Monday morning I’m flying out for NYC and Mr M will be working single dad for the next two weeks. He’s very hands on with the kids and even though we share the running of the household (as best we can) and we don’t put limitations on each other when it comes to work, things still fall into a divide that really can’t be helped.

I remember what it is like to work in a corporate position where people above you are expecting things from you, people below you need some serious motivation and people alongside you need your help.

I remember the bullshit office politics that comes with the territory.  I remember the need to be on your game even when you didn’t feel like it because there was a wage you needed to earn to pay the bills.

I remember having to get up and make myself look presentable when I would rather have been in jeans and a t-shirt.

Image courtesy of stock exchange
So, do you do an annual report for your work, for your home life?

I also remember the day I left my job to go on maternity leave.  It was great. Even after my daughter was born, I found being at home so much easier than being at work. Did I miss the adult interaction? Sort of. I kind enjoyed just being my own company and watching my daughter grow.

Everything slowed down. I mean the washing needed to get done, the shopping needed to be done, the house cleaned but I didn’t mind taking on the lion share of the work because I really did feel like I had the time and I actually enjoyed just playing house.

And I realized that I didn’t want to go back to the corporate world. It’s not that I didn’t have the smarts for it; I didn’t have the headspace for it. A toddler having a tantrum you can understand, a grown man have a tantrum, I had no time for that anymore.

That was 11 years ago.  What’s happened in the last 11 years? 3 more kids were added to the mix and I started to miss using my brain.

You see the first 2 years of being a SAHM was great. I did find it like a holiday rather than a job. And I know that raising my kids isn’t just a job, it’s my life, but now I miss the adult interaction and I miss using my brain for things other than negotiating a peace deal with the toddler so I can do the shopping in relative peace.

Image courtesy of stock exchange
Laundry in Italy looks so much better

The problem, sometimes it feels Mr M and I have come so far down the road that change, any real change, is a distant wish.

Sure he’s taken on my role when I’ve gone away and yes he is the first to say “I don’t know how you do it and make it look easy”. Well I guess with any new role, you fumble around a little until you learn to streamline the process. And it is overwhelming.

Just like the thought of looking after 4 kids when I only had 1 seemed remarkable. But once I hit 3 kids I realized that 4 wasn’t going to be that much of a stretch.

But what am I getting at here?  It’s all well and good to swap roles to know see how the other half live but the thing is, it’s not the 2 weeks of doing a role, it’s how you feel about a role after you’ve been doing for 2 years or more.

And also when you know that you’re only going to be doing this ‘job’ for 2 weeks or 4 weeks, it is easier to get through it all. Extending that period for a few years, then you process that in a whole different light.

It’s not that it’s difficult, but it is limited in what you can get out of it.

We’ve all understood the feeling you get after being in a paid job for about 3 years. We get bored, frustrated, and restless and want to change jobs.

Now I’m not saying I want to give up my role as parent. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have no kids.  You tend to put up with all this crap because those moments if crazy funny stuff your kids to, well nothing beats it.  My toddler at the moment will have a conversation with you. He knows a handful of words but you know how Boo talks in Monster’s Inc, well that’s him.

My eldest is starting to get philosophical and my second is starting to explore storytelling.

These moments fill you with great joy. But why does the trade off have to be putting up with laundry?

I know that some will argue that the full time worker misses out on a lot of this stuff. That’s true. But should we settle for this? How is this situation fair to anyone?

But the role of primary care giver does fall to me.  And other mothers say the same thing. Housework is not stimulating…AT ALL! But we tend to take on more of that role purely because we are at home.   After you’ve been doing the lion share of the housework, it gets very old after a couple of years.

And the second thing is in relation to paid work. Generally most mothers negotiate their working hours around their children.  And of course this leads to career paths and career progression, which has been widely discussed in the media, business and government.

I suppose if you haven’t walked in my shoes, then you can’t understand what it is like to be me. Just like the mother next to me is different also.  She has different ambitions.

And I’ve also heard that no-one gets to the end of their life wishing they had dusted more or worked more.


  • At 2012.07.30 19:50, Seana Smith said:

    Hi Maria, I’m another unexpected housewife, didn’t expect to stay home all the time and certainly didn’t expect (or intend!) to have four children. But I would so loathe to have to go to a job, I’m unemployable! Especially since all the kids are at school, so much flexibility in the SAHM/WAHM mix. BUT still loads of washing.. I do joyfully subcontract some of the household mundanities… and listen to a lot of very stimulating podcasts whilst doing the rest… and try not to think about it all too much, just get after getting after it.

    ENJOY your time away from it all… lots of headspace coming.

    • At 2012.07.31 23:30, Maria said:

      Hi Seana,

      I think if I did have to go out to work, instead of freelance writing from home, it would have to be satisfying. Housework is so unsatisfying, something has to fill that void. I suppose that’s why I do write from home. I definitely need something.

      Love & stuff
      Mrs M

    • At 2012.08.01 13:07, Apple Island Wife said:

      Hi, same. Wild horses couldn’t drag me back to orthodox employment. We run a small farm and free range pork business in Tassie and I love operating from home although I do miss the social buzz of a workplace, but hey I get that at the school gate and other places, and sometimes I wish there were a part of the house that I DIDN’T share with my husband and children. It’s curious that we describe ourselves as ‘unemployable’ though – I’m unemployable because after 8 years of running my own ship, I’m incredibly bolshie. But we have LOTS of skills. Anita Roddick built the body shop on that knowledge. Worth remembering. We’re pretty bloody brilliant!

      • At 2012.08.01 14:56, Maria said:

        I’ll take that. We are pretty bloody brilliant. We do have lots of skills, I agree. But the harsh reality for my situation is that I won’t make nearly as much as my husband does so a permanent swap would have to endure some hard times before I got to the same income level as my husband.

        Thanks for the visit and comment.

        Love & stuff
        Mrs M

      • At 2012.08.02 00:21, Marie said:

        Very interesting stuff! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this; I’ve never wanted to be the stay at home mum, but I admit that I feel guilty whenever I think about the pressure that puts on my other half. At the same time I’ve played ‘wife at home’ for the past couple months and enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I thought I would. However, like you said Maria, a year or more down the line and I know I’d be ripping my hair out. I wonder how many women become stay-at-home because it seems so much easier at first?

        (Required, will not be published)