Did you read the great article on The Motherload® recently, by Rachel Armitage? She works full time, as does her partner, so her two year old daughter is in nursery full time. Her daughter is flourishing due to receiving excellent care at nursery, and is learning lots of new things every day. Rachel wishes that she could take more credit for her daughter’s development, and yearns to be the one to teach her all about the world around her.
It really struck a chord with me and I could relate to her feelings perfectly. I felt exactly the same way when I was working full time and my eldest son, now nine, was in nursery four days a week, and with my Mum for the other day. ‘He’s so bright’, people would say, ‘isn’t he sociable and interested in everything’, and I’d nod in agreement, but feel sad inside that so much of this was down to the stimulation he received at nursery and with his Nanny. I felt like I was failing in my Mum duties, and that I had little input into how he was developing.
Fast forwards eight years or so, and things have been flipped completely on their head. I now have three boys aged nine, four and 15 months, and am a stay-at-home Mum. After reading Rachel’s article, I wanted to write from my current viewpoint, and perhaps that of other stay-at-home Mums, about the pressure I feel under to be an all-singing, all-dancing, superstar Mum.
Stay-at-home Mums should have perfect kids and be in complete control of their lives and families at all times. Because we don’t have a job to go to, we are expected to be a total master of childcare, parenting, housework, and general adult stuff.
Our kids should have exemplary manners, because we set a perfect example of how to behave, at all times. No blaming your four year old’s tendency to drop the F-bomb and eat like a feral animal on little Jonny at nursery, when he’s home with you all the time. And they should know all of their colours, numbers, letters and shapes by the age of two. And be potty trained by then too.
We are expected to be present at all nursery and school events, turn up on time, and with a big smile on our faces. It is assumed that every waking moment is dedicated to ensuring that our little angels are on track with their development, and that they have a social calendar full of sporting and other equally enriching activities.
We should enjoy baking and crafting with our kids, know the words and actions to all nursery rhymes, plus the signs too, and never, ever shout. Definitely no swearing under our breath, or wine consumption before bedtime. World Book Day costumes should always be handmade. Our kids should proffer home-baked cakes, decorated to Bake Off standards for every school bake sale. Think Mary Poppins and you are half way there.
What do you mean you missed your four year old’s first taster visit to school? How did that happen when you are a stay-at-home Mum – it’s not like you had anything else important to do. Guilty as charged!
“Your 15 month old isn’t walking?” (said with genuine shock to me at a toddler group recently, by one of those Mums). I assume that the judgey Mum’s thought pattern then went something like this… “But you are a stay-at-home Mum. You obviously haven’t been dedicating enough time to his development. Do you take him to classes? What do you mean, no? If I was at home with my toddler, I’d have him signed up for classes every day…”
And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to back away from the well-meaning PTA reps in the school playground. “You aren’t working at the moment are you? We’re looking for a secretary…”, or “Can you volunteer some time to man a stall at the Christmas fayre, it’s just everybody else is so busy with work!”
Well, I’m kind of busy too, actually.
It’s just the general assumption that because I’m not working in your typical ‘out of the house’ way, then I must have plenty of free time to dedicate to whatever cause needs me the most (I do volunteer once a week, see my blog here), with the remainder of my time being spent bringing up model children. Mums who work full time are forgiven for being a little late for parents evening and for hammering Amazon Prime for last minute fancy dress costumes. Stay at home Mums aren’t afforded that luxury. And with three children, there’s always a costume needed, a school event to volunteer for and so much school paperwork to keep track of. It’s practically a full time job in itself.
So, from my point of view, being a stay at home Mum is bloody hard work! I’m on call from the minute I open my eyes, usually 5am ish, until I drag myself into bed at night. And because I’m the main influence in my children’s lives, due to being the person they spend most time with, I feel ultimately responsible for how they behave, what they achieve and how many epic meltdowns they have over being presented with a banana that’s not quite to their specification.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my boys to death, and try to fill our days with as much fun and educational stuff as I can, but at times I feel weighed down by the responsibility of being teacher, chef, sports coach, and moral compass to three young boys. It’s exhausting, and I regularly daydream about the luxury of child free time, usually whilst making dinner with the baby on one hip, and the other two having a sword fight in the kitchen.
As the holidays come to an end, to be perfectly honest, I’m ready for their teachers to take a little of the load from my shoulders, at least for a few hours each day. And I know they’ll be total stars at school, they’ll listen, learn lots, do as they are asked with no arguing, and generally be the gorgeous boys I know they can be. Although having two children at school means double the bake sales – best get working on my cake baking skills right now!
Alison is a Sheffield based mum of 3 boys, who blogs as dippyeggplease about food, nutrition and general mum stuff. She can usually be found debating the merits of various superheroes with her boys, seeking solace in a jar of peanut butter, or on the school run!