I don’t know if being a working mum is quite what I signed up for. Prior to having children, I often bemused the plight of “housewives”. I wondered how they filled in their days and was sure it must be quite boring.
After two children, my attitude has changed somewhat. I now understand just how much work being at home is. With two young children at home, a simple task like vacuuming can take hours. Every few minutes you are interrupted with cries, accidents, arguments, feeding or some other demand of a child.
Just because you are home fulltime does not mean you actually have time to complete all the chores you need to do. There is always laundry to fold, dishes to wash or toys to put away. No matter how much you do, there is always more.
This is not to say that completing these tasks is fun. If there is a woman out there that loves housework, I am yet to find her.’Frankly, I’d be very surprised if that woman exists.
Not to mention that the lack of company at home can become mind numbing. When your only companion is a one year old, the conversation tends to be fairly limited.
Going back to work certainly helps to stimulate the mind. It gives you the opportunity to socialise with other adults and to feel like part of the world. Working helps you gain a sense of importance and value.
But joining the workforce doesn’t mean all those housework tasks go away. The chores you struggled to finish when you were home fulltime are still there. Now you have even less time to try to finish them in and you end up working harder.
I often find myself coming home from work, changing out of my suit into my track pants and diving straight into a routine of cooking dinner, bathing children, getting clothes and meals sorted for the following day, washing dishes, tidying up, reading bedtime stories and trying to catch up on various chores.
Getting a cleaner goes some way to solving the problem but it doesn’t solve everything. Cleaners are not able to follow your children around all day and vacuum up the crumbs, wash your dishes after each meal, do the mountain of laundry that builds up, cook dinners, do grocery shopping or all the other tasks that need to be performed daily – unless of course you are wealthy enough to have a small army to tend to your home.
Cleaners are also expensive. Add this cost to the cost of childcare and you end up working more hours at work just to stay ahead.
Living the life of a working mum, I now understand why women choose to stay home. Although I didn’t particularly enjoy the lack of company and activities requiring thought, I still look back on my time at home longingly.
At one stage, I had the opportunity to work from home on project work. This was a fairly good solution. My children still went to childcare a few days a week but I was able to drop them off later and pick them up earlier. With the reduced hours I found they were less cranky in the evenings. It also gave me the flexibility to fit my housework in around my paid work.
The problem with this was it was project based work. Whilst the flexibility was fantastic, the lack of job security and steady income became problematic. Projects would come and go with no guarantee of a new project starting. Payment of invoices had to be chased. As my income was needed to support the family, it became necessary to seek more permanent work.
I still don’t know which is better. Being at home or working. Flexible project based work is good, provided you are not reliant on a steady income for day-to-day living. Finding a balance is a real challenge. When you do think you have the solution, usually something happens at home or a work to tip the scales and then we are back at square one.