I’m currently a SAHM and utterly unsure of my future without this job, so I thought I’d answer these questions from More than a Mum to work out how I feel…
How old is your child/children?
I have two daughters. Eldest born in February 2007, therefore currently five and a half; youngest born in May 2009, therefore currently three.
What did you do before you went on maternity leave?
With my first child, I was an information analyst with the Learning and Skills Council, a non-departmental public body. Or as it’s also known, a quango, so it’s now defunct! I was made redundant just before I got pregnant (oops) and finished permanent work when I was three months pregnant. I then took a temping job as an analyst with the NHS until 38 weeks pregnant.
With my second child, I was working part-time (three days a week) as an information analyst with the NHS.
How important was work to you before you went on maternity leave?
I’m not a career driven person, and right now I haven’t got a clue what I want to do in life. Mid-life crisis maybe? At first I thought I would be a stay-at-home mum as soon as I’d worked off contractual time to get the maternity pay! After having my first child, I was desperate to return to work as I struggled being a 24/7 parent so much. I didn’t know at the time I was suffering from severe post-natal depression.
At what point did you make the decision about whether or not to return to work?
With my first child, I didn’t have a job to return to. But I struggled so much with the newborn stage that I was desperate to get back to work. I was offered several interviews when she was four months old, took the one where I had been temping whilst pregnant and returned to work (three days a week) when she was five and a half months old.
With my second child, I didn’t want to take my first child out of the part-time daycare she attended so I only ever intended to take six months off for financial reasons, and returned to work when my second child was also five and a half months old.
What were the key factors in your decision?
For my first child, I just had to escape being a full-time parent. For my second, I was afraid it would be like with my first so I wanted to stay working. I loved my job, the people I worked with and the freedom away from being ‘just’ a parent. Financially there wasn’t much difference between being a SAHM or a working mum with two in childcare but with keeping my first child in daycare while I was on maternity leave with my second meant that I did need to return for financial reasons at that point.
If you have returned to work, how did you chose childcare?
With my first child, I couldn’t look for childcare until I had a job and I didn’t have a job or working hours sorted until I’d been offered one at interview! So I was somewhat limited in choices, looking for somewhere with places a month in the future. I didn’t consider a childminder for several reasons, but I suspect they would have had no spaces. I looked around two nurseries, fell in love with the first and saw the second just to be sure. A third I’d enquired at couldn’t offer me the three days I wanted at the location I preferred. As it was, my number one choice of nursery did have a place for the days I wanted so I was exceedingly lucky. We reserved my second daughter’s place there when I was still pregnant with her.
If you are a SAHM was childcare a factor in your choice and was this on a practical or ideological level?
Childcare was a factor in staying in work for longer than I probably should have due to several factors, including my health. I absolutely love the nursery my girls went to. They confirmed my passion for alternate education, proved to me that Montessori is the philosophy I believe in, and I plan to stay in touch, doing some voluntary work there in the near future.
Have you ever felt that the choice you have made was judged negatively by others and if so in what way?
Only by me so far! I judge myself as a failure because I didn’t succeed in what I set out to achieve. But then I think of my daughters and life seems so much better.
Do you regret the choices you made/were forced to make in any way?
I regret not leaving work earlier because I was too scared to, and I regret returning to work for temporary projects in the year after I was made redundant (again). I suffered post-natal and ante-natal depression and struggled to be barely effective at either parenting or work. I was too scared to leave work, to leave financial security, to lose the technical skills I worked so hard to gain. I was scared of being a huge failure as a stay at home parent, of not being able to cope looking after two small children, of losing my identity. I’m not great at the job but being a SAHM is the right choice for me here and now.
Is working part-time a good compromise or a way of trying (and potentially failing) to have-it-all?
It’s hard for me to answer this question. On one hand I do believe that part-time work is a wonderful compromise between getting quality time with your children and keeping up work skills, having some financial independence and grown-up conversation. But I completely failed the opportunities given to me. I struggled so much being split between work and home that both suffered. As my ex-line manager said to me before I left, he couldn’t line manage someone who needed counselling just to turn up to work. I wasn’t coping, something had to go and giving up my family wasn’t an option for me. So, for me, part-time didn’t work but full-time would have worked even less.
How has/will motherhood affect your career?
I no longer have a career! I feel sick at the thought of returning to work. The longer I am away from work, the less likelihood of being able to return in a technical role because the systems change so quickly. And I don’t want to struggle with something I’m only passably good at anymore either. So my future career is a mystery and something I will discover through research, study, volunteer work and hopefully a bit of luck…
So there you have it. I’m a SAHM due to two redundancies since first getting pregnant, due to depression, due to it being the best choice for my family. We won’t have holidays to Disneyland or trips to theme parks or the latest gadgets or many meals out but we don’t need them. We’re managing, we’re surviving and most importantly, we’re happy.