it, while I am at home, I have turned my attention and energy from work to home. Working in the home, is for the time being, my job. I should do it well. It helps our household function. I’d like to think that if my husband was in a similar position, he would do it well. The hours I spend working for my family, at home, are valued in this house. If for one moment anyone forgets they should be valued, I remind them. It doesn’t mean I iron the busy husbands shirts (I don’t) or keep a perfect house. (I really don’t.) Nor does it mean my kids are home with me all day every day. (They aren’t.) But it does mean the childcare and household buck stops with me, for now.

Next year will hold other challenges. I know I will return to work at some point. I like it. But I’ve learned a bit from this year about having one parent around the home. It’s good. And I don’t think people who choose this as a full time occupation should be sneezed at, DHC. Many people make huge sacrifices to keep one partner, male or female, in the home. Weighing up working in an interesting job with the regular drudgery of making dinner is hardly fair. It isn’t about picture perfect families, or perfect 1950s marriages with 1950s division of labour, it’s about people making choices that work for them.

So what kind of mother am I, for the record?  I think I’m a snort. I’m the one that makes the most noise. I’m the tough one. Yet, for now anyway, I’m the one that brings the baby back to the nest. I might not look like a mother, or act like one half of the time, but my baby birds know what sort of mother I am. Theirs.

See you on the stairs,



4 Responses to “Are you my mother?”

  1. theharridan Says:

    Lovely post. We had book club last night and discussed Rachel Cusk’s “Arlington Park” – it is a book about the condition of women and motherhood and how it can feel. No one liked it (except me, a little bit) – it was very much about the end of your choices and your freedom. But it may be that this stuff has much to do with perception – that maybe freedom can be found where ever you are, whatever you are doing, depending on You. So I think you are right – it is all about what works for you and what makes you happy – that is the question women should be looking to answer, perhaps. Anyway, for the record, I am a very happy mother who stays at home. But not for ever. And that makes it all ok. x

  2. Anna S Says:

    Work has its own restrictions on freedom. As a stay home mother, I have a lot of freedom about how I spend my day. Of course, much of it revolves around the children’s routine, but there are many options, every day. I recently did some office work, a very quiet and rigid place, I enjoyed it, but I would say I have much more autonomy at home.

  3. Attass Says:

    More blog!! More!

  4. kylie Says:

    Having spent the past 9 years as a stay at home mum, I think I can safely say; it is bloody hard work being a stay home mum! You gotta make your own schedule, make your own fun, find friends that will welcome you at 5am, and will not require that you go out with them in the evenings, friends who think a trip to the library is a big adventure – one to reminice about on rainy days.
    The Problem, I believe, is never whether you are a stay at home mum, or a working mum; the problem is that you still have to do everything yourself.
    The way we raise babies in relative isolation is totally foreign to all previous cultures and all previous times until 2 short generations ago. The reason we talk of 1950’s housewives is because that’s when this type of nuclear childrearing took off, that Is the style we are still doing.
    So I say, Ra, Ra, stick together, give each other food packages, do random free babysitting for each other, be available for cups of tea, help each other with nappies, provide tissues when there are tears, be aware when depression is calling on your friends doorstep, be nice to yourself, never drink before 6pm, cereal is an excellent and nutritious dinner for everyone, …and all mums: stay at homer’s, working, breastfeeding, bottlefeeding, showered or otherwise, deserve medals and trips to Paris.

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