There has been a lot of talk in the last week about the heartfelt and powerful letter written by Donna Hartnett
She raises some very valid points about the struggle that most families make to hold it all together. It is impossible to read her story and not feel her heartbreak.
But in all the ensuing debate about the difficulties of working when you have young children, paying for childcare, getting children out to school/crèche and the constant juggle it involves, there was little mention of the ‘other side’.
By this I mean the joy of working outside the home.
Don’t get me wrong, I work outside if home as much for the financial needs as for anything else. But, that said, I enjoy going out to work. I like my job but that is not the only reason that I like going out to work.
I love the social interaction, the chat with colleagues, the stimulation and the challenge of it.
I love using my skill, learning new things, having an uninterrupted coffee break, having a lunch time that is just about me.
I love putting on my work clothes, wearing heels for the whole day, having people say ‘thank you’ and the sense of achievement at the end of the work day.
I love the ‘head space’ that it gives me, the time to follow a thought through.
I love all those aspects of working outside the home….but not all the time.
I love the drive home, the anticipation, the greeting I get when I get there ( mind you this isn’t always the case!)
I love my renewed enthusiasm for my children, for dedicating all my free time to being with them.
I also love days at home with them, being at the school gate, hearing the after school stories, babychino dates with our youngest, seeing their progress in swimming lessons, and hearing about the newest ballet dance.
I adore my time at home with them, but I wouldn’t be happy to be there all the time.
There is a lot to love about going out to work.
And yes, it does require juggling, and being super organised but, for me, it is worth it.
I know we are lucky, I can work part time, our children are minded in our home, which makes it a lot easier on them, and on most days either my husband or I can be at the school gate to collect them.
There are very big obstacles but in the way of ( mostly) mothers going back to/staying in work. Flexible working arrangements should be MUCH more common for both parents, and should be feasible in most jobs. Tax relief on childcare should be a priority. The government should take these problems seriously because if they don’t they risk losing a hugely valuable part of the work force.
The also risk leaving women in a more vulnerable position in society.
It might not be the popular thing to say but stay at home parents ( usually mothers), by in large, do not have as much say in the larger financial decisions of a family. If you do not have an income of your own, it is more difficult to dictate spending and it can take away your sense of independence and assertiveness. This can lead to a particular vunerablility.
In an ideal world this would not be the case.
In an ideal world the mammoth work done by stay at home parents, would be recognised and financially rewarded.
Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world.
So while the media were busy portraying these ‘put upon’ mothers who were being forced out to work with the sole purpose of paying bills, they missed the point that there are many, many women who enjoy going out to work, who just need some flexibily, some support to continue in jobs and careers that they love, while being able to also prioritise their children….for many women this is the dream.