Ah that question! I know I’m not the only one who has been faced with it so much lately. But, seriously, enough now.
My daughter started school in September and it opened some kind of floodgate on people’s opinion of me and my working life. ‘Oh she’s started school? And what are you doing now? When are you going back to work?’ Well I’m not actually. I’m one of those crazy, unfashionable, non-feminist people who has chosen to stay at home so I can take my daughter to school and pick her up and read with her after school and go to her harvest festival.
Because of the way our media works you will probably have two stay at home mum stereotypes in your head now. The yummy mummy and the daytime tv mum. But stop there. That is what our society today wants you to think. That everyone should speed back to work as soon as possible and Contribute To Society. That stay at home mums (oh how I hate that term) and dads are either benefit scroungers who sit around watching daytime tv and playing on Facebook, or fashionistas who have a school run outfit, drive big cars and hold coffee mornings.
Here’s the news- we’re not all like that! And perhaps being a working parent isn’t the only way to positively contribute to society, or always the best thing for us or our children? For some people it absolutely is. But not for everyone. Because we’re all different.
I am not employed but I do not claim any benefits-no tax credits, no child benefit. Not a penny. I am lucky enough to have a wife who works very hard and believes in what I do with my time enough to support me. I don’t pay tax because I’m not earning but I do give back to the community in other ways. I set up The Rainbow Library to get books into the hands of children that wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. I read at my local nursery and at my daughter’s school to support children’s literacy and reading for pleasure. I am a new parent governor.
I don’t spend the rest of my time watching tv or having coffee mornings. I write for children and I read a lot of varied material to support and inform my writing. I review children’s books and write this blog. I don’t play on Facebook but I do spend time on Twitter, not watching YouTube clips of cats but chatting about books and education and equality, sharing ideas and information, reading articles and staying up to date with the latest information, and supporting brilliant groups, organisations and charities like Stonewall, Let Toys be Toys, Inclusive Minds, LetterBox Library and TeacherROAR.
And do you know what? I AM A FEMINIST! I don’t know when it became fashionable to think any woman who chose to stay at home and parent couldn’t be a feminist or was anti-feminist in some way, but let’s stop it now, it’s crap. I am not dragging women back to the dark ages of being tied to the kitchen by their apron strings. Anyone who has seen my approach to housework and cooking knows that! I am not teaching my daughter that her future only involves settling down and making a home. I am teaching her to follow her dreams and do what she believes in. That I am there for her because I believe that she is wonderful enough to deserve my time. That ‘work’ doesn’t have to be paid. That parenting is important. That it is important to be involved in your community and to actively support what you believe in. That helping people that aren’t as lucky as you is the right thing to do.
When I was young did I think I’d be a ‘stay at home mum’? No. Not in a million years. But actually, that’s not all I am. I’m proud to put my daughter first and acknowledge and support the fact that at just 4, she’s not ready for wrap-around childcare. But I am also proud to be working in the community, to be following my dream and writing, to be learning and teaching every day.
So next time you hear the term ‘stay at home mum’, think twice before you judge. Maybe they are more than a mum and maybe they do more than stay at home.