housewife and mother
0 comment Friday, June 20, 2014 |
My thinking went a bit weird a while back, only I didn't notice it for a while. I'd be watching women on TV, presenters, characters in dramas, actresses and so on, and I'd always be thinking the same thing - she's got children, so how come she's got a job? I did think it about men too sometimes, but far less vociferously I have to admit.
I took a year's adoption leave when our two were placed with us, then decided not to go to work after that period of time. Though both children were in school, it seemed to me they needed me to take them there and pick them up, and they needed me to be there at holiday time or when they were sick. They were two pretty traumatised kids who needed a very high level of support. My husband works long hours in a job that offers no flexible life/home balance so it was all down to me. I chose to quit my job and be a full-time housewife and mother.
I wasn't making a political statement. It wasn't a judgement on people who did things differently. I just seemed the right thing to do for the sake of two children who had had a shitty start in life. In fact, I might even say I felt quite noble about it.
But then, once, I spent an entire episode of Location, Location, Location wondering how Kirstie Allsopp could be filming up in Northumberland when she had two young children back in London. Now, I figured that Kirstie has a nanny or two to help her out, and maybe her partner was around to do the necessary, so I wasn't thinking her children were neglected. But I was cogitating furiously on Kirstie's choice to enjoy a working life rather than be with her off-spring every second she could.
After that, I realised I was driving myself mad. If I read a newspaper piece or a book written by women all I could think of was whether they had children or not, and if so, how come they were working? Out shopping, driving my car, women everywhere, and there was me wondering if they were mothers, and if they worked, and how much time they spent with their children.
I was going nuts. I had to have a word with myself about this obsessional thinking. And when I did, I realised that I was actually deeply jealous of these women. I was jealous because they had had birth children and therefore this somehow permitted them to have a life outside of the family. It was OK for them to work, their children were mentally healthy and could quite safely spend time with child minders or nannies or in clubs, because they knew only one mother, would only ever know one mother, and all the bonding was done within the first six months of the child's life, leaving the mother free to have her own life with no harm done to anyone.
My thinking seemed to run that as I was an adoptive mother, there were different rules for me. The bonding with my children was going to take years. They had another mother that they could go back to when they got older, so I better well be damn perfect if I wanted them to hang around with me by choice when they turned 21. I had better make my life about them, be in tip top physical and emotional condition for them. Think about them all the time. Sacrifice my life for them.
Yes, my thinking had gone somewhat squiffy. I had gone too far down the line of being sacrificial and self-flagellating.
This is probably because I didn't take to full-time mothering like a rubber ducky to bath water. I might even go so far as to say I hated it at first. Not hard to understand why; two children screaming at me all the time, rejecting everything I did for them, even as they cried for me. But it was more than that. Being a housewife means being responsible for a lot of menial tasks. My mum loved ironing, mopping floors and hoovering. I don't. Yet suddenly all that was the main focus of my day. That and supermarket shopping. I'd gone from doing an important, high-profile well-paid job, communicating with the high offices of this country, to seeing nobody and doing nothing but cleaning, food shopping, and being an emotional punch bag to two very disagreeable house guests.
How I didn't become depressed, I'll never know!
I just know that I made myself be a good housewife and mother through gritted teeth. It took me a whole year to get anywhere near as good at it as I needed to be. It is the most difficult thing I have ever undertaken. All I wanted, during that time, was to go back to work. To not have to shoulder the responsibility of this family all the time. And yet, me being there was what the children needed. I would have been a shitty mother had I have worked because I don't have a lot of energy and the children needed so much from me those first few months. And being able to volunteer in their school, accompany my children's classes on trips, attend special assemblies, and be there when they were sick - it has all been invaluable to this family. I did the right thing.
But when you start to look at other women and feel jealous that they have a career they enjoy, when it's all you can think about and it becomes an obsession? Well, That's when you know you need to have a rethink.
So I've come up with a plan. Literally, a business plan. I'm going to start my own business, working from home*. That way I can still fit my hours around the kids, but I can also shift the focus of my days beyond housework, to something more personally rewarding. I don't think I'd be any happier getting some crappy part-time admin job, which is the alternative, but I think I can be happy doing this.
I think. We never really know do we? Until we try? If the business falls flat on its face I can always go back watching Jeremy Kyle and playing online Bingo all day**. But I am hoping it will get me thinking straight again. It's low financial risk, so not much harm done if it doesn't.
Funny, isn't it? This is a massive thing for every woman who has children and yet it has felt like a very personal battle. Am I disrespecting, even harming, my children and family by channeling some of my attention elsewhere? Am I disrespecting, even harming, myself by focusing so much on my family and children? The answer will be different in every family, the balance found in a different place. But answer and balance there must be, whether the children have been adopted or no.
*Sorry to be so vague. Can't write anything too identifying!**That's what everyone who's not a parent thinks that full-time mothers do all day. I've learnt there is no point in arguing as they will just carry on believing what they want anyway. Sad, isn't it?

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