Well, I’m now an official Stay At Home Mother. Up ’til now I’ve just been on maternity leave but yesterday I handed in my notice at work.
This makes me a ‘type’. A demographic. A political metaphor. Lots of people would have it that I now can’t logically be a feminist (I disagree), or that I’m not actually doing anything at all (I strongly disagree), or that I’ve checked out of real life (I think I disagree). It’s going to make small talk at parties difficult, ‘cos nobody wants to talk about poo over a canapé and a glass of burgundy, but then that assumes that I’ll ever be invited to a party again.
It seems like such a statement. Whenever I tell anyone that I’m staying at home I find myself justifying it – I will be paying to go to work, I say, or Trulove’s job is so intense that I would be doing everything if I went back, or I’m looking at it as an opportunity to think about what I really want out of life. I don’t say I’m doing what I think is best for my children. I do think it is, right now, but it’s such a Big Issue that by saying that it’s almost like I’m saying that parents who don’t stay at home are not doing what’s best for their children, and I don’t think that at all.
There’s no doubt my feelings are mixed. Not just because I don’t necessarily want to be labelled as the kind of woman who stays at home with the kids and whose not-yet-husband works in the city, but because the day-to-day reality of stay at home mothering is pretty gruelling. The loneliness; the necessity of doing the same things at the same time every day; the poo, of course, and the having to tell a small girl exactly what you are doing at any given moment, often more than three times (though she hasn’t discovered ‘why’ yet). The cooking. The cleaning. The relentless Peppa Pig. The nagging and screeching and the feeling of always being harried, scruffy-haired and picking something up off the floor. The physical work of strapping people in pushchairs, picking them up, undressing them, running after them and being sat on by them. The lack of any time to do anything, ever, because even if you have the time theoretically, your brain is so scattered you can’t get a handle on what it is you wanted to do.
But then. You get to cuddle and squish and tickle. You play. You get to dance pirouettes and not be time-wasting. You spend your days with people for whom everything is amazing, because it’s new (and sometimes teaching them that it’s not necessarily really horrid and scary, just because it’s new). You have the privilege of existing in day-time London, a London in which everyone is reasonably polite, helpful and even friendly to each other. There are two people, whom you made, who you get to have a laugh with (and, oh all right, at) every day. You can make everything all right for them just by being there.
I don’t know why it was this moment. But today at playgroup, when we were all chorusing the Scarecrow song and Pickle was bouncing up and down on her squishy nappy bottom, and pointing, and Ziggler was crying because her best friend Daffodil (i.e. the girl with whom she likes to bicker furiously when they’re together and endlessly clamour to see when they’re not) had two hot-pink castanets and she wanted to play them, I knew. Yes, this was the right decision for us all just now. It will be hard. It feels a bit weird. But it’s going to be OK.