Stay at Home Mom or Working Mom? - Was it Worth it?
‘Were the Hardships and/or Benefits of Either Worth it in the Long Run?’
This hub is written in answer to the second of three questions asked by TamCor at the end of her hub
The question is
‘Were the hardships and/or benefits of either worth it in the long run?’
A Woman's Right to Have...
I gave a partial answer to the question ' was it worth it?' in my previous hub when I said that I was a stay at home mum and I have no regrets about the choice that I made.
Were there hardships associated with this decision? You bet there were, in fact there were more than a few.
My two children were born in the early 1970s. It was a time when women were being bombarded with all sorts of new ideas. Ideas that challenged the traditional role of women in the home and workplace.
Magazines like Cosmopolitan, told us what we had a right to or deserved.
Everywhere we were reading how we deserved to have an orgasm, or we deserved to get the same pay as a man in the workplace.
It is a woman’s right to have… was a phrase that they put in front of a multitude of statements.
In all this talk of women’s rights there was hardly any talk of the costs involved. There was hardly any mention of the responsibilities that go along with these rights.
This led to a lot of women becoming mixed up about what exactly it was that they wanted and /or didn't want.
JugglingClick thumbnail to view full-size
You Can Have it All
It seemed like everywhere we looked there were stories telling us of women who had managed to have it all.
By have it all, I mean things like high flying careers, motherhood and home-making.
Yet still manage at the end of the day to be a sex goddess and sexy wife as well.
Of course it really helped if you had the first on that list a high-flying career. A career that paid big money so you could afford lots of paid help with all the others.
How could women like me, ordinary working class mums hope to do the same as these superwomen?
The playing field was anything but level. Ordinary mums like me usually did not have a career we had jobs. The jobs that I and many like me had did not pay well.
Even full time work would not have given women like me enough to pay for the child care I would need if I went back to work.
The Traditional Role of Women in the Home
The traditional role of women in the home was continually coming under attack. The popular media of the time saw women in the home as used and abused by male dominated systems.
It was a time when the Hippie revolution and flower power had changed things forever.
Women had burned their bras and sex was no longer just for inside of marriage and for procreation alone.
They told us over and over again, that it was all right for women to engage in sexual activity just for the sheer fun of it.
They gave the impression that because of the pill it was with little or no negative consequences.
Sex outside of marriage was no longer just the domain of men alone. In fact we were old fashioned if we waited until we got married before having sex.
Going into a marriage as a virgin was now sometimes a source of ridicule rather than of pride.
It seemed at that time that everything we knew before was stood on its head.
It was usual now to have sex and have more than one sexual partner before marriage. At least that is what the popular media would have us believe.
Everything was changing. The old roles were not enough to cope with the new choices available to women.
Education is Wasted on a Girl
Like most women of my generation from a working class background I left school at 15 years of age. Looking back the quality of the education we received was pathetic.
Schools like ours fed the factories of the main industries in the city.
Most of the pupils from my school would take up jobs in factories. A lucky few would get apprenticeships that would lead to a better paid job.
I managed to get a job as an office junior working in the head offices of Boots the Chemist.
There was a mindset among working class parents at that time that education for a girl was a waste of time. Education was not considered important for a girl because she would not need it. After all she would only get married have children and leave work.
This mindset was also adopted unquestioned by a large number of girls themselves. For many girls their only ambition was to get married and have babies.
SuperwomanClick thumbnail to view full-size
In the 1970s many of the traditional roles of women in the home were questioned.
We read and digested books written by Women’s Liberation stalwarts such as Germaine Greer.
These books gave us a new way to see ourselves and our place in the world. Soon the feminist movement's way of seeing things took over.
The feminist movement didn't encourage us to explore what we were capable of becoming. Instead they turned our focus on to striving for equality with men. Our men folk were just as trapped by their imposed roles as we women were.
In the 1970s there were so many things were opening up to women that had in the past been closed to them.
So it was only natural that our expectations changed dramatically.
For the first time there was a feeling that we could be anything we wanted to be. It was our right to expect more.
Equality was being sought in many areas. Areas like equal pay, equal sexual freedom and equal job opportunities etc.
This then was the background in which I made my choice to be a stay at home mum.
At first this choice caused me no trouble at all as most women still left work when they had their first child.
Maternity leave and job protection gave new opportunities to young mums. Many of them took the opportunity to return to work just a few months after the birth of their child.
Some women felt that they had to take the opportunity of returning to back to work quickly. Many returned to safeguard their jobs and their promotion prospects.
It was not until both my children started to go to school that my choice deviated from most of the other mums.
For most mums the start of their child’s schooling was also the signal for them to go back into the workforce.
The prevailing thought back in the 1970s was now that my child is at school I no longer have a reason to stay at home.
A mum that refused to go back to work once their children started school was thought of as either selfish or lazy.
My choice to stay at home was often felt by those who did choose to go back to work as a criticism of them as a mum.
It was as if my choice to stay at home in their mind stood in judgement on their choice not to and found them lacking.
Such criticism and judgement had not come from me. At that time I had trouble understanding why they thought it did.
The Chat at the School Gates
I would see working mums at the school gates when they dropped off their children at school. Later I would see them again when they returned to pick them up after school.
The chat at the school gates often seemed to turn into an interrogation. I felt like they were interrogating me about why I didn’t want to go back to work.
It was with almost religious zeal that some of them tried to convert me into being a working mum like them.
It seemed to me that they perceived my choice to stay at home as some sort of threat or attack on their choice.
Because of this they felt it was OK to attack both my choice and me.
The new found freedom seemed only to belong to certain women. It felt like it only belonged to those that chose to go down the new path of the working mum.
This new path was the path of ‘I can have it all’ and I don’t have to give anything up to get it.
If this was not your chosen path then you came under a lot of pressure. The pressure came from those who had chosen to go with the flow into the ‘I can have it all’ stream.
Surprisingly this was not the only source of pressure. The pressure also often came from within the woman herself.
It was hard in the face of the pressure coming from working mums to justify staying at home to yourself.
Some of the Costs
Not going out to work meant that we could not afford many of the things that those who did go to work could afford.
We had no foreign holidays in fact we didn’t have many holidays at all when the children were young.
The one exception was our first family holiday when we went out of season to a self-catering holiday chalet.
It was the end of May and we paid more to put our dog in kennels than we did for our accommodation.
Our dog’s accommodation had central heating. Our chalet did not instead it had damp bedding and condensation running down the walls. The electricity was on a prepayment meter that ate our money at an alarming rate.
Money was not plentiful during this period but we never went without the essentials of life.
Often we had more month than we had money. I became an expert on seeking out bargains and ways to save money.
For me one of the hardest prices I had to pay was that of the criticism and judgement of other mums about my choice.
I felt guilty at times for enjoying being at home with my children. I felt guilty sometimes for not going out to work.
I knew that some of the other mums thought that by not working I did not pull my weight.
I know that some of them thought that my choosing to stay at home was a selfish choice and unfair on my husband.
In reality the choice to stay at home and look after the family was as much my husband's choice as it was mine.
I had thought that this part of the hub would have been longer but I had to struggle to come up with even these few.
Was it Worth it?
The benefits of being a stay at home mum for me far outweighed any of the negative costs of this choice. My time was my own and I could spend it how I liked.
I was fortunate that I was able to be always there for my children when they got home from school.
I got to play with them and to nurse them when they were sick. I got to tell them stories, and to help them with their school work if they had problems.
I had the time when they were at school to shop for the bargains. I also had the time to cook meals from scratch at a fraction of the price of food that was already processed.
I had time to get an education that culminated in obtaining a BA Hon’s degree.
It was a time when I enjoyed my life and my family to the full.
Was it worth it in the long run? Oh yes, a thousand times yes! I’d make the same decision again in a heart beat. I have no regrets about the choice I made to be a stay at home mum.
‘If Your Kids are Grown,How do They Feel About the Choice You Made?’
The third and final question that TamCor asked is the subject of my next hub and is
‘If your kids are grown, how do they feel about the choice you made?’
If you want to know the answer to this then you will have to read my daughters answer to this question in my next hub.
Other Working Class Based Hubs
If you enjoyed this hub you may also enjoy some of my other hubs that deal with similar material.
These Hubs have a common theme. They look at life from a Working Class perspective.
The link to some of these Hubs appear on he right hand side of this Hub.
But if you want to see what other Hubs I have written just click on the maggs224 next to my photo on the top right of this hub. It will take you to my profile page where all my Hubs are listed.