I had an interesting conversation at the weekend with another stay-at-home mother. We talked about the frustrations and loneliness of the role. She comes from a country where childcare is very cheap and the cost of living in other ways very high. So for most professional women it is much more ‘sensible’ to employ a nanny and go back to work (they also do not have anything like our generous maternity leave legislation). In that situation, choosing to stay at home is so much harder and lonelier.
It makes me suddenly aware of what a privileged position I am in. I am so grateful for the opportunities to meet other mothers for play dates and coffee and walks. This has always been part of my experience of being a parent and I have probably taken it for granted.
I also think of what is lost to a community if all the mothers are engaged in ‘productive’ work. Our local toddlers group would struggle if it relied wholly on new mothers on short maternity leaves to run it. And our playgroup requires parents to take turns on duty – impossible or very difficult where both parents work full time. I can think of numerous other activities that I would be unable to do if I was working full time.
I am not criticising mothers who work: I hugely admire what they achieve. I hope to do paid work again one day. But I do know its not just our family that benefits by me staying at home: the community does as well. There’s a wealth of social capital to be found in women who do not go out to do a paid job.
So here’s to mothers who have stayed at home with their kids – to my own mum, to Sarah, to Kate, Jo, Ruth; to Jill, Karen Jenny, Sally and Alex; to Kathryn, Julie and Stef; to Wilma, to Glynis, to Enid and Gladys – precious women all, I’m thinking of you today.