I am a parent who works outside the home. So is my husband. We both grew up in households with parents who worked outside the home. I realised after I went back to work when my first child was 11 months old that I felt no guilt whatsoever. And I never have, not for a moment. I’m quite certain my husband doesn’t feel guilty either.
I am lucky and privileged that working outside the home is a choice I have made freely. It gives us more options as a family and I feel better as a woman, wife and parent for making this choice. I enjoy my work, I don’t feel a great passion for it, but I like having a part of my life that’s all about me.
The Constitution of Ireland has a clause which infers that my rightful place is within the home and that I contribute to the common good by my life within this home, where I sit writing this. I do not agree. My rightful place is within wherever I choose to do the most good. Sometimes that’s at home, on the days when I don’t leave this home to go to work. Sometimes that’s volunteering in my children’s school. Sometimes that’s on a march with my husband and children. Sometimes that’s my place of employment.
I don’t know if other women who work outside the home or who choose to stay at home to parent fulltime also feel no guilt. But I hope they don’t. And it is perfectly normal not to. Thankfully we’ll be having a referendum on the ‘women in the home’ clause, not as soon as I’d like. I’ll be voting to repeal it, and voting for political parties who want to ensure that every woman, be she a parent or not, or working or not, is able to make the right choices for herself, free of guilt.
I am officially exhausted. I could complain all day long about how tired, achey and breathless I am. Everything is a massive effort. I get spurts of energy and then I try to do too much because all I’m really motivated to do is nest, and then I’m tired halfway through a job.
This is the third time I’ve done this, and I think it’s been the most tiring of all. I know how lucky I am. I know how many people would love to be in this position. I know how privileged I am.
But I am just. so. tired.
An unexpected lunch date.
The generosity of strangers.
Fresh colours on my finger and toe nails.
Watching the grass and plants in our garden come back to life after weeks of sunny weather.
Decluttering and organising. It never seems to be done, but I’m always glad I’ve done it.
Back when I was working in Louis Vuitton I spent some time one summer working in Birmingham. I’d never been to Birmingham before I agreed to work there and I didn’t know much about it. Many of the (mainly female) staff were Muslim and we bonded over a realisation that our mothers might be from vastly different cultures but their mothering was not. One woman said many times that it was deeply reassuring that Irish and Pakistani mothers were so alike.
Some of them wore headcoverings at work. Most did not. Some explained that they wore headcoverings for different reasons and occasions. Some were deeply devout Muslims, some weren’t. Some spoke of their parents’ plans for their marriages and the arranged marriages of brothers and sisters. I felt I had to preface any questions with a lighthearted (at least I hope that’s how it sounded) quip about it being interesting to hear about other people’s cultures. It was interesting, and eye opening, and made me question a lot of the assumptions I hadn’t questioned before about women and their choices and their obligations and restrictions.
Many women don’t need to be told by others that they’re being oppressed. Maybe they’re not being oppressed. Maybe they like dressing a certain way. Maybe they don’t need opinion pieces from white men to tell them they’re like letter boxes. Maybe we should all stop making assumptions about women’s clothes. Oppression comes in many forms. More tolerance for intolerance is one such form.
These women weren’t letter boxes. They were funny, and difficult to work with sometimes, and boring, and we had disagreements, and we had misunderstandings. Just like I did and do and will do with the people I work with now. Women make all sorts of choices every day about every aspect of their lives. What they choose to wear is their choice. We don’t need laws to tell us how to dress.
When I had two children within 15 months and then moved house two years later I went through a lot of decision making about baby, toddler and child stuff. There was a lot of stuff, some borrowed and happily returned, most stuffed into storage bags and our attic as our children outgrew it. When we moved house I happily passed on most of it to someone who needed it more than I did, given that I wasn’t sure if we’d have another child and I wanted to sort through it and reduce the pile anyway.
Now that our third baby is on the way I’ve been resorting what we had tucked away and deciding on what we need to buy or acquire. Some of the things I gave away have come back, and I’m especially grateful to get back one particular sentimental item. I found a moses basket and stand in our local charity shop and a changing table, cot mobile, sling and sundry other items via a zero waste Facebook group. We’ll be using washable nappies again and despite giving away a lot of baby clothes we’ve more than enough to keep us going for months.
We haven’t been totally zero waste about it, mainly due to legitimate health and safety rules for baby stuff. It’s recommended to buy a new moses basket and cot mattress for each new baby, so that’s what we’ve done. Car seats for babies have a five-year limit of use so we need to buy a new one, but our old base is fine as its less than ten years old and hasn’t been in an accident. The biggest ‘we can’t get away with borrowing this, getting it free or making do with what we have’ item has been a new car and we had to make some serious compromises, but such is life.
I suppose the biggest zero waste decision is that, as with my first two children, I plan on breastfeeding. It’s free food, which is perfect for a baby and produces waste which washes out in the washing machine. What’s not to love.
I’ve been in my current role for ten years now. It’s the longest time I’ve spent in a job. I flitted around from job to job after college. I had no big or concrete plans and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I chose my college course for practical reasons, and the fact it let me have a little more variety than other ones offered at the time. I was too afraid to change my reliable part-time job that helped me pay for my social life so I ended up drifting into the same sector I’d always worked in after graduation.
I liked my jobs. I didn’t love them. They weren’t particularly stimulating or challenging most of the time and I don’t think I saw myself in the sector in the long-term, but I needed to earn money and I was good at what I did so I stuck with them. I then drifted into another sector for a year and at the end of that year landed the job I’m in now. It’s probably been the best use of my skills for the past decade. It’s secure, stable, and mainly enjoyable.
Today, for the first time in a very long time, my mind drifted into ‘What if’ territory. What if I had planned my career more carefully? What if I’d sought more guidance? What if I’d studied something else? What if I’d been more open to opportunities in one particular role? What if I had taken more risks? What if I hadn’t let a personality clash stop me from learning more? What if, no matter what I did, I would have ended up here anyway?
Ten years ago I wasn’t married. I wouldn’t have met my husband if I hadn’t taken this job, because we met at a party one of my colleagues hosted after I’d been in the job for a year. I wouldn’t have my children. I was living a very different life. I was a lot more confident in some ways, and a lot more insecure and unhappy in many, many others.
I’m glad I’ve had the experiences I’ve had. It’s hard not to wonder ‘What if’ though. I wonder ‘What if I’m here for another ten years, and then another, and another and then I retire? Is this it?’, and that freaks me out a little.
A trip to the library. Every time I go I wonder why I don’t go more often.
Some new clothes to make the transition from giant pregnant person to milk supplier easier. I don’t love breastfeeding so I’m willing to throw some money at it to make myself feel any way better about it.
Changing the couch covers I picked up for very little money last year. Grey has given way to cream.
An hour in a warm swimming pool.
A two day work week. I know how lucky I am.