Saturday 14 March 2015

The luxury of choice

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).

Linking up with Things I Know


  1. We really are so lucky to be able to make choices for a lot of the basic stuff in life. Things that we probably take for granted. I couldn't even begin to imagine what it would be like to live in a country and a culture where choices are non existent.

  2. I have to admit to sometimes feeling punching people when they tell me I'm so 'lucky' to be a SAHM. Perhaps they should take a look the bedroom Boganville box I live in. And if I had a choice I wouldn't have Aspergers or mental health isssues so that I could have had a career and worked like a 'normal' person. Maybe I'm missing the point, but that's honestly how I feel when I'm cranky and premenstrual like I am at the moment! Sorrynotsorry...

  3. That should say 'three' bedroom Boganville box. Oops.

  4. We had three under three, so there was no real choice at that time other than to stay at home. Childcare was around $750 a week and I just couldn't justify it for the little amount of money I would make. With no family around or family friendly part time work at the time, it was just easier to stay at home and dabble online.

  5. Well said. Either way you miss out on something. I worked with all mine but it varies, and yes it was my choice. I was lucky I didn't need to work full time so I feel like I got the best of both worlds. With 4 kids we can't always afford stuff but we do alright

    1. To be honest, I think the luxury is the feeling you made the right choice for you, rather than being forced into one decision or the other.

  6. Great post. We should feel that we are so lucky we have options for choice compared to our cultures/ countries. We are they lucky country!

  7. There's not much luxurious about being a mum of any description if you ask me!!

    I really do agree that being able to make a choice is empowering - even if it's choosing between 2 things you don't *really* want to do, at least you get a say!

  8. I'm lucky I was able to choose to stay at home after being made redundant. I'm not sure how long it will last but I'm, relishing being here for now after juggling motherhood and work for over 10 years. I was also lucky that I could choose to go back to work after each child and that I could choose to work part-time. Like you, I've done it all and I am very appreciative of the opportunities I've had over the years.

  9. Well said. I for one am glad I was able to be home with our munchkins until they both went to school. It certainly wasn't a luxurious lifestyle but yes, it was a luxury just to have been able to make the choice!

  10. This is so true. I've been so lucky to have the choice for both, I was able to be a stay at home mum and then I was able to have the choice of working. If I want to, I can be a stay at home mum but I chose to run my own business. I agree that people are missing the point and the bigger picture.

  11. This is so true. I've been so lucky to have the choice for both, I was able to be a stay at home mum and then I was able to have the choice of working. If I want to, I can be a stay at home mum but I chose to run my own business. I agree that people are missing the point and the bigger picture.