Signed, sealed, delivered and...stop.

posted on: Thursday, 13 June 2013

At University I studied English Literature and wrote my dissertation on feminism - specifically on Gothic writing and how, through that literary method, women could assert their voice against the patriarchal domination of society! OH MY GOD - what a useful topic! As I am sure you can imagine, my expertise in this area hasn't exactly had heavy usage in my life since I wrote that twelve thousand word thesis. I wasn't sure what feminism actually meant in real life - all I knew was this: there should be equality in everything, as why not? And I went about getting a career and a husband and a beautiful family (pretty much in that order).

Fast forward twenty years and here I am with all three  - and I have written many a time about my efforts to juggle these components of my life. The career waned, although it did have its heady moments in the last fifteen years in a large corporate. The marriage going strong; I love the man I married. The beautiful family - yep, I definitely have that. My luck overflows. But is there equality in everything? No! Of course not, and frankly I was mad to ever think there would be. I don't say this with negativity; I accept it and wish I had known this truth years ago. It would have saved me countless hours of internal dialogue with myself!

People ask: can women have it all? I could do whatever work I wanted to do, to earn money, to share the burdens of home life, to bring up my children in the way I wanted to, to acknowledge no boundaries to what I could achieve that were associated with my gender. Then over time these lofty aspirations whittled down into one thing: being a (very busy, very harried) working mother. My expectations of sharing the burden started to fade as frankly my husband had a job that was three times the size of mine and he rightly needed to focus on that. Someone had to hold it together at home.

And the answer may be, yes of course women can have it all. If they work hard enough (harder than the men?!) and are lucky enough. But there is a cost. It's a choice and when I look at younger women, searching for their big three of career, husband and family I wish I could whisper in their ear 'choose wisely and think ahead.' As no matter how smart I thought I was having it all, I didn't grasp that there were unseen consequences. Being the pioneering working mother would mean I would miss crucial moments of my children's upbringing. Tiredness from work would result in snappiness and lack of patience when at home. Relationships were strained. Life seemed a chore. Sleep eluded me in favour of 'to do' lists. Competing against contemporaries at work, who did not have the home commitments that I did, would eventually become a futile and soul-destroying exercise. Trying to have it all and be it all would represent a labour of love that in the end did not make me happy.

And so, with all of this in mind,  I have decided to leave my job! A working mother no more! I leave in August!

The idea of being a stay at home mother is synonymous with opting out of the working world; deliberately and meaningfully. It means accepting the routines of daily life. It means taking full and total responsibility for all tasks associated with house, food, laundry, social life planning, school, homework, sports clubs and so on. It means being there. It means there is not the excuse, 'I'm working' to explain absences or tiredness or forgotten birthdays or delinquency in writing timely thank you cards. This and so many other things...

So this is new to me - although I had a taste of it, as many of you have commented - didn't I seem so very happy when I was not working?! It's taken me a very long time to reach this decision, meandering round and round it but now it's a decision made, done, signed and sealed, I feel it's the right thing (although I am a little heavy-hearted).

I went for a walk earlier with the pup - round the fields as ever - and I thought how lovely it was to be in the air after a day spent at my laptop, talking on the telephone; working. It's all started to make a different kind of sense and I am sure the future will bring good things.


  1. Wow! That is amazing news, Lou! I am sure it was not an easy decision to make, but I am also confident you will be happy. You've seen both sides and understand the pros and cons associated with each. You're entering into this deliberately and with full thoughts of consequence. I'm SO happy for you! You'll have the opportunity to be fully present and to truly own the role. I'm trying to do my best to take every advantage of my time at home, and I know you will too. Yay!

  2. Welcome to the world of Homemakers... :) Good luck Lou. I beat myself up when I cannot keep on top of it all and I know I shouldn't .. i am not going to lose the job.. and there isnt any real pressure.. I can do it later.. xx

  3. Congrats on this decision!

    That's a great list of things you can't buy. I often wish I could buy more time.

  4. Yippee!!!

    Great post Lou....I think, for what it's worth, that you are making the right decision....and, being you, it's a very well thought out one.

    I do not think you can have it all - although I have come to realise that we all have different definitions of what "having it all" means.

    I know working mothers at school who I have heard claiming that they have it all (yes really!)....and they believe they do. But they have nannies/au pairs/a cleaner & they miss events at their children's school....which to me is not having it all, not one bit.

    I am at home full-time, certainly don't feel on top of things most days, never have enough time & I think often of returning to work. But I am always there for my children, never miss anything they do & that, in the end, matters to them & to me....and so be it.

    It's one of those issues that is never-ending, I guess at the end of the day we all make our choices and as long as we are happy with that, that's all that matters Xx

  5. The future most definitely holds good things for you my friend! I am so pleased for the decision you've made - I truly think its the right one for you as I feel you've been struggling for a while with all the commitments you have. And knowing where your heart truly lies.

    But I also appreciate its no easy decision so I do understand the heavy hearted part - as one who has faced similar dilemmas in the past.

    Your post here so accurately reflects the thing about trying to have it all. Women... and men who try have it all more often than not find there is always something left lacking. So its then that we have to decide. And I don't know about you but I feel very lucky to be able to decide where the balance needs to be adjusted and put a plan into action.

    And am selfishly hoping that this means we'll get to catch up on a visit very soon!!!

    Lots of love Lou xxx

  6. Wow, Lou, what incredible news! I'm so happy for you - I can't imagine what a difficult decision it must have been, but hopefully you feel better for having made it (if that makes sense!). Fabulously written post as always, too :) xox

  7. Congratulations on your decision and welcome. I think you don't need to have it all, you just need to know what works for you and that will make you happy. Hope you have a great summer ahead at home.

  8. Hurrah! I am so happy Lou, you have been building up to this decision for a longtime and think you have made the right choice for you and your family. I agree with Simone, I don't think it is possible to "have it all", and I am not sure it is desirable either, what is having it all? Surely different for everyone.

    Well done. Beautifully written post and great news.


  9. From reading your blog this seems like the best possible choice for you. I hope it turns out to be that and that you are very happy! :)

  10. Hi Lou,
    Well, I guess it all depends on who we are and what makes us happy. As soon as I was pregnant with our first child, I left work at about 8 months pregnant and never went back to work again !!!! I am probably of the old school and feel that, unless you are desperate for the money { and I know that many are nowdays as mortgages and the cost of living are so high, so it is necessary for some to go back to work } if you have children, it's nice to be there for them. I have always loved being at home, have never felt that I needed to fulfill myself with a job, I occupy myself with all sorts of things and enjoy it immensely..... but then, that's me.
    It's great that you have made your decision and, I think that you will love it. ....... and, of course, you have
    L'Apothecary which is an amazing achievement and will keep you busy and fullfilled and something seperate from being a mum and wife etc. I even think that your jaw/teeth problems will subside too.
    Enjoy every minute and, don't forget, you can always return to your job or one in the same field when the children are older.
    Decision made .... now go and enjoy all that it brings. XXXX

  11. Well...what a decision Lou!!! Let me say that you're really courageous and...that your childrens wiil be really grateful, a day, for this fabulous change!
    Good luck

  12. In many ways I am not surprised by your decision reading between the lines in the last while made me feel that this is what you needed to do. When i gave up work a number of years ago they took bets that I would not last 6 months but I did. I do believe happy mum equals happy kids and happy husband/family.

    So wishing you a year ahead full of fun and health.

  13. You choose what is right for you, your heart and your family. I know you thoroughly enjoyed when you were off ~ was that last year? Sending you a big hug across the miles. xoxo

  14. Wonerful things can happen when you let go and follow your heart.
    I have been here (although in the days before children) and the immense relief to walk away from a job that was causing me so much stress and just *Be* was wonderful.
    A time to exhale.
    Enjoy this time and I think your teeth/jaw problems will go too.
    I have loved being at home during the past 11 years with my four gorgeous children.
    #4 heads to fulltime school next year and I am torn. Part of me thinks I should head back to part time work to help us live and save for an extension to our house that we badly need. The other part of me thinks that I really love being at home, being there for the kids, doing parent help and not being stressed out at work.
    Hm, I shall ponder that one for a bit longer.
    I hope life brings you wonderful times with this new decision and lifestyle change :)

  15. Good for you. Years ago my mother in law made a remark that was very simple but pretty much summed up this topic. She had five sons. There were times she was made to feel guilty for not doing this or that. Other women could do it all and do it well too but as she said "I knew my limits." I never forgot that. It takes a bit of courage to admit it. We're all different. My mother was a working mother at a time when most weren't. I can honestly say that was probably a thing. She was not Suzy homemaker. I on the other hand I LOVED being home with my children. Then I went off to work as the

  16. How brave of you. Wishing you the very best. Will be coming back for support!

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  18. I read this post a few days ago and wanted to return when I had a moment. I think Simone best captures my view. I don't believe we can "have it all" in the glorified way it's often portrayed in films and pop culture. I was one of those who waited to have my kids because I feared I would lose my ambitions and that my career would suffer. And in retrospect, I had been right to postpone mothering because the minute I gave birth I fell madly and passionately in love with my baby and being a mother suddenly usurped all else with regards to my career. I got off the fast track, struggled to work around the kids’ lives and finally took a hiatus (that lasted forever) when they entered adolescence because I truly couldn’t bear missing the simplest moments with my boys. Did I ever miss the intellectual stimulation from colleagues? Yes, I did. I remember pulling over in the car once when the boys were in car seats and hearing something on the radio that made me cry for the loss of my ‘working life.’ I watched while women colleagues went on to have the kind of career I had planned for myself. But that’s life. Once I became a mother it defined me. I instinctively felt what my priorities were and I made my choices accordingly and in the end, I think that’s how we carve out a meaningful life. Not a perfect one, but a well-lived one with no regrets. Congratulations on your decision. And thanks for the kind comment on my post. I’m so glad to know we’re fellow crazies. 
    Leslie aka Gwen Moss

  19. I'm a little behind here, but congratulations on the big news! I think it is the right thing for you and I wish I were as brave you.