Selfish or selfless? Why I’ve chosen to be a stay at home mum.

I resigned from my job a couple of weeks ago, citing my children as the reason for doing so. But my kids aren’t just the reason I’m leaving; they’re also a convenient excuse.

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While it is true that I am choosing to stay at home so I can devote more time to enjoying my children, it is not the only truth. The other truth is that I’m kind of glad that I don’t have to do the whole “working mother of two” thing. Not being forced to manage spreadsheets,  diaries and deadlines, alongside sick kids, laundry and daycare drop-offs is a blessing. Being able to let the career ball drop means I am free to juggle the rest of my life. It’s a relief.

When I resigned, my boss labelled my decision “selfless”. I wanted to imagine that this was the case; that I was choosing to put my kids’ needs ahead of my own. But the funny thing is, I feel like I’m being completely selfish. That for the first time I’m putting my own needs ahead of anyone else’s…wow!

I think it’s easy to say that stay at home mums are being selfless – sacrificing their careers for the sake of their families. Putting themselves firmly in second-place as they focus all their energies on raising little snot-faced cuddlebags, and ignoring their greater yearnings to be somebody. But this is only true of women who love their career, have aspirations of high achievements professionally, and see themselves in what they do.  

Despite my frequent complaints and gripes about parenthood, I secretly love my role as part-teacher, part-chef, part-doctor, part-driver, part-stylist. For some reason, being made up of so many parts makes me feel whole. Being a mum, like any job, infuriates me, challenges me, and – occasionally – throws me into despair. But at this time in my life I would rather be there for my son’s developmental milestones, than those of my career.

I do not judge women who return to work when their babies are still small; I think universally all mothers need to give each other a break and stop judging each other. I know instinctively that returning to work is not the right path for me. I quite simply could not cope with handing my son over to daycare at his age. Luckily I am not weighed down by a heavy mortgage or household expenses that my husband’s wage can not cover. And while I can’t afford all the luxuries in life right now, I am in a fortunate position that I can choose whether I return to work or not.  I accept that not everyone has this luxury, and I’m grateful for the freedom I’m enjoying right now.

I have worked in the advertising/marketing industry for almost two decades. During this time my ego has taken a certain degree of pride out of climbing the ranks, working for great agencies and organisations, and generally getting a leg up onto the corporate ladder. Knowing that I am making a decision that could hinder my return to the world of marketing – the only corporate world I know – is frightening and definitely ego-bruising.

But from my very first job out of university I knew, at a soul level, that this was not the right industry for me. The universe has thrown out a billion road blocks in my way over the years but I’ve chosen to either hurdle them or ignore them as I have pressed ahead with job after job after job thinking “maybe this one will be better?”  

I’ve been doing lots of meditation and mindfulness training with my psychologist lately, and a certain degree of truth has been unlocked and unleashed from within. It’s now smacking me about the face with a dead, wet fish screaming “it is time to change, WOMAN!” 

But how do we actually stop what we’re doing and activate change? My children have also given me the perfect excuse to put my “professional”cloak back into the cupboard and root around for something new to wear. Something colourful, bright, inventive.

For now, my focus can be on my children which is exactly where I believe my energy needs to be focussed. They allow me to be as creative as I like; I get muddy with them, I splash in puddles, I make cakes that don’t rise and paintings that look ridiculous, I sing stupid songs and I read beautiful short stories…. This is my full time gig, and I do enjoy it. But I know it is a short-term gig, and the powerfulness of this role is that it is a stepping stone to a new adventure.

Being a SAHM also allows me the space  I need to focus on myself as a person undefined by career. It’s freaking scary to not be able to answer “what do you do?” with a professional response. But here, in this moment, it is exactly what I need. To find a way to define myself not by what I do, but what I am. 

Make no mistake, for me leaving work was not a selfless decision. It was a selfish one. And sometimes, they’re the best decisions to make. 

What’s driving your decision to return to work or stay at home? 

Food tips for lazy mums who don’t own a Thermomix

There was a joke I heard once that stuck in my mind because of how sexist it was.

Why is a bride’s wedding dress white?…… To match the rest of the kitchen appliances.”

used to think this was sexist. But now – having had two kids – I think it’s quite insightful.

I am permanently in the kitchen. When I leave the kitchen I get dizzy. I kind of mummy-chef-benz. All this time in the kitchen and I’m not even claiming to be a supercook. Squeezy sachets of pureed food line my cupboards because no matter how many hours I spend whizzing, frying, baking, and crumbing, there NEVER seems to be enough food to feed my kids. (They have appetites like me, Lord help them).

Source: Huffington Post
Source: Huffington Post

So here are a few quick ideas I’ve decided to plot down incase anyone else is struggling. And these tips are for parents who DON’T have thermomixes. Yes, us poverty-stricken mums who don’t have a few grand in our pockets to afford god’s gift to cooking. DAMN IT.

Not sure what a Thermomix is? Do yourself a favour – watch this!

My tips:

Tip 1: CHIA is ACE.

I’m not glorifying chia for it’s health benefits (although, it is a damn fine food in terms of Omega-3). I’m praising it for it’s mystical thickening abilities. Leave chia seeds soaking in milk overnight, splash a dash of vanilla essence in it, and booyah….porridge. My baby loves this stuff. And it’s way quicker than even toast; you just have to make it the night before….

Tip 2: Bechamel sauce (white sauce). On everything.

My kids eat veggies. I don’t think this is because I am a supermum and have done anything in a particular way to make them like vegetables. I know some kids refuse to eat their greens because they are fussy with food and have been that way regardless of what their parents did or didn’t do. But I learned this cheese-sauce trick when introducing zucchini to my daughter. She would not touch it, but soaked in white sauce, she couldn’t really tell what it was. Gradually, I put less and less sauce on top and eventually she one day, she was eating plain zucchini. Ta-da!

Tip 3 – Arrowroot biccies

These biscuits are better pacifiers than dummies. My son starts freaking out in anticipation of food from the minute I put him in the high chair. I literally do not have time to warm anything up because he is intensely crying, so I end up just serving him his food cold. Poor lad. But then, I discovered the secret of the Arrowroot biscuit. This handy tool keeps him occupied more than any toy, and he sucks and munches away giving me the precious two minutes to get lunch ready. Yes, these things have sugar. Yes, I should care about that.  But really, I don’t give a toss. It’s virtually the only sugar he gets and it is a dead-set lifesaver.

No 4 – Chops. 

Sorry Shaun, but you’re up for dinner. Lamb chops are an absolute MUST for any time poor parent with a fussy eater. I was sitting at the table eating my chop with my kids when I heard the most remarkable sound. SILENCE. We were all so absorbed in the salty slice of heaven in our hands that there was no nagging, screaming, tears or shrieking. Lamb chops, I love you. (No vegetarians in this house).

Tip 5 – bite sized Fish’n’chip ‘fingers’

OK, this one I will need to give you a recipe for. I never do exact measurements, so bear with me. You add some potatoes to the boil (about 3 medium sized ones). Once they’ve boiled, mash them. Add a big can of tuna in olive oil. Grate in half a zucchini, a carrot, and if you have some sweetcorn, throw a bit of that in too. Put in any fresh herbs you have lying around the place. Grate in some cheese and throw in a raw egg. Mix it all together with some breadcrumbs too. Then roll them and shape them into any shape you like (I make them like fingers so my son can get a good grip) and grill in the over for 10-15minutes, or fry in coconut oil.

If you somehow manage not to eat them all yourself, your kids will love them!

Tip 6: Fake it to make it with Cacao, Avocado and Banana. 

I confess, I got this recipe from Belle Gibson, so I feel a bit immoral sharing this. My conscience is appeased by the fact that this recipe is healthy and won’t be doing anyone any harm (unlike her fake claims that her diet could cure cancers!).

In a processor blitz raw cacao (about a tablespoon), a tablespoon of maple syrup, a full avocado and banana/pear (preferably, all should be ripe) and pretend it’s mousse. My three year old is none-the-wiser and my bubba goes gaga for this. You can thank me later :)

What are your quick-meal tips? Share the love people!

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We agreed on kids, but never on how many.

I first met my partner when I was twenty four years old. The “Kids?” question was one of the items on my first-date checklist, but there were many others. Do you give massages? Tick. Do you keep fit? Tick. And, perhaps most importantly, do you like Pearl Jam? Tick. Life wasn’t as serious as it is now; I was just as concerned by whether he was fashionable as I was by whether he was trustworthy. I didn’t quite get the importance of having aligned values as I do nowadays.

Once we established that we both wanted kids, we vacuum packed that topic like a bag of winter clothes at the first hint of spring. We knew we’d be addressing it again some day, but it felt like that day wouldn’t come around forever. 

Fast forward a decade, and here we are with our delightful pigeon pair and we have  fulfilled the promise we made to each other to one day have children. They’re both perfectly healthy and we thank the stars for that every day. They will have each other for company, and we can afford to provide a comfortable lifestyle for them both.

But…. I want more. And my husband does not. And no matter what happens in this scenario, someone is losing out.

How do we know when "enough is enough" with children?
How do we know when “enough is enough” with children?

How did this happen? How did we end up stuck inside our bunkers on opposite sides of the trenches?

When I look back over the years I realise that as our relationship evolved and conversations about weddings, mortgages, and (gulp) pensions started happening, we did start to plan our little family together. My fella said he wanted two kids. I said three. But instead of discussing it further and locking in a plan of attack, we’d just roll our eyesand say we could decide as and when the time came.

I always thought that our conversation was  theoretical. “In theory”,  he wanted only two children, and “in theory” I wanted three. There was a whole lot of life to be led in the meantime and anything could happen to change our minds. Secretly, I believed that I could persuade him over to my side of the fence. I thought once he fell in love with our future kids, the idea of having more wouldn’t be such a difficult one for him to accept. In theory…..

And here we are today, a happy family of four, loving our children more than life itself, and yet my husband will not be persuaded.

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I have found myself daydreaming about buying bunk beds so our two children can share a bedroom and leave the nursery available for the new baby.

I am looking at cars that are bigger than our Saab and could comfortably seat a family of five.

I’m avoiding giving too many outgrown baby clothes away…just incase….

And while my mind is refusing to accept that this is the end of my babymaking years, my husband stands resolute in his convictions. There are  a number of reasons that he is hesitant about having a third child; our finances, my mental health, (and let’s face it) sheer exhaustion! But even he admitted that he could have come around to see my point of view if it weren’t for the blow of the BRCA2 gene.

Recently, he found out that he carries the BRCA2 gene – and therefore our daughter has a 50% chance of inheriting the same gene (and with it a markedly increased chance of developing certain cancers). Now that he knows he has this gene, he is using it as the ultimate ammunition for his argument against having more kids.

“What if we have another girl?” he asks, as the cancer rates are higher for females than males. “I couldn’t face having to tell our daughter that We brought her into the world knowing it was likely she might get a terrible sickness that could cut short her life”.

I have loads of rebuttals at the ready. I fire them like machine gun bullets.

“But we might have a boy”

“But we are all likely to get SOMETHING we just don’t often find out what that something is”

“Even if it’s a girl, there’s only a 50% chance she will have the gene”

He fights back just as hard. It’s not like we are arguing about takeaway Pizza – there is no “half-and-half” option on offer.  This is an all or nothing decision and the “nothing” makes me feel so empty it hurts.

The gene thing is a card that he has every right to play, and nothing I can lay on the table can trump it. Now that all the cards are  dealt I’m feeling more than just beaten. I’m bereft. I’m mourning someone that does not exist and never will, but whom I had already started loving from somewhere in my soul.

They say you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. I guess in this case, I didn’t know just what I could’ve had until it became an impossibility. And all of this has got me wondering:

Is the number of children your heart desires is just as important as the question about whether you will have kids at all?