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It is, however, an honest reflection on my 3.5 years of being a SAHM, designed for those who might be wondering about leaving their jobs to care for their kids full-time or most-time.
Because while I don’t think for one moment that this is the right choice for everyone, I do think it’s a possibility for everyone – and some parents never even consider that it might be the best option for themselves and their families.
One of the things we naturally assume when making choices regarding work and childcare is that, unless we are childcare professionals, we will find ourselves incredibly bored if we stay at home to care for our kids.
It’s true that, many times, I have felt out of my comfort zone. That is only to be expected. After all, my training is in music education, specifically for teenagers and trainee teachers – I don’t know a lot about caring for small children, and have had to learn on the job.
But in terms of boredom – no. It’s as simple as that. And yet it doesn’t make sense. Because on paper, it looks like my life would be boring – so how is it that I don’t feel bereft of intellectual activity?
Here are some of my reflections, and I hope they help you as you consider this important decision for yourself and your family.
I’m still ‘me’
It sounds obvious, but I have the same kind of thoughts and ideas as I always had. My brain, albeit a little slower and more forgetful, still runs through discussions and arguments in the same way. I’m interested by the same news articles, the same ethical debates, the same life philosophies.
You’re still ‘you’, too. You don’t need to worry that you’ll lose interest in the things which interested you before kids. You’ll change and grow, for sure, but in essence you’re still the same person.
I’ve met a wider range of people
Parenthood, for me, has been incredibly social – I’ve not made this many friends since Freshers’ Week. And I meet new people every week.
When I was in a paid job, I had many colleagues – but, largely, my work was independent. And the colleagues I socialised with were from a similar background to me – mainly white, middle-class, university-educated.
As a mum, I’ve met others from all around the world (Japan, Korea, China, America, Mexico, Spain, Poland, Romania, to name a few places). I’ve met people with PhDs, and people who left school at 16. I’ve met people who were raised in a whole variety of different situations – and who are raising their kids in a whole variety of different situations.
This has made my life and conversations rich in diversity and, I believe, intellectual interest, as I’ve absorbed a whole new set of ideas about life, as well as other countries’ histories and ideologies.
You, too, may find that leaving your paid job opens your life and mind up to a plethora of new ideas, cultures and possibilities. Who knows what could come out of that in the long-term?
My kids stimulate my mind
It might sound mind-numbing to hang out with pre-schoolers and do nothing but slot shapes into holes or read picture books – but the development of my children is fascinating, and requires a good deal of thought.
I don’t tend to do a lot of reading on parenthood and child development, but I pick up bits and bobs, and simply how my children respond to things causes me to form ideas about what will be beneficial for them in the future, and how I can encourage their interest in different areas. I’m not a ‘natural’ when it comes to parenting – I’m pretty slow on the uptake, and so it takes a lot of brain-power to keep my kids alive…or that’s how it feels!
There is so much to notice about our children as they play, learn and simply live. OK, I’m not saying that every day is taken patiently at my children’s pace – we certainly do our fair share of rushing around – but there is a lot more stimulation to be found in the times we share with our children than might initially seem to be the case.
There’s a lot to do if you’re available
Society can’t function at its best unless some people do things voluntarily. There just seem to be a lot of things needing to be done which can’t be paid.
I’ve been in the fortunate position of being able to engage with a bit of voluntary stuff since being out of paid work, most recently running a toddler group.
In the last few months I have: worked in a team, led initiatives, chaired meetings, organised rotas, communicated with a variety of people by phone and email, used social media for publicity and negotiated discounts.
It’s intellectually stimulating to have an idea and see it take off, regardless of whether or not you’re being paid for the work. Yes, these jobs do eat into my evenings, as I try not to short-change my kids by doing them in ‘their’ time, but these other commitments do help me keep my brain active in different ways.
Rest assured that if you do make the decision to leave your paid job, or lower your hours, there will be plenty of interesting projects to get involved with – if you choose.
Work wasn’t always that stimulating
I need to remember that, much as I enjoyed my paid job, it didn’t stimulate me every day. In every job there is the humdrum routine, the tasks you repeat over and over, the lack of variety and the days which drag.
Likewise, some aspects of my life now are dull. Some days seem really long, and sometimes I get fed up. But, overall, if anyone asks whether I’m bored since leaving paid work, I’m confident in answering with a resounding ‘no’!
It’s tempting to think life was better when I was working, but the reality is that both my teaching job of the past and my parenting ‘job’ of the present are varied in how much they interest/excite/motivate me. And, unless you’re in some hyper-stimulating job where each moment is pure excitement (if so, please tell me what you do!), you may well find the same to be true of you, too.
What stimulates you about the time you spend at home with your kids, whether all the time or part of the time?
Do you empathise with any of my feelings about being at home with kids? What’s mind-numbing? What’s interesting?
Let’s chat in the comments!