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 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 13 years ago I would probably advise an open door policy.  I certainly wouldn't point blank refuse to entertain suggestions of freelance work or even decline an invitation for a catch up over lunch with a head hunter or old colleague.

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, working, single 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 Teenager No.2, Mr MoT got a new job with lots of overseas travelling and Teenager No.1 started 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 11 years.  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 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 and the people she met.  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. Teenager No.1 vaguely remembers being looked after by various people whilst I worked, but he and his sister don't 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.

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.  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 come from being around my kids even if I am just plain old mum to them.

Now mine are teenagers, 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 I am still at home for them after school.  I am the first to hear their news each day, I am the one who encourages them when they are faced with mountains of homework, I am the one who spell checks their essays when they are just too tired, I am the one who makes sure there is a meal on the table so we can all get together at the end of the day. Because of all this I am the one they 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 a dear work colleague "Breathe Jo, just breathe!"

 

Are you bored and unfulfilled or happy and content with your lot as a mother?  Let me know.

 

 

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36 Comments

  1. October 14, 2016 / 10:08 am

    I was lucky enough to spend my kids formative years at home with them. They are teens now and I am back at work full time. I am definitely grateful of the time that I spent with them. This is a super post Jo, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • October 30, 2016 / 3:23 am

      Hi Cathy thanks for your comment, I am glad you liked the post. It’s great that you have managed to enjoy your time at home with your kids and are now back to work.

  2. October 14, 2016 / 9:44 am

    I left work when I found out I was pregnant with BP (13 years ago) and never went back. Now both my boys are in school and I spend the time they’re in school blogging. Writing became my passion when LP started school. I am more me now than I was when I had the babies at home, I feel more fulfilled and happy than I’ve ever been. Staying at home with your children allows you to explore and learn who you really are. Great post hun, thanks so much for linking to #pocolo
    Morgan Prince recently posted…Post Comment Love 14th – 16th OctoberMy Profile

    • October 30, 2016 / 3:30 am

      There is clearly no coincidence in the stats for the increase in blogging amongst mums at home is there? It’s great Morgan that your writing and blog have taken off and you feel so fulfilled and happy. Like you I relish my time when mine are both at school so that I can pursue my own passions more now. #PoCoLo

  3. October 13, 2016 / 2:54 pm

    Such an interesting topic, I recently returned to work part time after bubba no 2, it was more out of necessity than want and I would have loved to have more time at home with my littles. I am however very lucky to have a very flexible employer so fitting work around being a Mum has so far proven very easy. I think if I hadn’t returned to work I would have wanted to leave the door slightly ajar though 🙂 Thank you for sharing with #bigpinklink x
    Hannah G, The ‘Ordinary’ Mum recently posted…Big Pink Link 10/10/16My Profile

    • October 13, 2016 / 10:51 pm

      Glad to hear that you have a good work/mum at home balance. It makes it so much easier if you have an accommodating employer for sure. #bigpinklink

  4. October 12, 2016 / 8:29 pm

    I didn’t want to return to work after my mat leave, I really didn’t. But now I look back at how our daughter has thrived in childcare and now in school, socially and academically. And how working kept me sane and got me out of the house! I have alot of respect for stay at home parents… #ablogginggoodtime
    Carol Cameleon recently posted…Relish Autumn ~ #poemMy Profile

    • October 13, 2016 / 10:54 pm

      It is our job as mums to agonise over what to do and the best decision for our kids and us but if there is the option to dip keep a foot in both camps I think the benefits are huge. So glad it’s worked out for your family. Thanks for sharing. #ablogginggoodtime

  5. October 12, 2016 / 5:27 pm

    A really interesting prospective, I’m not a mother yet but I think I’d be caught in the middle. My mum always said to end up working from home so you have more scope to stay working when you have children. And luckily that has happened, but I can’t imagine how exhausted I’ll be working from home and looking after the kids! #BloggersClubUK

    • October 13, 2016 / 10:56 pm

      Wise words indeed. If you have a career that gives you that flexibility that sounds like the perfect scenario. Thanks for commenting. #BloggersClubUK

  6. October 11, 2016 / 7:12 pm

    Thanks for your post, the line that really struck me was “They are only children for a very short time before adulthood snatches them away. ” This is so true. I very much an older mum, I’ve given up my job followed my husband abroad and now am a SAHM. When I get back to the UK I will be the age when women are being made redundant. But I’m not thinking about that. But I’m making the best of it -to spend time with the kids, occasionally be bored, and to blog. Have to say, I’m not missing work at all!
    Tooting Mama recently posted…Coffee in Paris sucks! Where to find good coffee in ParisMy Profile

    • October 11, 2016 / 7:56 pm

      It is fantastic that you are making the most of the wonderful opportunity you have to be at home and to experience life in Paris, these chances don’t come around very often so it’s important to seize them when they do and given your circumstances why would you miss work or even Tooting? x

  7. October 11, 2016 / 1:36 pm

    I love this Jo. And I agree to the leaving the door ajar statement in some respects. Although I do not think it’s a deal breaker. I didn’t have my daughter until I was 38 so had built up quite a lot of credit and stability in terms of the mortgage and being able to afford to stay off. We only have the one daughter who is now 10. I was a small business owner for a short while which worked around school and then I went into part-time role. I also left the corporate world behind but in effect, those years of slogging paved my way and allowed the choices I now have. Having said that I love to work and I kind of see my time starting again when my daughter goes to secondary school. I’ll be slightly older than the rest of the workforce (how did that happen) but I’m still perfectly capable. We are always judged by someone about the choices we make and I’m over that really now because not working is wrong and working is wrong. Hiding and nothing sometimes! Having left a very demanding job earlier in the year, I am now choosing to gift myself time to focus on the blog. I will never regret the time with my daughter, at times I could have done with a bit more for me but I’ve generally always got stuck into something. I think the only time we question our choices is when we are judged in the main. You are doing a fantastic job! #PoCoLo
    Nicky Kentisbeer recently posted…Top Tips For Your Loft ConversionMy Profile

    • October 11, 2016 / 2:39 pm

      Thanks Nicky for your thoughts and feedback. You have clearly tried your hand at many different working options. It is great that you have the ability to be able to enjoy your time with your daughter and that is the crux of it really. They are only young and with you for a short period and if we are lucky enough to be blessed with the financial security to be around for them that is invaluable as it is time we as parents will never get back. #PoCoLo

  8. October 10, 2016 / 10:25 pm

    A really thoughtful post and for me having the choice is the important thing. I stopped working for a couple of years after redundancy and going back to work after that was tough, partly because I was happy to stay home but mostly because I too felt the need to prove myself when going for jobs I could do standing on my head. In the end I took a job lower than I had previously and while I enjoyed it, I knew i couldn’t do it longer term. Now I’ve a more fulfilling role, it took me a while to find but it was worth it. You’re right it is tough to get it right all of the time, and to be honest I don’t think anyone expects us to whatever they say. I’m sure your kids know and value how much you’re there and do for them. Thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo
    Stephanie Robinson recently posted…We have a cauliflower!My Profile

    • October 11, 2016 / 2:35 pm

      Stephanie I am so glad you have found something that satisifies you now, you have have highlighted just how tough it is to pick up the reins and get back into the work environment again but most importantly to find something that you find rewarding for yourself rather than just any job. Thanks for sharing your experiences. #PoCoLo

  9. October 10, 2016 / 10:12 pm

    Such a true post. I am currently a mother of one 21 month old little girl and a SAHM. I left my job in childcare due to the un-flexible hours and costs. Being a SAHM is absolutely wonderful and a blessing, but some days I do wonder about what my life is to be in five years time or so. I am currently pregnant with baby number 2 due in April and I decided that I would look into doing some training/courses/gaining some qualifications to keep my CV and mind up to date – and slowly prepare to return to work that way. I can’t see anyone employing me being pregnant (even though you can’t do that but you know my drift). Making small plans for the future so I don’t wake up in a panic one day seems to be my plan A. Life can give you lemons sometimes and things don’t go as swimmingly but we have to make some lemonade right? #bigpinklink

    • October 11, 2016 / 2:43 pm

      Lex I love your analogy. You are in the very early days and those are precious days. Having not been around for my eldest in his early days and then being there 24/7 for my youngest I am so glad I did have that opportunity. It’s great that you are thinking ahead and in the meantime enjoy the time you have at home and take your time with the life plan. #bigpinklink

  10. October 10, 2016 / 5:20 pm

    HI Jo, having children was never on my ‘to do’ list until I was married and realised how badly my husband wanted children. So we went on to have two children (now 19 and 16). And I pretty much stopped working when we had our first, as I wanted to be there for them. I wanted to be the one to guide them. To teach them right from wrong. Things are a bit different now, my son who is on the autistic spectrum wouldn’t cope on his own and I’m still there (here) when my daughter gets in from school. Over the years I have found the ‘old’ me again, older and wiser, but still me. Would I have had it any other way? Probably not. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. All lawns have little brown patches.

    xx
    Debbie recently posted…Monday Morning Blog Club 10/10/16My Profile

    • October 11, 2016 / 2:31 pm

      Debbie you have the hit the nail on the head. I think wanting to be there to guide our children is a big driver for us all. I was very aware when I quit work that a mixture of nannies had been responsible for the majority of the early shaping of my son to use a better expression and with all the changes we were going through as a family at the time of my pregnancy with my youngest, I wanted to be around to take the reins and guide them from thereon. As I said I don’t regret that per se but there will always be a bit of me that says “if only…..” Thanks for sharing your experiences. And good luck with the Blog Club. x

      • October 12, 2016 / 11:03 am

        I think life is full of “what if…”, and as long as we don’t dwell too long on our thoughts. My thoughts were if I was the one to do most of the guiding then I couldn’t blame anyone else for the way my children turn out. Some traits will always be personality led, but there are many traits that can be ‘taught’…. If you know what I mean?

        Thank you. So far I am enjoying hosting the #MMBC!

        XX
        Debbie recently posted…Monday Morning Blog Club 10/10/16My Profile

  11. October 7, 2016 / 9:14 pm

    It’s such a hard decision. I went back to work part time at the end of maternity leave three years ago. I say ‘went back’ but I started a new job and I now actually feel, as crazy as it sounds, like I have more prospects than I did four years ago! I’m lucky I can have the best of both worlds but I couldn’t have done it without my parents and my in laws to help out with childcare. I don’t know what I would have done if we couldn’t have relied on them. It’s tough. But as long as in your heart of hearts you know you did the right thing at the right time, you shouldn’t have any regrets 🙂 #pocolo
    Jaki recently posted…Get Ambient Lighting With The Polychrome LightMy Profile

    • October 9, 2016 / 4:48 pm

      I am glad you have found the right balance and that you have the support of your family, I think that really does make a big difference in many people’s decision making. #PoCoLo

  12. October 7, 2016 / 8:22 pm

    They were talking about this woman on TV and initially I was incensed with what I thought she was saying but then I thought so what she is entitled to her opinion and from what you have written (very well I must add) she does have a point. I have always worked part-time. Initially 2 days and now 3. I always wanted to keep the door open and I don’t regret going part time. I would not like to work more, my personal choice. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

    • October 9, 2016 / 4:51 pm

      Some of her points are extreme but I suppose she gets the reaction and engagement as a result. It sounds like you have the perfect balance and I think that is what many mothers would like is the comfort of a part-time job that gives them a bit of independence and sense of self. Thanks for sharing your story. #ablogginggoodtime

  13. October 6, 2016 / 9:01 pm

    I feel like this is a letter from me of the future to my current self! My hubby and I have been talking a lot lately about whether I should start looking for a part time role, but Ijust feel so needed at home right now. Plus with huge childcare costs and no family support, it doesn’t seem worth it?
    This is a really valuable read, thank you.
    And thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub
    MMT recently posted…#coolmumclub Linky week 40My Profile

    • October 7, 2016 / 6:12 pm

      Yes childcare costs are a big factor and sometimes particularly in a part-time role it almost makes no sense financially as you end up earning just to pay someone else to look after your kids. As mothers I think we are always needed at home and as I said our children are not with us for long, it is a precious time so if you can, make the most of it. #coolmumclub

  14. October 6, 2016 / 2:42 pm

    Hmmm this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. Im starting to feel I need something more, but also I want to be at home and able to give nutritious meals, homework help etc etc to my children. It’s really tricky. I’m hoping to go back part time and hope that’s the answer, or as close to it as I can get.

    • October 6, 2016 / 7:50 pm

      I don’t think there is a perfect answer. Whilst I have regrets I have loved my time with my “now teenagers” despite my frequent outbursts of frustration. We must all do what is right for us and if part-time is an option, I would say now go for it, or at the very least give it a go because you can always walk away but never go back. x

  15. October 6, 2016 / 2:09 pm

    I think it so hard to come to terms with what we need vs want and how to balance that. Working for me is not a choice financially. I am looking forward to having time as myself and not as mum, but then again the thought of going back and not being there every day for my kids is hard xx #coolmumclub

    • October 6, 2016 / 2:27 pm

      It’s not easy being a mum is it? There are so many choices to be made on a daily basis and as women we are naturally predisposed to beating ourselves up as to whether we are making the right choice whatever we do. Good luck going back to work, I hope everything goes smoothly. #coolmumclub

  16. October 6, 2016 / 11:48 am

    I love this! I was just discussing this with someone the other day. I was questioning whether I should have worked a bit more when my kiddos were younger. But I am so so grateful I was able to stay home with them. It is such a precious part of their life – and such a short time of their life. It is a sacrifice on many fronts, but a blessing on many more.
    http://mydegreesofseparation.wordpress.com

    • October 6, 2016 / 12:03 pm

      It is a difficult balance. With one child I think it is manageable but after that the pressure increases and you end up having to pay someone else or in some cases several people to look your kids and do the jobs you can’t do. Whatever route we choose the other one will always look rosier. Thanks for commenting.

  17. October 5, 2016 / 11:12 pm

    Moving house and giving birth on the same day! Now that must have been hard!. I worked literally 24/7 when I had my three children. My long hours started when my youngest was three. I have deeply regretted this for some years. Your children will always remember you being there, and I’m sure you will surprise them later showing them what you are capable of.
    http://www.vanityandmestyle.com

    • October 6, 2016 / 11:59 am

      Thanks Laurie, I think whatever route you choose as a mother, there is always a bit of you that regrets not choosing the alternative. It’s tough to get it right all of the time isn’t it.