As I walked around the city with my youngest toddler (14 months old) in tow, I realised that the city has become an intimidating and alien place to me now. I felt like a fish out of water. Pushing along my pram, dressed in comfy trousers, a t-shirt and flip-flops (‘thongs’ to any Aussies reading this or havaianas to anyone else).
It was as though I’d entered a parallel universe. Everyone was bustling around with such purpose, as though they knew something I didn’t or were part of something I wasn’t.
My husband has recently started a new job so he took me to his office to meet his work colleagues. I hadn’t planned on this and felt a little panicked that I looked rather like a homeless person he’d dragged off the street. I quickly ran my fingers through my knotty hair. I then did the obligatory once over check that all was in order (i.e. no sick on me, no food splattering on me, bra wasn’t on full display – my toddler has a tendency to yank my top down in her quest for milk, no milk leakage and flies were up), all good. I was relieved to have the remnants of nail polish on my toes from a rare night out a few days ago.
We walked into the smart, modern, stylish offices and I felt a little weird again. In my head I stuck out like a sore thumb, I shouldn’t be here in these smart offices with thesebusy and important people. I’m just a stay at home mum! Everyone was of course utterly lovely and welcoming, particularly excited by the presence, distraction and novelty of having a toddler in the office.
But it got me thinking, what is it about becoming a mum and having a certain amount of time out of the ‘paid workforce’ that makes us feel like worthless beings, no longer fit to enter the doors of the corporate world?
With 15 years’ experience in HR and recruitment, I spent a lot of time wearing suits and working in offices. I have worked in big cities in England such as Manchester and Newcastle. A year of my life in Australia involved working in Sydney’s CBD, I got to know (and love) the city well during that time. Today made me more aware than ever how different my life has become. Since exiting the corporate world in 2012 to go on maternity leave with my first baby (minus a brief stint in-between children for a couple of months), my life has changed considerably.
It’s challenging, fun, monotonous, rewarding and stressful – but in different ways.
I was lucky enough to enjoy most of the jobs I had throughout my career. That said, I do remember times when I wished I could pack it all in. I thought the role of being a mum would be easier, rewarding, fun; and I was definitely in favour of having no one to answer to.
I had a lot to learn.
Being a mum is the toughest, most challenging job I have ever done! Sleep routines, sleep deprivation, cleaning, making food, changing nappies, washing – at times it takes monotony to a whole new level. And as for having no one to answer to, Sir Alan Sugar has a lot to learn from my 2 strong minded and bossy toddlers.
However, the rewards of being a stay at home mum are immense. The happiness I feel when I hear my children laughing, being there to see them take their first steps or utter their first words, the smiles they give me when they do something silly or say something cute and the way they make me feel when they run into my arms to cuddle me. These are the things that make the hard work and monotony worthwhile. Oh, and the fact that I rarely have to wear make-up, brush my hair or dress in high heels anymore!
I don’t intend to be a stay at home mum for ever. I miss having a different kind of purpose and being meaningful in other ways. I enjoyed the social aspect of going out to work and the independence. I would also like to contribute financially to our family.
But for the time being this is my life, and it’s one I love and am truly grateful for. I’m sure one day the city and the corporate world may become familiar to me again. It might take a little adjusting to get back into the swing of it and require a new wardrobe!