Last night I had dinner with a couple of mums who work full-time in high-powered jobs in finance, they were complaining about various stresses at work – deadlines, colleagues, interview candidates – and I told them I had spent the day looking after 3 kids under 5 (two mine and a friend’s daughter) and was exhausted. They both laughed. “How did you spend time before you had kids?” They asked. “Were you ever busy?” I don’t know why this riled me. I suddenly felt that because I didn’t spend five days a week toiling in an office that somehow what I did was of less importance. “I lived a very full life before having kids…” I started. I travelled the world exploring all continents except Antartica and South America. I had a play on at the Edinburgh fringe festival. I wrote scripts for a BBC drama series for five years. I had plays on in theatres around London. I worked with under-privileged kids to help them discover the love of story writing. I was a writer in residence at the Soho Theatre and the Hampstead theatre. I got a degree in Economics. I worked as a web producer for many big organisations. I worked for a few tech start-ups. I spent my twenties living a very full life. And then when I got pregnant at 31 I made a choice.
My choice was to spend the first few years of my children’s lives focussing on them. And the reason I did this was because my own mother was, and still is a very high-powered, career-focussed woman. No joke, the woman is a Professor of Neuroscience. My friends and I talked about how our own parenting choices are influenced so greatly by the way we were parented. As the daughter of a highly career-focussed woman I, very selfishly of course, didn’t feel she was there when I needed her. I felt that for much of my childhood my own needs were neglected. My mum continued to chase her career objectives and still does, which means in the last 12 years I’ve seen her once or twice a year. I thought becoming a grandmother would change her objectives in life but they didn’t, and really why should they?
In contrast my friend’s mother had been a full-time stay at home mother. But even though her mother was physically there, my friend felt emotionally her mum wasn’t available to her. It was seeing the shell of her mother, always talking about the life she once had before having kids that influenced my friend to make the choice to work full-time – she did not want to end up like her own mother.
We all agreed that no matter what choice we made in regards to our kids, one day there’ll come a time when they turn around and blame us for these choices, blame us for the problems they are incurring, and most probably go through a period of hating us. But that’s OK. I’m fully expecting that day. In the meantime, I, like my friends, am trying to make the choices I feel are right for me and my family. At the same time I’m trying not to judge those who make choices different to me, just like I hope they try not to judge me.