I have read the articles and listened to the conversations about working mothers who battle with the guilt of leaving their precious children behind to go to work. There are the many "Guides to being a Working Mum" and the array of childcare options to accompany them. But I do not hear much about those Stay at Home Mum's, who quietly deal with another form of guilt......
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love being a Stay at Home Mother to my beautiful 1 year old daughter, and I have no doubt that we have made the right decision for our family. But sometimes there is something inside of me that isn't at peace.....it rears it head as I watch commuters briskly walking to the ferry terminal in the morning, as Jacinda and I eat breakfast in our pyjamas, and it pops up again when my response to "What do you do?" is "I'm at home with my baby" gets the added "So what did you do before then?" insinuating that being a Stay at home Mum isn't valued enough in it's own right. This twang of guilt that I am not part of the real word, and the misconception of a few that I am at home with my feet up sipping tea and watching daytime television (which NEVER happens) does, I admit, get me browsing through the "Situations Vacant" section every now and again.
But what really causes this nagging sense of needing to work? I was forever counting down the days to the weekend when I was in full-time employment, and while pregnant I was ever so looking forward to putting my working days behind me for a few years.
Is it our money-centered society that is responsible for this pressure to work? everything seems to revolve around dollars, even in the world of children, complete with their own industry trying to sell you everything from specialist classes to designer clothing. Then there is the illusion that because children are in the picture we now require a large house complete with it's counterpart, the large vehicle to park outside to escalate your need for money. It's the never ending list of things we are lured into "needing" that puts pressure on the wallet and therefore the pressure on Mum to return to the workforce. But alas, these things we do, in fact, not need! Children need surprising little, sometimes even so little that, in today's world, you feel like you are on the verge of neglecting them. They need to explore and investigate the world and they need to be left alone to play with other children and make up silly games!
One of the most beautiful traits in a child is their creativity, they are completely free to look at the world and see what it is that inspires them. A face in a cloud, a fairy in the garden or their very own cottage in the woods in the form of a cardboard box. Sadly this beautiful trait slowly diminishes the older we get and is accelerated with those classes and activities we pay for. Take music for example, Masanobu Fukuoka writes in his book 'The One Straw Revolution' " A child's ear catches the music. The murmuring of a stream, the sound of frogs croaking by the riverbank, the rustling of leaves in the forest, all those natural sounds are music- true music. But when a variety of disturbing noises enter and confuse the ear, the child's pure, direct appreciation of music degenerates. If left to continue along this path, the child will be unable to hear the call of a bird or the sound of the wind as songs.
The child who is raised with an ear pure and clear may not be able to play the popular tunes on the violin or piano, but I do not think this has anything to do with the ability to hear true music or to sing. It is when the heart is filled with song that the child can be said to be musically gifted" so why do we pay for music tuition, when we really should be taking them into nature to listen and explore - the answer: Because it doesn't make anyone any money.
Or is this guilt for not being employed because of the slow dying profession of 'the stay at home working Mother'? and I don't mean this in the sense of a Stay at Home Mother who is also employed to work from home on her laptop, but a working Mother in another sense of the word, a Mother who works in the home not to earn money, but to save money. She does this through making bread, tending to a vegetable patch, sewing her children's clothes and many other things along these lines, they can all be done alongside the children, and older children can take part in the action too. When you have something to show for your day, not to mention something you have created with your bare hands, would that underlying need to do something more satisfying than wiping faces and changing nappies slowly fade? It is a beautiful harmony of life as work and work as life without need to separate the two.
Sometimes I wonder, What did these empty suburbian streets look like 50 years ago? I picture busy neighbourhoods filled with children playing hopscotch on the pavement and Mothers walking their babies down the road to visit a friend for an afternoon tea of freshly made scones and jam, nothing like the loneliness of a suburban Thursday afternoon in 2010. And, as I ask my Grandmother about those days she tells me that it really was like that, sure it wasn't all dainty and pretty and it required some serious hard yakka without conveniences such as pre-made baby food and disposable nappies, there also wasn't the options we have today for those Mothers who have a career that they are truly passionate about. But it was a simple and fulfilling life. Until recently, I did not have many of the 'traditional homemaking skills' such as knitting, sewing, and making certain things from scratch. I am so pleased that there is a resurgence in these arts, especially among young Mothers, it is as if this air of nostalgia, is also a sign of hope that true homemaking as a full time lifestyle is something that is desired...... which is also a first sign of change.
So, I must remember when those next twangs of guilt come on by, to be proud to a Mother who is at home with my baby. A Mother who can take my daughter for a walk to the park on a sunny Tuesday morning, cuddle up with her on a rainy Thursday afternoon and easily drop the days activities if she is ever not feeling well so that I can nurture her. I am a Mother who knows in my heart that I do meaningful work, preparing nutritious meals for my family, making clothing and toys by hand and giving her the gift of free play so that she can exercise her natural creativity and explore to her hearts desire. Because of this I am a Mother who has no need to acquire any symbols of wealth, because my symbol of wealth is a family who is abundant in health, joyfulness and love.......I'm feeling better already!!