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Stay at Home Mom or Working Mom? The choice of a Working Class Mum

Updated on May 12, 2021

A Response to TamCor's First Question

This hub is written in answer to the first of three questions asked by TamCor at the end of her hub

The question is

Whichever you were – Stay at home mom, or working mom – are / were you happy with that decision?

Stay at Home Mum in the 1970s

I was a stay at home mum in the seventies, before the birth of my first child I had suffered three miscarriages.

I don’t think that the miscarriages were a particular factor in my decision to be a stay at home mum. But the miscarriages certainly made me even more aware of how precious the lives of my children were.

My decision to stay at home was one that I made a long time before I was even married.

In fact I can’t really remember actually going through a pros and cons process when I made my decision. My decision was just something that I always felt I would do when the time came.

My decision no doubt came out of my own experiences as a child and my own upbringing.

When I was a child it was the norm for mums to stay at home once they had children. Staying at home with your children was what everyone expected you to do and so it was what most mums did.

Often the norms and values of our formative years are the ones that we absorb and make our own. They are also the ones that we become personally most comfortable with.

Often we can go through life unaware that the choices, values and decisions we have might not our own. They may just the ones we that we have grown up with and taken on, believing them to be our own.

They Grow so Quick

I Don't Have a Problem

I remember once when my children were upstairs playing in one of their bedrooms. They were making quite a bit of noise in the process and so I reacted in a particular way.

First I shouted up to them to make less noise. When this got no response I started up the stairs making a noise as I went. This was so that the children could hear me coming.

I was about halfway up the stairs when it suddenly hit me. This is exactly what my mum use to do when my brother and I were playing and making a noise. What I was doing was identical to the way she used to do it.

This behaviour was an appropriate response for my mum. But as I stood on the stairs I realised that it wasn't for me.

I really didn’t have a problem with this behaviour. I didn't care that they were making a noise in fact I enjoyed hearing them playing and laughing.

My response towards my children was an automatic response. My exposure to this response in my childhood conditioned me to make the same response.

I went into this response without any thought process of my own going in to it at all.

The day I got this revelation halfway up the stairs was also the last time it happened. I deleted right there and then that particular piece of behaviour.

My Mum Was a Working Mum

As far back as I can remember my mum always had a job, often she had two. My dad was a coal miner so he was a shift worker.

The fact dad worked shifts meant that most of the time there was someone at home.

I think that mum stayed at home until my younger brother started school. From that time on I never knew my mum not to have work of one description or another.

My mum could turn her hand to anything. I can remember her doing all kinds of jobs.

I remember her working as a barmaid, a silver service waitress, and in a café. Often she would take on a temporary job as a post woman at Christmas time.

In the summer months she would work in a stationary ice-cream van down by the river.

Mum worked as a counter assistant in local shop then later she worked as a cashier in a new fangled super market. These are just a few of the jobs she had that I can remember.

Mum worked hard so that we as a family would not have to go without.

A Working Man's Pride in the 40s and 50s

I was born around the middle of 1940s, and my childhood memories are almost all happy ones.

It was a time when communities were usually close knit. Most of the people around us were going through life in much the same way that ours was.

Most of the mums that I remember from my childhood were stay at home mums. It was usual for working class mums in the 1940s and 50s to stay at home and look after the kids and the home.

Meanwhile the men folk went out to work to support their families. Many of the women back then brought up their children but did not return to work after their children grew up.

Those children eventually left home to get married and have children their own. But those stay at home mums still did not go back to work.

This was very helpful to a lot of the next generation of new mums that did want to go out to work.

The stay at home mums of the 40s and 50s now became stay at home grandmothers. Many of these grandmothers looked after their grandchildren. This enabled the children's own mum to go out to work.

A working class man took great pride in his ability to take care of his wife and family. When a working class man asked a woman to marry him in those days he would ask only when he was able to keep her.

It was not uncommon for him to actually say that if she married him he would take care of her.

Men often felt that if their wives went out to work that it was a bad reflection upon them. Many felt that if their wives went out to work it meant that they were not good providers.

Some felt like having a working wife said that they could not take care of their family.

A man that could not take care of his wife and family this way often felt that he was was not a proper man. He would feel a sense of shame if he was not able to provide for his family.

Things have changed a lot since then, the stigma of having a working wife no longer exists. In fact a man is more likely to get stick if his wife does not go out to work. So also is the wife who chooses to stay at home.

I Felt Jealous

For the most part I never thought much about the fact that mum worked. But I do remember one instance when my childhood friend got her new bicycle.

I was about 10 when I had a new bicycle for Christmas. My bike had all the extras. It had a dynamo, saddlebag, gears etc. That Christmas my friend also had a bike for Christmas too.

My friend’s bicycle was second hand. Her bike had none of the extras that mine had but her dad had lovingly refurbished hers.

I remember looking at my friend's bike and feeling jealous of her. The bike was not as fancy as mine and even after her dad had done it up you could see it was not new. But it was the time she had spent with her dad working on this bike that made her bike a special bike.

When ever I used to go in my friend’s home her mum was always getting bread or cakes out of the oven. Her home was always warm and safe feeling and her mum was always at home.

This experience made me think at that time that I would rather have my mum home than a new bike.

Because my mum went out to work I may well have had more new things than those with stay at home mums. But back then at that moment I would have gladly gone without to have my mum at home.

But, this kind of thinking did not dominate my thinking. It was only triggered off by that one instance. To be honest the thoughts left almost as soon as they came.
Like most children in our neighbourhood I had a wonderful childhood. I also had wonderful parents who did their very best for my brother and I.

My brother and I are a testament to how well they both played out their role as parents. My mum was proud of us and we were and still are proud of her.

Going Against the Flow

My mum was very much her own woman and she had to some extent gone against the flow by being a working mum.

Now as a young mum I was going against the flow but this time it was by being a stay at home mum.

In the early 1970s people thought that it was fine for a mum to stay at home until the children started school. But it was beginning to feel that once her children started school she should return to work.

Back then more and more new mums began to take maternity leave. Many returning to work within a few months of having their children.

If a young mum wanted or needed to get back to work she had to arrange for her child care.

Often it was the grandparents that would take on the task of looking after children while mum was at work.

A Mum of two

My husband and I with our two children who were born just one year apart. We were taller and thinner than we look in this photo scanning seems to have squashed us up a little.
My husband and I with our two children who were born just one year apart. We were taller and thinner than we look in this photo scanning seems to have squashed us up a little.

An Easy Decision

The decision to stay at home to bring up my children was one that I made easily. It is also a decision that I never regretted not even for a moment.

What I gained from this experience far outweighed the costs. There were many costs and sacrifices I had to make but if I had to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat.

What I gained from this experience can never be taken away from me. Now, as I draw close to my 70s and I look at the choices I made as a young mum I have very few regrets.

I was and still am glad that I made the choice to be a stay at home mum. I think that for me it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Is this the right decision for every mum? I don’t think that there is one right decision I think that each new mum has to decide for herself.

We are all different my decision brought happiness to me and contentment to my children. But the same decision would not necessarily do the same for another person.

The same decision to stay at home could bring different results for another young mum. It could result in resentment and bitterness bringing unhappiness for both mother and child.

Staying at home would not be a right decision for them, as it would not benefit anyone.

My daughter said in her last email to me that there is a saying in the USA that ‘When mum’s happy, everyone’s happy!’

I think that there is a lot of truth in this saying.

‘Were the Hardships and/or Benefits of Either Worth it in the Long Run?’

TamCor asked three questions in all and this hub has been the answer to only the first of these questions.

I was going to answer all three questions on the one hub but it took me me longer to answer than I thought it would. It became much too long for just one hub so I will answer the next two questions in my next two hubs.

The next hub deals with the question ‘Were the hardships and/or benefits of either worth it in the long run? ’

I have sort of answered part of that in this hub. But if you read the next hub you will find out what the hardships and benefits were. Was it Worth It?

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Other Similar Hubs

If you enjoyed this hub I have other hubs that deal with similar material.

All these Hubs have the common theme of coming from a Working Class perspective which differs quite a lot from that of the Middle Class and which has virtually nothing in common with the Upper Class perspective.

There is one period in modern times when all three classes had experiences in common and that was during the second world war.

I hope that enjoyed your foray into Working Class England if you did please leave a comment perhaps some feed back or if I didn't cover what you were looking for let me know and perhaps I can do another hub about that,


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