The conversation goes like this "So, Jenny, do you work?" And I say, "Well not at the moment because I'm at home looking after my kids".
And the responses to that answer can be chosen from the following options:
- "Wow, that's great - you are really blessed/lucky to have kids"
- "But that's working - looking after all those kids. Don't undervalue yourself"
- "Not working? But you're doing the best job in the world!"
- "I don't know how you do it. I'd go crazy if I was stuck at home with my kids all the time"
What I find interesting about the range of responses is that it usually reflects the choices the person themselves have made about kids and/or working. And that's my point. We all approach juggling parenting and paid employment in different ways. I think that's because people are all different and all manage to cope with being a mum in a huge variety of ways.
Personally I've chosen to stay at home because I wanted to look after my kids while they were little. I would have found it too stressful to juggle work on top of everything else. We've also made lifestyle choices (aka "100 ways with mince"!) so that I haven't had to go to work.
One of the responses to the work question that intrigues me is the "Don't say you aren't working. It is the best job in the world". I love my children, like being with them, and I certainly don't need convincing that it is hard 'work', but why is it the best job? If it was the best job then childcare centres wouldn't have any waiting lists.
I think people mean to say "Being at home with your kids is really important, and valuable and a worthwhile use of your time". Some people genuinely mean that but from others I find it hard to swallow. That's because they say it but the choices they've made reflect that they don't mean it. The upshot is that I've often felt like people are being patronising in a "Well, that's lovely for you dear ... aren't you noble?" type of way.
Despite my gripes I'm happy with how I've spent the last decade!