25.3.13

Minimalist Monday: Not Doing it All



Almost eighteen years ago, on my last day of maternity leave, I remember memorising my eldest son's face looking up at me from his pushchair. I wanted to hold on to the moment and remember that I was the centre of his world and he of mine. 

The early days of babyhood thrilled and fulfilled me but I was also keen to develop my career. Returning to full-time work I coped well on the surface. However, remarks such as, “I don't know how you do it all”, made me feel uncomfortable as secretly I felt that I was compromising in all areas of my life and I felt exhausted most of the time. As a teacher working long hours I had little time or energy left at the end of the day for my family. I relied heavily on the support of my husband and our parents and being able to play catch-up in the holidays. I dreamt of working part-time but our ever increasing outgoings and desire for material possessions meant we relied on two full-time incomes. 


Then in 2011 I developed a stress-induced illness. After time off work, I realised I could rebalance my life, if I was brave enough. I was lucky to be able to go part-time, working three days a week. This wasn't an easy choice, as it meant cutting our expenditure and selling our family home.


Now I have time for my children and my job. Even though they are older I still feel they benefit from having me around more. I enjoy more relaxed evenings and weekends and I have more energy and enthusiasm for family life. I have happy memories of my children’s early years and know that they haven't been deprived of love or care. I always made time for them and would work late at night or early in the morning so that I could still enjoy evenings and weekend activities with them. However, looking back I regret not realising the value of time with my children earlier. Experience has taught me that time with my family is worth far more than career success, status and possessions. 


I know I'm not alone in feeling regret for not spending enough time with my children – this is one of the top five regrets of parents according to a top psychologist. And I know that working full-time is not a choice but a necessity for many parents. I'm not judging working parents or stay at home parents. I'm just saying that maybe I should have listened to that little voice inside my head eighteen years ago and that maybe I had more choice than I thought. 




11 comments :

  1. Well said! We are freer than we think, but it takes courage to take the freedom....lovely post.

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  2. I agree, well said, and there are some who say we should never look back with regret only look back for love, I think you chose wisely, lovely post, oops I see I repeated that but its true,

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  3. What a lovely post ... I always imagined prior to having my family I would stay in my demanding job but after having my little ones I made the decision to be a SAHM ... with the support of my husband ... we have had to manage with less but I am proud of the decision I made ... it isn't for everyone but I feel each family must make the choice for themselves ... both choices deserve respect ... Bee xx

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  4. This post feels so heartfelt That picture is really so sweet. And your opening sentence really touched me.

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  5. Claire you should have no regrets because you gave your boys the best you could in the circumstances and I'm sure they know how much they are loved. However it is wonderful to know that you have been courageous enough to change your situation and now have time for yourself, husband and the boys and live without the stress.

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  6. I have no doubt you are a wonderful mum and any mum that tries their hardest simply is. My mum raised me on her own and the fact that she worked full-time never made me feel rejected, but rather blessed at how hard she worked to provide for me. Your boys will see that in you too. In 2007 my husband and I made the decision for my health that working full-time was not good for me/us. It was such a good decision that we've never regretted.

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  7. I really appreciate your honest approach to this subject. Every woman should have the right to make their own decision about how they choose to bring up their children, free from the judgement of others. So long as they are doing what they truly feel is best for themselves and their family they should have no reason to feel any guilt or regret. In my experience, children can learn a good work ethic from working parents and also learn to be more independent and self-sufficient, which is no bad thing.

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  8. There is no ideal for everyone and little time or opportunity to discover the individual's ideal! Although I was brought up to expect university and a career, I wasn't terribly keen and having my first child very young meant I had to work, anyway. After a few years full-time work I married and was lucky enough to be able to become a SAHM from then on and be at home with my three girls, even though my husband's career didn't take off until a lot later on. This may have been a bit of a reaction because my own mother always worked long hours (also a teacher, initially) and I wanted to be there more for my girls. It also later allowed me the luxury of being able to pick up my studies and work independently from home when the kids got older (our school system not being conducive to going back to work!). Having said that, it's still quite amusing that people ask my mother and me "well, what does she DO?"! I do feel lucky and am never bored or feel out of it, though I don't see many people, being at home, but another woman may have really disliked the same sort of situation, so it's not for everyone. The relationships between the generations in our family are all good, no matter what the work situation was!! Yes, lucky indeed.

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  9. This is a very interesting post and as already said, it is a nice one as you do not judge anyone. When I had my son, I chose to work part time as my company offered this possibility. A couple of years later I have been laid of because of this, the company wanting to keep only full head counts. Where we are, it is very uncommon to work part time, so I went back to work in a full time position... With the economic crisis, we have no choice but reduce our expenditures, but still, and I think, this is quite specific to where we live, the economic pressure is there, housing are skyrocketing and cost of living is very high... I started my simplifying journey some time ago and yes, we are reducing our wants... We are trying to make different choices. I don't think there are better or worse ones, just different... I am happy to read that you think that your children are happy to see you around as my goal is to be able to work less... It is not something I foresee in a close future rather in a mid-term period of time, but surely I will get there, even if my son will be a bit older, I also think he will be happy of this... And I think I will be happy too...

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  10. so heartfelt,being a mother is so hard at times ,but i truly believe every mother does her best none of us should have any regrets!

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  11. Lovely post, Claire. We all make the choices that feel right for us and our families at the time and there is no point regretting anything for the past can't be changed . I'm really glad you've achieved a good work/life balance now. :-)

    Gillian x

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