In our regular parenting column, advisor, writer and mother of three Orla Breeze discusses the benefits (or not!) of being a stay at home mum.
Home and away
I was a Stay-at-Home Mum. Then I wasn’t. Then I was. And now I find myself in a No-(Wo)Man’s-Land somewhere between being home all the time and away all the time. It’s complicated.
But throughout my reign as Greatest Mother of All Time (according to my kids, that is, except for when they feel the complete opposite), one of the most discussed topics has been around the benefits of staying at home versus going to work. (And yes, that is a joke. Anyone who parents knows that whether you’re home or away, it’s a fulltime, 24/7 job without pay, holiday leave, or even time for a full cup of coffee. Am I right, people?)
The great debate
The first piece of research I heard on the subject was firmly in the corner of the SAHMs. And that made me happy because that’s exactly what I was at the time. But the next piece of research made me sad because this time it was the Go-To-Work Mums – henceforth known as GTWMs – who were winning. (It also made me a bit jealous because I secretly wanted to be out there in the workforce taking a break from parenthood.) (And yes, that’s a joke too because – all together now – there is no break from parenthood!)
But my point is that if one piece of research says one thing, and the next says the other, that must mean there’s merit to both. Right? And if there’s merit to both then why are we still debating it?
If a GTWM is showing her kids how to be strong, independent and responsible, and those kids benefit by becoming happy adults, then great! If the presence of a SAHM improves her child’s academic achievement, stability and sense of well-being, then that’s great too! And if both sets of kids grow up with equal opportunity then guess what? Flippin’ GREAT!
This habit of pitting one Mum against another when neither is winning nor losing the debate in the first place, has to stop. Because only one thing comes from it. Yup! The BIG G! (That’s Guilt, in case I hadn’t made that clear.) And before you go thinking that I’m ignoring the Dads here, I’m really not. My point is pointed at them too. Lots of Dads feel guilty about not being there for their kids all of the time, especially those whose schedule requires a lot of travel. Knowing that a kid can handle Dad not being present in every moment is a good thing to know.
Quality not quantity
However, I have something to add to this – don’t I always? There’s another level at play here that’s about more than the amount of time a parent is in their child’s presence. Just to clarify, SAHMs are not spending every moment of every day intently focused on their kids’ emotional and educational development. (As a former SAHM, I certainly wasn’t!) So it’s really not about the amount of time you’re physically with your children. It’s about what you are doing and how you are being when that time comes. And that’s whether your daily routine allows you to spend all of your time with them, or only some. It’s quality not quantity. Make the time you give them enjoyable for both of you, and that’s what they’ll take with them on their journey to adulthood.
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This article first appeared in the December/January 2018/19 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.