The first time I referred to someone as “just a Mum”, I was 21, at the start of my career in teaching, single and very, VERY naive. I used this phrase flippantly to a colleague and it then became a joke between us, me always referring to her as “just a Mum.” Now I have two babies of my own, I realise how offensive this phrase could’ve been! You see, it is unbelievably hard to be “just a Mum”.
From a young age, it was always my aim in life to become a teacher. I trained for four years at university to achieve the dream – getting into a lot of student debt along the way! Then one day it is gone. Disappeared. A distant memory. If I fill in what my job is on a questionnaire, I now must tick unemployed. I certainly don’t feel unemployed! The toddler alarm goes off at 6.00am every day without fail and I am exhausted at the end of my shift at 7.30pm. If anything, I am more exhausted now than when I worked five days a week! If I have to physically answer the question “So what do you do?” then it leaves an awful taste in my mouth. I couldn’t possibly admit that technically I’m unemployed. So out comes the phrase, “Oh, I’m just a Mum…” and then that is the end of the conversation.
Being a Mum is hard. Being a mum of two is even harder. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be to have more children. It is genuinely the hardest job in the world and it never gets the recognition that it deserves. Yes, we look after our children because we love them and deep down, however hard it is, we wouldn’t be without them. But why does it leave me unhappy to say I’m a Mum? And why do I put that word “just” before saying it?
Society doesn’t hold stay at home parents in a great light. If you were to express your desires to be a mum when you are growing up, then it is almost discouraged. You get told to go to university, or to go for that promotion at work, or to enjoy life before settling down. And if you don’t go back to work once your maternity is over, you are considered one of the “lucky” ones. People should acknowledge how challenging being a stay at home parent is and then, mentally, it might not be as difficult for people like me to admit that is what we currently do.
The transition between career woman and mum is a difficult one. You lose such a huge part of your identity and it’s almost like you mourn for a past version of yourself, whilst focusing and trying to enjoy this new version of you. Mentally, it is really difficult to contend with some days. Adult conversations are replaced with cooing and gurgling, important meetings are replaced with going for a walk with a pushchair and the pride you have for yourself for doing a “great job!” has vanished. We should value ourselves as Mums just as much as we used to value ourselves as career women. We should all acknowledge how challenging, draining and relentless being a stay at home mum can be.
Sometimes it is mundane, lonely and difficult on your mental health. Mostly though, there shouldn’t be a “just” when I say that I am a mum. I deserve to hold myself on a much higher platform and acknowledge to myself that I do a good job, every day, in the most difficult role I’ve ever had to play.
Just A Mum xx