Not too long ago I moved from South Wales to Surrey (and eventually back again, but that’s a different story), and with that I found myself meeting a whole range of different people, Mums at the new school my daughter was attending, people in the local shops, the children’s centre and new neighbours. When talking to these people there always seemed to be the inevitable question “what do you do?”, and each time I instantly bristled and clambered for an answer. The situation, in brief, was this- I had always worked full time until the children were born, I did go back part time after the eldest was born as well, but when the youngest was born my husband and I decided that I should stay at home full time, and live on one wage alone, cut out all luxuries and ‘manage’. There were many reasons for this difficult decision but it was the right one for us. Even so, when I was asked this question I would get embarrassed and splutter a weak “Umm, well, I’m just a Mum at the moment… how about you?”, and I would genuinely feel awkward.
I think this came from always having a good work ethic from a young age, and thinking that if you want something you should earn it, I was always a little judgemental of others who didn’t seem to be doing their best, until my youngest arrived and blew my perceptions to smithereens! So I always felt a little inferior not bringing home the bacon as well, so to speak, and the whole family relying solely on my husbands income.
Now I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing when the penny dropped, I don’t remember the exact conversation I was repeating in my head, who I was talking to or what started it, but I remember the sudden wave of anger, and it was all for me, I was angry at, and very disappointed with myself, angry that I had decided to demean myself yet again by saying “Oh, I am just a Mum right now, but I will be going to work again as soon as I can, it won’t be long”, belittling my biggest and most important task in life, I was making it sound like I was not good enough as a person, because I choose to do what was right for my family, how dare I let other Mums down by talking about our status in this way, and how dare I talk about bringing up those amazing children like that!
All Mums know we do our best, every family is different of course, but we all know as Mums (and Dads) bringing up children is bloody hard work, to say the least. There’s the sleep deprivation (oh how I know about the sleep deprivation), the nappies, the struggle to get into a routine, painful breasts (not so much the Dads there), the list goes on. That’s in addition to the emotional roller-coaster, and practical side of keeping a family home running. We do everything for our children, put our hearts and souls into raising them and sacrifice things to give them the best start in life. Which is why when these things are shared with humour they get such a warm welcome (you know, the MEMEs about being a chef, taxi service, cleaner etc), because if we don’t laugh about how ridiculously hard parenting is we might cry right? This Mum has, on many occasions!
Of course I understand that we have many identities as women as well, and plenty of responsibilities, differences and other roles that help define us as people- wives, daughters, sisters and so on… But when it comes to describing our parental role I think we should have confidence in describing it, and even celebrate it openly.
There are many people that are so desperate to have children that are struggling (I was one for a short while first time around), and I was doing them a disservice by not being proud of what I had been blessed with, I was being incredibly foolish, and when that penny dropped it changed my perception forever. From that point on my unapologetic answer to “what do you do?” was always along the lines of-
“I’m a full time Mum to my two small girls. They are amazing.”
I am working again now since both my girls are in full time school, but I am not ashamed, not ashamed that I am a full time Mum and not ashamed that I do work too. I will never again say I am “just a Mum”, in fact I had a job interview just recently, and when they said “tell me a bit about yourself” I started with- “well first and foremost I am a Mum to two small-ish children, that leaves little time for much else in all honesty!”, I got the job by the way…
So I would like to say to all you Mums- You aren’t just a Mum, you are amazing and should be proud of what you do, on a daily (and nightly) basis, the sacrifices you make for your children are admirable and you are undoubtedly doing an incredible job, it doesn’t take much to make us feel inferior as motherhood brings a dose of vulnerability I find, and we sometimes get a lot of pressure to be perfect, but just remember to do what is right for your family, forget what anyone else thinks and be happy with your choices. Your children will appreciate it in the end.
There is nothing wrong with being a Mum, and whilst it might not mean a lot to some it means everything to our children, so cherish it. I certainly am.