There are a number of articles on the web at the moment about whether or not it's a luxury to be a stay at home mum. People are then arguing the converse, so it's something that is yet again dividing women, and more over, mothers.
I feel quite strongly on this, and feel that articles on both sides miss the point. It's not that staying at home is a luxury (or luxurious, as the argument is being misinterpreted). It is the choice. If you can choose to stay home or go to work, then you are in a luxurious position. There are women who would work, but can't afford childcare for multiple children (or even get childcare, should they earn enough to be able to pay for it), and there are women for whom no amount of sacrificing 'life's pleasures' would allow them to stay home and still feed and house their children.
If you can make that choice, no matter whether you decide to stay home or go to work, it is a luxury. One of the definitions of choice is: 'The power, right, or liberty to choose; option'. People without choices or options are people without freedom. We have the luxury to vote for political parties without repercussion, we have the luxury to say what we think (more or less), we have the luxury to wear what we like and so on. All these things we take for granted as our way of life in Australia, and yet they are luxuries.
The quality of life that goes with the decision you make (to work or stay home) is irrelevant. The fact that you made a choice is the luxury. A lifestyle wasn't forced upon you. That choice does have an impact on your lifestyle and your finances, but you choose it in it's entirety. You also have the choice to change it at any time.
When my second child was 3, I became distraught that I wouldn't get the 'maternity leave' year that I had with my eldest when he was the same age. I didn't want to miss out* on that time with him. I was at work, and I said something along those lines to my partner. He replied 'So quit. Just go and tell them now that you're leaving'. That hugely generous gesture will never be forgotten. It was as if time stood still and a split second stretched for an hour while my whole universe and perception changed. I didn't quit on the spot, I took sometime to get finances in order (and long service leave and so on). That moment, however, was the first time I realised I had a choice in what I was doing. I wholeheartedly believe that choice is a luxury. It is a luxury that many people don't have.
So if you chose to go to work, and miss your kids, or if you chose to stay home and can't afford to get takeaway on the weekend, just celebrate that you got to choose. There are countries with no welfare where you send your children to factories at 7 just to feed them, or you work in a different country and miss their childhood completely. These situations are not inflicted on us in Australia. We are indeed a lucky country, and we are luckier still if we have the choice on whether to work or not.
Archibald MacLeish said "Freedom is the right to choose: the right to create for oneself the alternatives of choice.” and that ability to choose is a luxury not to be taken for granted.
(The articles that prompted this are here and here)
*I am not saying working mothers miss out. I know from personal experience that I made sure I did more hands on, engaged activities with my kids when I was working full time than a lot of stay at home mums I knew at the time. It was an emotional crises I was feeling on a personal level. In no way am I criticising mothers who work. (Having worked full time with kids, part-time with kids and been a stay at home mum, I know the ups and downs of all three. I thoroughly support the choice of mothers who choose any of those options).
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