WHEN we moved into our house eight years ago there was a rectangular space in the hall, just at the bottom of the stairs, the same as millions of houses all over the country.
And like millions of homeowners all over the country, when we moved in first that space was filled with a lovely table and lamp, sometimes a vase of flowers and, more often than not, big piles of junk post.
As the years went on the table was moved out in favour of a baby buggy, baby bag, baby car seat and all the paraphernalia that goes with a newborn.
Then the buggy was replaced by a big boy stroller and now that The Beast is four and no longer using a stroller of any kind, that space in our hall now houses his brand new bike.
In a couple of years if Santy is feeling generous, that bike might be replaced by a bigger one but after that it’d be a tight squeeze to get a big kid bike in there, so it’ll probably have to go out the back.
Leaving the space in the hall empty.
In other homes there’s always another buggy (or four!) to fill the hole. Always a sibling’s bike to sit neatly on the tiles. In other homes their space in the hall rarely empties.
But in this house, once the space is empty, that’s it, it’s empty.
Of passing years and growing up. Of leaving babyhood behind. Not this coming September, but the following one, The Beast will head off to big school, leaving the space in the hall empty for even longer each day, with not even a school bag to fill it
And once the babyhood is over, once we’re in the midst of growing up, once the bikes get bigger and the rooms are emptier for more hours each day – where does that leave me?
According to newspapers and magazines and overheard conversations on the playground, it’ll mean I can get back to work, it’ll mean I can finally have my life back, it’ll mean I can break free of the chains of mothering and finally ‘do’ something again.
But here’s the thing:
I don’t want to. I don’t want to do any of those things. And I’m enormously privileged that financially I don’t have to.
I’m happy. I like me, just the way I am. For the first time in my life I can say with absolute conviction that I am content, that I am fulfilled, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Which is not to say that it is easy, because it is not. Being a stay at home mother can be wonderful and exciting and boring and monotonous all in the one day. All in the one hour. Which is not to say that I have embraced motherhood entirely and never struggle with it, because I do. Of course I do. Sometimes the walls of this well proportioned, large house feel very close together. Sometimes I question everything. But always, always, the answer to the question is that I am in the right place. For me.
For other mothers, it is the exact opposite, they are chomping at the bit to return to work, to do something outside of mothering and to that I say bravo. Every parent should be able to do what they want to do.
I have friends returning to work and education after 20 years at home. I have friends writing books and designing jewellery and opening delis and I am so fucking proud of them that I feel as though my heart is going to burst.
But I want to be here. At home. My ambitions are less. That might seem wasteful and shameful to some of you, but it’s the bald truth. My ambition is to be at home, with my son, for as long as I want to.
Maybe in a few years things will change. Maybe I’ll still be a stay at home Mam when The Beast is 15. I don’t know. Do I have to decide now? Is it not ok if my five-year plan simply says ‘To be happy’?
What I do know though is that my work here in my home is worthwhile. It’s important and it means something to me. It means everything to me. And that shouldn’t be under estimated. And it shouldn’t be seen as second best.
So no, I won’t be looking for part-time work once The Beast starts school. I won’t be going back to college. I won’t be changing the life I have here, right now. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
And as for that space in the hall – well, maybe it’s ok if it just stays empty.
I’M a stay at home mother and some days I do nothing.
I almost feel like I should have started that by ‘confessing’ that some days I do nothing. It’s a cardinal sin to admit that sometimes when you’re at home all day with a kid, you do nothing.
But it’s the truth. At least it is for me. At least some days.
Most days there’s something on the agenda – we meet friends, we go to the playground or the play centre or the park, we go shopping. There’s arts and crafts and baking and colouring and enormous rolls of paper covering the floor for finger painting. There’s reading and building blocks and counting and singing and kitchen discos and elaborate train tracks and always, always, there’s Lego.
But some days The Beast is fed and dressed and kept warm and safe and loved and that’s about it. No structured activities, no outings, nothing. His toys are laid out on the floor and he’s told to knock himself out.
I keep him alive. And some days, that’s enough. Some days that responsibility is enough. At it’s very core, I’m mothering. That’s my job. And often I feel like that job is overlooked, the very essence of what it is to be a parent is dismissed as ‘nothing’.
Of course it isn’t like that every day, it couldn’t be. We’d both be bored, for one. Kids need fresh air and friends for another. So most of the time it’s a busy, noisy, action packed life. But some days we do nothing. And I’m over feeling guilty about it.
I often feel like I need to justify what I’ve done with the day – I need a list of accomplishments, or else the day has been a failure. If I can’t list off a least three things that we’ve ‘done’ that day, then somehow I’m not a good parent.
I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m not going to feel like that. Because it’s bullshit.
It’s ok to do nothing some days. It’s ok to hunker down with some toys and spend a lazy afternoon together. It’s even ok to enjoy it.
So here’s to staying in your PJs, long days playing with toys, and relaxing on the sofa; here’s to *gasp* two movies in a row, late lunches and lying out on a blanket in the back garden.
Here’s to doing nothing. Because really, when you think about it, doing nothing some days can be everything.