“What are you going to be when you grow up?
How many times were you asked this as a child? For me, it was a lot and my overly enthusiastic answers would range from “A vet!” to “a singer”, “an olympic gymnast” and “an actress”, to the more realistic “a writer”. That one sat well with me and resonated deeply in my bones.
The questioning became more sporadic as I grew older, and instead began to focus more on career trajectory. What was I planning to do in 10 years: be magazine editor or perhaps I’d sidestep into subediting or freelance? As it happens I’ve done all those.
But then I went and did something – I had a child – and just like that those questions about my ambitions began to dry up and instead focused on when I’d procreate again.
For many people I had transformed from an ambitious journalist and traveller into a “mother”. And it appeared the two couldn’t co-exist.
But why is this? As a society we discount the exhausting, never-ending work a mother does and only lay credit on work that brings in an income. As infuriating as I find this, I’m equally angry about the tendency to ignore the ambitions a woman may have outside hearth and home simply because she happened to push out a baby.
Side note: next time you see a woman with a child under 2 who looks like she has it all together mentally high five her because chances are she’s had less sleep than she’d like, has watched more episodes of The Wiggles than she’d like to admit, has stopped at least two serious accidents from taking place and wrangled at least one tiny dictator out the door who may have decided that wearing shoes is the worst thing that has ever happened to them and so must lie face down on the floor and scream their protest. All before you’ve had your morning cup of tea.
But back to my point.
While mastering the fine art of the heavily pregnant waddle my husband and I made the decision together that I’d be the one to take a year off work to look after our son. After all, I had the boobs necessary for the early months, and even on a full time salary his wage more than eclipsed mine. We were also fortunate that our expenses weren’t enormous, meaning we could survive off one wage without too much stress.
But at my core I hadn’t changed. I loved my days at home, playing with my son, pottering around and finding my feet in this new role. But after 10 months at home I felt my creativity rise up and so launched the first evolution of this blog to provide an outlet. After 12 months I returned to work, ready and excited to use my brain and reclaim that former part of my identity – writer. However, I quickly noticed it was looked upon as more of a hobby. After all, I was “only” working part time. I was rarely asked about how office life was going, and more than once got comments about how it was unfortunate I couldn’t stay at home full time with my child. The questions about what I wanted to be when I grew up had well and truly ceased.
Now don’t get me wrong – I love being a mum and truly relish my days at home when we play in the yard building mud pies or chasing balls around a park, but I think it’s time we allow mothers to have more than one facet.
So I’m claiming it back. I want it all! I want to be a writer and a mother, a yoga teacher and a wife. And if in the coming months the urge takes me to add another string to my bow, so be it. After all, there’s always coffee to get me through.