Have you been away for half term? We have just returned from a Californian road trip (of which more posts later) but despite the whirlwind excitement of the last 16 days there is nothing quite like being home again.  So what is great about coming home?

  • The front door.  Odd it maybe, but when you pull up outside your house for the first time after a holiday, am I alone in loving the front door?  For me it is more than the first real sign of our home - it signifies the entrance to our little bit of the world.
  • The house smell.  My family mock me for my sensitive nose but just as we have our own distinct smell so too do houses and after being away it is our "house smell" that is familiar and comforting and says "Yes!  We are home!"
  • Not living out of a suitcase.  Doesn't everyone hate this?  But for us this time after 15 days of non-stop travelling down the West Coast of California, from San Francisco to Los Angeles and then through the desert to Las Vegas, Nevada, the novelty of hanging up clothes for a maximum of 2 days and in some cases not at all, was wearing thin.
  • Your wardrobe.  I am renowned for not packing lightly and this time was made more complicated as we had to cater for a variety of temperatures and activities, from whale watching in the Pacific, to beach lounging in Santa Monica, but nothing is the same as having access to your "whole" wardrobe and a real choice of what to wear.
  • A washing machine.  Yes we stayed in hotels, but there wasn't time to do a laundry service so we had to make do, recycle and buy some extras, but nothing quite beats the joy of fresh laundry and particularly underwear!  Between us this time there was a grand total of 70 boxers/knickers and 120+socks.
  • Space.  Everyone loves a fabulous hotel bedroom and en-suite but after a while it is all just too claustrophobic.  I miss the overall space of our house when on holiday and being able to walk between more than two rooms and floors, as well having the ability to seek out a little bit of "personal space" too.
  • Dressing table.  I couldn't survive without my little corner of our bedroom for sorting myself out and doing your hair etc in the bathroom just doesn't cut it for me.
  • Cooking.  My love/hate relationship with food shopping and cooking and my love of eating out is well documented, but after 16 days of airline and restaurant food constituting a minimum of 50 meals I would be very happy to "not go out" for a while.  My excitement at stocking the fridge and planning a family roast today with bucket loads of veg is palpable!
  • Tea.  You cannot move in the U.S. for Starbucks and coffee shops but "tea" is just not their thing.  In fact where else does tea (and cake) like us Brits?
  • Post.  Admittedly there is less real post nowadays but nevertheless there is something really satisfying about sorting through a pile of post when you arrive home.
  • Newspapers.  Oh my word.  I miss "real" English newspapers and my magazine subscriptions and love curling up for a good thumb through on coming home.
  • Catch-Up TV.  Nothing quite beats returning from holiday and sitting down for a binge TV session of your favourite shows and I already have my afternoon mapped out.
  • Internet Access.  Data roaming is so expensive and free WiFi is limited, so it is great to be back and to have access to the online world again.
  • Friends & Family.  Being on holiday is fantastic and for me it is fabulous family time but it is always great to get back and catch up with your friends and extended family and be in the real world again.
  • Bed.  Isn't this what everyone misses the most?  Nothing beats your own bed, with your own pillows and your own duvet and fresh linen.



What do you love about coming home?  Is there anythign you would add to this list?

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Are You A Bored and Unfulfilled Mother?

Mothers who quit their careers to look after their children will eventually find themselves bored and unfulfilled by full-time parenting.  This is the prophecy of American Samantha Ettus who has previously been lambasted for her stance by mothers on both sides of the Atlantic.

It is her belief that a mother's life that is dedicated to just one area, ie parenting is woefully imbalanced and will leave the mother dissatisfied and unhappy.  She argues that in the early days the novelty of being at home 24/7 with your child is wondrous yet the reality is that when the child moves into full-time education, the honeymoon period is over and you are left bewildered and hankering to return to work.

In the UK up to a third of women stop work when their children are very young. Ettus' advice to mothers is straightforward, not to close down all your options but at the very least to keep your foot in the door and thus avoid the risk of finding yourself further down the track totally dissatisfied with your lot and full of regret.

Personally, if I could take a step back and talk to myself  a few years ago I would concur with Ettus and advise an open door policy.

When I decided to close the door on my career, I quite literally slammed it on my way out, declaring the end to my days of corporate slavery and throwing myself on the pyre of motherhood and in doing so I ignored the advice of the person I listened to the most in the world, my own mother.  "Be careful Jo, be mindful of your long term future" she said.

It is important to put my decision in context.  I was a divorced, single working mother, one year into a new and happy relationship, riding high at work and then I fell pregnant.  Decisions which would have probably been made anyway were suddenly made a lot quicker.  In the space of six months, we sold one house, renovated another, moved in the day I gave birth to my daughter, my husband got a new job with lots of overseas travelling and my eldest was about to start school.  It was a time of monumental change in all our lives so we decided that there should be an element of stability and that it would be me at home to hold everything together, so I quit.

Was it a hasty decision?  Probably.  But at the time it felt like the right one and to be honest it felt right for the next decade.  That said as all mothers who have done something similar will know, full-time childcare is not a walk in the park.  It is hard work.  There is no respite and the transformation of your existence almost overnight is soul-destroying as is the monotony of the repetitive drudgery as your life moves into auto-pilot.

To say this out loud so to speak, is virtually a betrayal of the deity of motherhood and the marvel that is your child, but nonetheless it is true. Despite this, however, if when they go to school, you throw yourself into the whole playground thing, get involved with the school parent body and volunteer for all and sundry, "being at home" is quite rewarding.

So what do I miss?  Well apart from the financial independence, more than anything I miss the other side of me.  The half I think my husband fell in love with across a boardroom table one day, the half that commanded respect for my opinions and advice, was confident and stimulated by the variety of her job, the people she met and the projects she managed.  Of course there is more to me or any of us than our working persona, but when you have worked hard to get to university, left with a degree in a subject you love, landed your dream job, then worked hard at your career for the next 15 years, your working persona is by default a huge part of your identity.

This is the side of me my children will never know. My eldest vaguely remembers being looked after by various people whilst I worked, but he and his sister don't really know me in any capacity other than their mother. My mother worked from the age of 15 and instilled in my sister and I the importance of education, getting a good job and being self-sufficient.  Sometimes when I rant at my teenagers in the same vein, to work harder to make sure they have the best opportunities in life, I can see them looking at me with a look that says "What do you know?" and that makes me sad.

At no point when I was 37 did I consider what the job market for me would look like after more than ten years and Ettus is right after such a long career break I and others like me can't just pick up where we left off. Of course our skills are still there, albeit a bit outdated but the jobs aren't and there are many, many mothers like us all looking for that perfect job that fits with being there for the kids too.  Having said that it is not the end of the road, our skills can be refreshed and the explosion of the online world is opening up a wealth of opportunities for those looking for an alternative career and one that fits in with being at home.

Being a mother is a privilege not enjoyed by everyone and if we are lucky to be blessed then make the most of it we should.  Children need our love, they need our time and deserve our attention.  They are only children for a very short time before adulthood snatches them away and that time disappears in the blink of an eye.  So whilst I may regret the loss of the other bit of me that gave me access to a wider world than the one I inhabit now, I am grateful for those bonding years which have come from being around my kids even if I do have to remind them that there is more to me than being a mum!

Now mine are teenagers and one is off at university they don't need me as much and I have more time on my hands to revisit those bits of me I packed away a few years ago, but not to their detriment.  I was there for my eldest through his exams and I will be for my youngest too as she approaches her GCSE's.  I want to be the first to hear her news each day, to support her through the mountains of homework, spell check her essays and listen to her drama rehearsals and make sure there is a meal on the table so we can all get together at the end of the day.

I value the relationship I have with my teens and put that down to being there.  Because of all this I am the one that my teens talk to if there is a problem, I am the one they confide in, I am the one who sleeps easy at night because I know my kids are okay and have a clear path in the world.  So if I am occasionally bored and unfulfilled, I try to cap the urge to scream and remember the advice of an old work colleague "Breathe Jo, just breathe!"

What do you think of Ettus' stance?  Have you given up a career to be at home with your children? Are you happy with your decision?

Editors Note : This post has been updated since first published.