A dear friend of mine got married last year. At the Hen Do we got a rare chance to sit and chat and catch up. She asked me if I was enjoying married life (yes) and if I was going to have any more children (no). She said that her 'husband to be' really wanted to start trying for children straight away, as soon as on the honeymoon, but being the ever practical lass that she is, she couldn't afford to give up work as they would have debt from the wedding to pay off.
Fast forward to now and we managed to have a quick chat the other day. I asked if she thought that they might try for a child this year and she replied 'Yes, if only to get me out of that 'hell hole'' (i.e place of work). I understood that completely, the yearning to not have to work in the city (why do we do it? For the experience, and for a while it's great, and for the better money of course) but to not have to get up at 5.30am to make a train at 6.30am come, wind, rain or shine, is beyond dreams. To not have the commute there and back that invariably at least twice a week, makes you late in to work and even later home. To not have to catch every bug that is going around the germ infested train carriages and air conditioned office with no windows. To not have to think a dozen times a day 'I am never going to get this time back'.
However, I had the knowledge from already having one child that the SAH parent option was not an easy way out. Far from it. When I decided to trade the City for the Cradle a second time, yes I wanted to 'get out of the rat race' but moreover, I really wanted another child, I was ready at last to take the plunge and try for another baby, and I think only with that real wanting, and not just thinking it justifies you leaving a job you dislike, can you really survive being a stay - at - home mum.
Many times you may think to yourself 'Why did I do this?' because it is trying and does force you to 'count to 10' numerous times in the day (particularly when they hit the dreaded toddler hood of course) and if it isn't what you want truly with all your heart, you could be in trouble. The important thing for me is, in this role never once have I sighed and thought 'I am never getting this time back', but more 'this is our time', with all it's challenges and stress level enhancing power, it's an amazing time.
Now I didn't want to rain on her parade, and I know that they are a sensible couple, who certainly do want to have children, and I hope that they do, but at the right time for them because I think what people do not always do is weigh up the pro's and con's of taking up The Motherhood in a stay at home capacity (I do not say full time here, because you are a parent full time whether you are SAH or WAH or work out at a place of employment).
What I will be saying to her when we get a proper chance to have a chat (ha ha, more than a text but less than a relaxed afternoon lunching and supping cocktails, they certainly fly out the window with the birth of a child!) is that; yes you do lose all those crappy parts of the job that you are pretty sure was never in your description when you started, and the commute, but be aware of the things you might not be so keen to leave behind...
For example, the chance to take a shower / bath on your own to get ready for your day, or just the time to actually get ready for your day full-stop, adult conversation on a continuous level (which is one of the harder things to get used to not having I believe), lunch with colleagues / friends uninterrupted with a bottle of wine, opportunities to go for a drink or meal after work impromptu. In actual fact the opportunity to do anything impromptu until they are out of nappies / off of milk / can walk sensibly and generally be almost a child of secondary age. The luxury of doing whatever you want at the weekend, including shopping all day. And the most important one, the loss of your own salary.
Now, this last one I think nowadays is a big deal for most women. From my experience with most of my friends we have all been very independent, stand alone women for a portion of time prior to meeting our partners, who have earned their own money and lived on their own, thus dealing with their own finances and spending however they want. This is difficult to let go of. I speak from my own experience.
I have been a SAHM for two and a bit years now, and I still struggle to get my head around the fact that I do not earn a salary and have sole control over the house finances. Of course I was thrilled that we were in a position for me to give up my salary and stay - at - home with the children, prior to this I was a single mother and needed to go out to a full time, paid job, but I did not realise how I would react to the situation. It has taken a long time for me to get out of that 'me and mine, to joint and ours' and is still something I have to work on.
And I was shocked by this, because leaving work and having another child and being a SAHM is what I really wanted, I did not see the finance issues a-coming. I thought it would be more the stress of losing an income but it wasn't it was more the feeling that I was completely dependent on someone else. You can take the girl out of Independent Land but you can't take the Independent outta the girl I guess.
Something else that you really have to face up to, is that you are on duty 24/7, 365 days a year, whether you are sick, emotional, tired or hungover. Kids can not be put on hold until you are feeling chipper again, and require the same amount of energy levels spent on them no matter how you are feeling. There is no 4 weeks statutory sick leave in this job (or 'late into work because you overslept' - you will never oversleep again in fact...)
Parenthood, is the most full time job in the world, unpaid financially, long hours, no statutory holiday leave or sick leave requirements, no free parties or socials functions where you stand with a glass of wine with all the time in the world yah-yahing with other adults, or having anyone impartial to referee the latest stand off (that you will have with your toddler over eating their breakfast / lunch / tea...).
But, all the other rewards of this 'parenthood job', from the first time they look you right in the eyes after they are born, to when they reach their milestones with gusto, when you have those little moments in between tantrums of the toddler years where you lay on the floor playing 'rough and tumble' and you really hear their hearty little unadulterated laugh, when you first start having little conversations with them, for me, far outweigh those of any job I have ever had.
And that is enough for me (well, 99% of the time, of course like every parent, some days after no sleep whilst feeling under par and being literally sick of the only words leaving your mouth being 'stop that, don't do that, stop being a naughty boy, leave the cat a.l.o.n.e! I maybe question if the better option would be to return to paid employment...but then they fall asleep and any parent knows you overwhelming emotion of watching your child sleep) and truly for the most part I am a very lucky person who can say 'I love my job' and be completely satisfied.
So I will be saying, my dear friend, if you can foresee yourself saying that too, then you are ready for children, love and cherish the experiences that will come your way because they are gone, all too soon.