Being Just Mum

E is for emigration is where I began this afternoon as part of the A to Z Challenge, but I confess my heart’s just not in it. I’ve been ill for a fortnight and have been ordered to take antibiotics and rest, as a cold has turned to bronchitis. Am feeling a tad sorry for myself at this point if I’m honest, but there is a silver lining, dare I confess – I am not allowed to go away in our little caravan with my family for the weekend. It is the first time in almost seven years that I have been home alone overnight! When I shared my delight at the sick note with the pharmacist, she looked at me aghast, and said that on the contrary she’d be devastated to miss a family camping weekend. Momentarily, I felt like a Bad Mother. Then I remembered that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks; and she works while I don’t. I’m a stay at home mum who spends a great many, sometimes seemingly interminable precious hours with my beloved yet enervating offspring. The mere thought of 36 hours without them in an empty house while they have a wonderful adventure twenty minutes up the road with their fabulous Dad and friends from school is, quite frankly, an unashamedly exhilarating prospect.

Too often in the past I have compared and contrasted my choices with those of other women, and found myself wanting or plunged into guilt. Now, I am secure in my core values and I know beyond doubt that being a stay at home mum is the right choice for my family. I wouldn’t trade it for the world and the longer I stay at home, the happier I am that this is the path we’ve chosen. Stay at home mums are not much revered in our culture, so it is just as well that I have outgrown the need for external validation!

I volunteer on the maths program at my eldest daughter’s school and on the first day one of the kids asked me what I do. I’m a mum, I said. It was on the tip of my tongue to say ‘just’, such is the conditioning of our society.  I had my children in my late 30s, I’m tertiary educated and worked for an American multinational for a decade before emigrating to Australia, and becoming a barefoot in the kitchen country mama. I often wondered what those women who were ‘just’ mums did all day, and expressed my own horror – dare I say it, even derision – at the waste of their education. Now I walk in their shoes – well mostly with no shoes but you get my drift 🙂 – I get it. It took a while, and I struggled a lot adjusting to this lifestyle – losing my corporate identity and my financial independence was extremely difficult, especially at the same time as becoming a mother as a newly arrived migrant with no support network and Post Natal Depression!  But now, I soooo get it. I get the what, and the why. And I also know that if you’ve never done it, you won’t understand any more than I used to. And that’s ok. My challenge has been to let go of my need for other people to understand me. It’s a process.

The older my girls get, the more unusual it is to be at home being ‘just’ mum for this long. I see articles on the news telling me what I do is bad for the economy, even bad for myself, according to the latest ‘studies’ apparently. I can get a bit pissed off and ranty about that kind of thing, depending on the day I’m having. But my girls are getting older now, and especially in recent months I sense them already slipping away from me. Which is as it should be, of course, and oh my god it has it’s benefits (#crochetaddict lol) – but it’s bitter-sweet, and hard to describe. The season of my life is changing, as they begin the natural process of blooming into themselves and away from me. The earliest years of their lives are a blur in many ways, consumed as I was with depression and anxiety for so much of them. I’m so grateful that I’ve developed a deep awareness of how quickly their childhood is racing by and how precious it is, and how lucky I am to be truly present for it all. I’ve gone from wishing the early years away to resolving to make the most of the time remaining, while they are still at preschool and primary school. I may be ‘just’ mum to many, but I am so very much more than that to myself and my family. And that is (more than) enough for me.

So here’s to a bloody blissfully quiet weekend, without those that I love most in the world 🙂

This post is also part of the A-Z Challenge: E is for…Embrace, Early Childhood, External Validation (not needed here), Enough, Empty House, Excited

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