Overheard in the Ladies’ Room

Woman #1: Hey, Bertha[1], I didn’t know you were back at work. Weren’t you supposed to be off on mat. leave for a year?

Bertha: Ya, but I was bored out of my skull and decided to come back early.

I’ve  heard a lot of women say they get bored being full-time moms. My sister-in-law went back to work two days after she had her baby because she couldn’t stand the idea of being “cooped up in the house with an infant all day.”

Since Bertha and a lot of other employees in Canada are able to take a year of paid maternity leave, most of them do it. But quite a few don’t. They’d rather be at work.

By the same token, I suppose most mothers could, conceivably be full-time,  stay-at-home mums if they really, really wanted to. Money would be tight maybe. And they’d have to scale back on a lot of things. But it would probably be possible —  financially anyway.  It’s tougher for a lot of women to give up or to put their careers on hold indefinitely or to give up the day-to-day interaction with adults or the autonomy of their own pay-cheque.

I know a few stay-at-home mums, but I know a lot more women who take whatever paid leave they get and then go back to work. Not only for the money, but also, they say, for their own sanity.

I chose to stay home for the first five years of my daughter’s life. I was a single parent and we were dirt poor for five years, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave her. Maybe, in part, because I knew she was going to be my only child.  I want to be there for every smile and tear; for every first word and every step; for every question and every new thing she discovered. We were together, literally, 24/7 for those first five years.

A lot of people gave me hell and said it wasn’t normal to spend so much time together. That I should at least take a part-time job to keep up with the world and not waste my degree. Or that I should go away on a holiday without her once in a while – have some fun. But I was having fun. I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.

She helped me with chores, we worked in the garden, we did errands, we met up with other mums and kids, we went to playgroups, we visited neighbours, walked on the beach, hung out with family. We read books, drew pictures, had picnics, made leaf forts, built snow people, took little trips. Whenever XUP Jr.waxes nostaligic these days, most of the time it’s over memories from those first five years. (Well, probably only the last two of those since that’s as far back as she actually remembers)

I don’t know if she would have been a different person or if our relationship would be any better or worse had we not shared that time together, but I’m so glad we did it. (I’m still always s little jealous when I read the daily adventures of the mommy bloggers on my blog roll)

My career never recovered from taking that time off. It’s a long time to be out of the workforce. A lot of changes happened while I was away. I missed out on a lot of promotions since, coindicentally,  those were the last of the boom years in government – never to be seen again. And, while I’ve done okay, I’ll never really recover financially from not having a steady income for five years.

Still, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.



[1] Not her real name.