On my first day of school, at the age of 5, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. The other kids all wanted to be Firemen, or Police Officers or Nurses and Doctors. I decided that if I had to be something I wanted to be a fairy.
Fast forward 10 years and I find myself having to choose my VCE subjects. There was no ‘Fairy 101’ so I rationalised that since I love animals I could be a Veterinarian. That lasted all of one semester studying Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and Maths Methods. In Semester Two I dumped that hell-on-earth for subjects more my style; English Literature, Human Development and the others obviously made little impression because I can’t even remember them. I gave absolutely no consideration to how those subjects would influence my ability for further education.
At the very least I have to be grateful for my one semester of chemistry, afterall that is where I met and fell in love with my husband.
Everything happens for a reason.
When University selection time came around I decided that I’d try nursing. I wouldn’t say I had any burning desire to do anything in particular, but under pressure to be something, I decided that I liked the idea of being a midwife and a Bachelor of Nursing was the path that would lead the way.
Still, it never felt right. After a year of brushing false teeth, showering geriatrics and changing sheets I decided it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t even make myself do it with the Midwifery light at the end of the tunnel. I witnessed death, and families waiting for death, and that was the end of me. I just can’t watch people dying, my bleeding heart leaks all over the place.
I quit Uni and flitted backwards and forwards between not knowing what to do with myself and knowing that the whole world expected me to ‘Be Something.’ Trouble was I never knew what that something was. I could be a writer or a counsellor. Perhaps I could try pathology…or psychology? Medical receptionist? I decided to get a job while I figured it out. By the time I was 21 I had had no less than 5 million part time jobs. After 5 years together and a 3 year engagement I said to my then fiancé`
”I feel like I’m waiting for my life to start. Like I’m just treading water til the real stuff begins. All I want is you and our life together, what are we waiting for?”
In hindsight we were waiting for the socially acceptable age to be married, whatever that is. In the end neither of us had a good reason to wait, so we stopped waiting.
We planned our wedding, and planned our first baby. Turned out that our baby making skills were more efficient than we thought, and as a result I was 4 months pregnant on our wedding day.
I felt like my life was starting, like I was coming Home.
With my husband right beside me and the birth of my first child I figured out my place in this world. With each baby I was closer to feeling complete. I began to realise that being a wife and mother is all that I ever wanted. I have never had any desire to forge a career or climb any corporate ladder. Being a good wife and mother is what I am supposed to do with my life. It feels like home to me.
I’m ok with that now, but that hasn’t always been the case.
I used to feel bad about being just a Mother. I felt so much pressure to be something. You’re expected to want something more for yourself; afterall we at least owe the early feminists a show of gratitude.
You’re expected to go back to your life when your kids start school; at the very least you’re expected to get back on the path to your dream. What if being a mother is the dream? It seems to me that mothering is treated like a temporary hiatus from the ‘real’ life you’re supposed to want.
I remember the angst of running into someone I hadn’t seen for years and having to answer the question “So, what have you been doing with yourself?”
“Oh well I spent the morning pureeing and freezing vegies for my baby, and then I played Thomas the Tank with my toddler, we might go to the park this afternoon, and then we’ll probably make play doh before I put dinner on”…..I don’t say. What I do say is more along the lines of…
“Well, I…um….have kids, so you know. I’m just a Mum at the moment” How do you make wiping yoghurt off the walls and searching for a favourite lost toy sound like a life?
You can’t, so you don’t.
The next question was always “When do you think you’ll go back to work?”
I always left those chance meetings feeling like a failure. Like I should have at least finished the Bachelor of Nursing for no other reason than to have something to say. Then I could have said, “Well I’m a Nurse and I’m on maternity leave at the moment.” Translation – See I have a title, I have worth.
What if I don’t want that life? What if I want to be at home for my kids when they leave in the morning and return in the afternoon? What if what I want for myself IS this full time Just a Mum gig? Why do I need a piece of paper to define who I am? A diploma that states I studied this so now I am this, so that I have some value to society.
Now, after almost 12 years of mothering I realise that, even without my certificate on the wall, I do have value to society. I am raising a very small piece of the next generation. I am hopefully raising good contributing members of society. At some stage I might go back to that counselling course I started so that I can give back to the community. I might volunteer or write a book. I might be a barista for a while or learn flower arrangement. I might decide to be a midwife afterall.
Or I might not.
For now, I am just a Mum and I’m not ashamed to admit it.