This week I made a decision. Not to return to work after maternity leave. Here’s why I’m not going to attempt to define who I am now.
I’ve never been a fan of the phrases, ‘SAHM’ or ‘Working Mum.’ I find them a bit patronising and marginalising. Like if you’re one, you can’t possibly be the other, when there are women everywhere proving we are both.
I mean, we all stay at home at some point during the day, right? And we’re all working in one way or another, right?
And we’re all mums.
Following your instincts.
I told my boss over lunch last month that I wouldn’t be returning to work. It felt right this time.
I went back to work after both of the girls and that was the right decision. Then. For me. But third time round and after all we’ve been through in the last year, I know that what I need most in the world is balance. To slow down. To just sit still for a while.
(If the kids let me. HA HA HA.)
Time to stand up and be counted.
So, why, if I was so confident in my decision, was it so hard to write that resignation? To find the words, when writing is what I do best?
I stalled for a good few weeks. I wobbled. I wondered if I was doing the right thing. The wrong thing. The irresponsible thing.
The election came bang in the middle of this. Social media was full of doom and gloom and the imminent implosion of our country. Our NHS. Our jobs. Our lives.
I had a couple of weeks where the kids drove me MAD. And I wondered how on earth I could do this day in, day out.
And I lost my confidence.
Magic 8 ball, anyone?
It’s always scary making a choice.
Because only you can be accountable for it. There’s no one else to blame if it goes wrong. Your hand wasn’t forced; you did this willingly. It’s why so many of us prefer to sit on the fence, deferring the big decisions until another day.
The thought of closing a door is just so final.
If only we could leave it slightly ajar.
No looking back.
Eventually, I found the courage to press ‘send’ on that email.
And, like everything, once it was done, I felt relieved.
Decisions are hard. But being in limbo is worse.
I am me.
So here I am. On an eternal maternity leave.
I’ve never had time without deadlines before. Without an expiry date. It feels nice. A bit odd. I’m expecting it to feel really odd some days.
Because the only time I’ve spent more than two consecutive weeks with my kids is on holiday when a) another grown-up was present and b) I was mostly inebriated. And whilst I imagine I’ll consume many, many more gin in a cans than is good for me, I’m pretty sure I can’t justify one at 11.00 AM in the morning. (But ask me again in a week.)
I also know that when I have an inevitable bad day with the kids, I will start to panic that I’m going to self-combust into a million particles and lay forgotten amongst the stray grains of rice that I still haven’t got around to sweeping up yet.
But I also know, that this will never really happen.
That there will be great days with the kids.
And that whatever I do, wherever I am. I will always be just me.
Who else could I be?
‘What do you do?’
So, when people ask, ‘What do you do?’ I’ll probably say, ‘Where do I start?’
Because it’s never a straightforward answer when you’re a mum.
Life is so often about which box you tick. Which gender. Which age group. Which religion. Blah blah blah. People like to know how to define us. Much more than we feel the need to define ourselves.
And we’re all so much more than this. Us mums, especially. There’s never just one box we tick.
We work, we love, we nurture, we challenge, we discipline, we cry, we laugh. We multi-task the hell out of most days.
We adapt constantly. We defy definition.
And, because of this, whatever we do, wherever we are, whatever our choices are, mums, we’re going to be just fine.