Monday, 24 September 2012

Occupational hazard

I was on the phone to the bank the other day when I was asked what my occupation was.

I said that I was a full time mother. He replied "so you're unemployed?"

I said, no, I had a job, looking after my children.

He didn't seem convinced, and kept referring to me as unemployed throughout the conversation. I may not have a paid job, but it is very much a job all the same - one that gives me no holidays, demands unreasonable hours from me, and changes terms on a daily basis!

I've found this since becoming a stay at home mother. It's a decision I haven't regretted for a single moment, but people do definitely take you less seriously, as if not being paid for the work you do makes it less credible or worthwhile. It's something that I approach in the same way I would a paid for job; I plan our week out on a Sunday, and make sure we have an activity to do every day - no skiving in front of the TV or behind a magazine! Well, mostly.

I've also heard people say that they would find being a stay at home mum difficult as they 'need' to use their brain. I find this one difficult to get my head around - paid for employment is not the only way to exercise your brain! I can get just as much intellectual stimulation from reading an intelligent novel, or watching an interesting documentary - by staying at home to care for my children I'm certainly not leaving my brain to rot.

A heated debate on Mumsnet recently also provoked the view from a couple of working mothers that they 'couldn't stand to sponge off their husbands'. I find this a really strange point of view. If I am sponging money off my husband, then he by default is sponging free childcare off me. If he is 'allowing' me to stay at home with our children, then I am 'allowing' him to go out to work - it works both ways. We work as a team - no one is sponging anything off anyone else, we're just doing what we think is the best thing for our family.

Someone else said that children need a positive role model, so it's good for them to see their mother going out to work. All I can say to that is that my mum stayed at home with us when we were growing up. One of my sisters is a consultant oncologist. Another is a clinical psychologist. The third is an English teacher. So seeing their mother stay at home certainly didn't curtail their ambitions, or provide them with a poor career role model.

I've been a working mum and a stay at home mum, and there's no right or wrong answer. Everyone - just does what's best for their family, and it's sad when women sling mud at each other in order to defend their own choices.

What do you think? Do you feel judged for your choices as a mother?


  1. It does feel weird to be labelled as unemployed when I'm busier than ever as a SAHM plus I don't get to wave it all goodbye at 4.30. I haven't had any negative comments yet but it is early days (plus I think everyone seems to assume I'm going freelance, maybe they just haven't noticed I'm not?).

  2. Yep - I have never been so busy in my life!

  3. I am not going back to my old job after the maternity leave that I have just started, so am starting to grapple with how to describe what I am doing for the next couple of years... your being described as 'unemployed' has made my teeth itch! Even the cutsey Americanism of 'homemaker' is better than that! You make a good point about providing childcare for your partner, too.