According the the larger world, the world that includes mythical things such as the economy, I am unemployed. I do not bring in an income, I do not pay taxes on that income, I do not exist.
That’s cool with me frankly, as I can’t remember the last time I gave a rodent’s rear end about what the wider world thought of me. It was definitely pre 2008. Definitely. However, that is not really the issue in hand, the issue I’d like to write about today. What I’d like to write about is what I do do, not what I don’t do. For example earn cash.
My ‘job’, for want of a better description is Mum. I suppose it would be more accurate to say my occupation is being a Full Time Parent. This has been my job since (coincidentally) 2008, when I left my previous occupation (teacher) in order to bring life once more into the world. To be fair I think that’s a pretty good reason to change track. I was creating and inventing an entire human being. If a man did that he’d be awarded the Nobel Prize; but women do it ever hour of every minute of every day and the world shrugs it’s shoulders and generally makes us feel like we should not be making too much of a fuss about it, if you don’t mind.
I had, in fact, already created a human being. So my resume had previous experience in my chosen field. I had made a person and even managed to keep him alive for 3 years, before embarking on a 100% expansion of the amount of humans I had produced. Which is a long was of saying I got pregnant again. But the first way sounds better.
Once I had 2 human beings under my charge I started to notice how this parenting can be a very full time gig. Between the two boys they kept my pretty busy and, weirdly, I actually enjoyed being around the human beings I had created. Not all the time, I’ll grant that, but in general it was a good thing. I liked it. I decided to stick with it.
When Huwyl was 5 (at the end of a successful year of Kindergarten) I gave him the option to homeschool. He accepted without hesitation and so we began. I seemed a natural step for me, education being kind of my thing pre-human creation, to work alongside one of my favourite humans each day. I couldn’t quite imagine giving up those learning moments, those light bulb moments, those special moments in favour of teaching other people’s children. I decided to simply cut out the middle woman and teach my own.
That journey didn’t end up being quite as I expected, and as the twists and turns of life created new challenges and issues to deal with, I confess to doubting my ability to manage. Well manage and be sane. Sane-ish. I’ve often wondered if I can really pull it off, if I can get my kids through this crazy business we call Education, without literally chewing off someone’s head on a rogue Tuesday morning sometime in November.
Yet here we are, 6 years later with everyone’s head demonstrably in tact and our journey continuing pleasantly. In fact each year it has become a lot more pleasant. Now that I have 2 literate children who can count and are able to put on their own clothing, I would count my chosen profession to be positively enjoyable. That might not seem like a dramatic statement but often, more often than not I think, we see motherhood depicted as drudgery, something to escape from. A constant cycle of dirty laundry and ungrateful children, which is part of the picture but only part. Try and think of any depictions of motherhood that an not either a) excessively sugar coated or b) made to seem like a sort of torture. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.
Which ignores the many millions of women who are Just A Mum every day. The women who’ve chosen to be at home, who like it, who feel that it is the most important work they can be doing. I’m one of those women. I have a degree, Post grad qualifications, I had a career and I set it aside to be Just A Mum. It was a decision that I made. I didn’t always know that, I didn’t always feel that way, but I’ve come to understand that if this is all I do with my life, it’s a pretty great choice to have made.
I see that times have changed around me. When I was a kid it was the norm for your Mum to be at home. Ignoring the fact that she may well work during the hours of school, or before you even lifted your head off the pillow, or long after you were asleep (my Mum did job’s in all those categories) their primary tie was to the home. It wasn’t until I had my own kids, in fact until I had my second child, when I really came to understand that I didn’t really know how to be a mother any other way. All in. That’s sort of how I am. So that’s what I did.
My mother-in-law says that she hates the phrase Just A Mum. She’s right of course. It implies an absence of something, that what we are doing is easy or negligible. That designing the life and well being of other human beings is something that should be seen as more of a hobby than a profession. My Dad points out that in his day, back when Dickens was a lad, disparaging the role of ‘mother’ would get you very short shrift indeed. Shortly following by an axe to the head. It was not something women were ashamed to be, much as there were many limitations and frustrations for those who wanted to do something else. Note I didn’t say something more.
Because that’s what it comes down to really. Valuing one thing over another. If I say I’m proud to be a stay at home parent, a homeschooling parent, a Mum, then I’m saying women who work outside their homes, who juggle careers, jobs, work and family, just suck. But of course I’m not. The very point of feminism, something I’ve identified with since I was born I think, is to allow women choices and to see that women are varied, different, even unique. That we can be a multitude of things, many of them at the same time, and not be defined by any one of them. I look at women who work outside their home with admiration and respect, just as I do those who do the same work as me. We are all different, we are all the same. We are all doing our best, worried it isn’t good enough and pretty much just so knackered most of the time that remembering the names of the human beings who used to live inside you seems impossibly difficult. Pointing comes in handy around then.
But we know all that. I know all that and I am no longer in a place where I feel the need to examine or explain myself. Apart from writing this blog post which totally doesn’t count. Celebrating my choices doesn’t mean denigrating any one else’s. We can all be great, we can all be amazing. We are all amazing. What I really want to say is that this life really is enough for me. It is full and busy and challenging: I am self employed, I am my own boss, I set my own life. I enjoy having my family as the focus of my work, I love knowing that my efforts benefit them directly, I love thinking about what is coming next.
I have the same sense of value as I did when I worked as a teacher when Huwyl was small. I taught for 2 years and then stopped when I was pregnant with Neirin. Someone I knew at that time talked about Mummy guilt to me one day, when I was working outside our home. I told her I had absolutely no guilt and it was true. I was working to benefit my family, I was working to keep myself sane, I was working because we needed the cash. Why would I feel guilty? There are lots of different ways to support the people you love, there are many ways a life can look and be a good life. This is the version I’ve come up with.
So yes, I help to run a small farm and a small business. I am a homemaker (I laughed at that phrase so much when I first heard it, it seemed like using the phrase ‘sanitation expert’ instead of ‘dustbin man’. Clearly I’ve embraced it since then). I am a homeschooler, effectively running an independent educational institution for two. I am a teacher. I am the head of our little school. I am a partner, daughter, friend and parent. I’m other things too. I cook, I make, I bake, I walk, I read, I write, I do all the things that make my life what it is. The grains of sand that make, in the end, a beach; grains on the ever expanding coastal stretch we call human existence. A beach upon which there is sometimes poo.
But in the end, when it all comes right down to it thank you very much, I am proud, very proud, to be Just A Mum. And when my life changes and the world turns me into something else entirely, I’ll be proud of that too.