Stay-at-home mums vs working mums: we’re so over that debate!

Hands up those of you who are sick to the back teeth hearing about this stay-at-home mum versus working mum debate?

I’m right at the top of that list – and I feel that anyone who feels the need to look down on other people’s choices needs to get a life, and I’m not sorry!

Recent BBC research found that the rising cost of living is driving more and more mums back to work. Working and being a mum is now more than ever no longer a choice for a lot of women if they want to keep a roof over their family’s head, and keep debts from taking over their lives.

But it’s not all about money. Some women actually want and need to work for their own sanity. And who has a right to knock that?

I went back to work when my son, Joshua was a week shy of four months. Why? Well, I was working from home, and he was a very good baby who only woke up for a feed. I didn’t enjoy the mother and baby ‘thing’ as much as some, and I started to feel like my brain was turning into a blob – simple things would escape my memory, and to be honest, I don’t feel that my sole purpose in life is to be Joshua’s mum!

I am me – a person who has a life and aspirations – and as much as he is the no.1 priority in my and my husband’s life, we are still people! We are not defined purely by being parents.

Plus, everyone else is working, so being a stay-at-home mum basically meant making contact with people whose only commonality with me was pregnancy, labour and birth. That’s enough for a passing conversation at the baby clinic, but not for the rest of my life!

And the thing about being there for your child is important, yes, any responsible parent will make sure they have their child’s best interest at the fore. But research does show that children who interact with their peers from an early age develop better cognitively. I’m not throwing that in the mix to make myself feel better, either – we had the same experience with Joshua, who after being at home with me, or being looked after at home by my mum had a great relationship with us (and his dad), but found it very difficult to mix with other children because (I think), he just didn’t know what to do with them, and how to mingle.

And just how much is there to do when you stay at home anyway? I can get my whole house clean and shiny in less than two hours (yes, practise does make perfect – Kim and Aggie would be most proud) and I do all my cooking on the weekend so I don’t have to slave over a meal EVERY night. And with baby asleep and content, close friend and family at work and only available at evenings and weekends, what exactly do you do with the rest of your life? Jeremy Kyle is not my cup of tea, and watching TV all day every day isn’t real stimulation anyway.

The only answer is to find something to do. Set up a business or get involved in something normal.

If I’m honest, I feel sorry for mums who can’t see beyond the need to bemoan other mums who are actually doing more with less time by working.

It takes real guts to leave your child with someone else in pursuit of work or business. We are not heartless uncaring mothers.

I remember the day we took Joshua to his first day at nursery – I cried all the way to the train station. It was the most heart-wrenching experience I’ve ever had. But seeing how much more rounded, confident and happy he is today, to me, is testament to the fact that we made the right decision.
There is no perfect answer to stay-at-home mum versus working mum debate. The same way that there is no such thing as the perfect parent.

But one way forward would be to respect other people’s decisions, and let it be.

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Written by Joycellyn Akuffo

Founder and editor of www.motherswhowork.co.uk, a mother of two wonderful children, wife, entrepreneur (check out www.geekschool.co.uk) and journalist.

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