I have a terrible secret that is about to become very apparent to my colleagues. Nothing salacious, but it is something I am a bit embarrassed about nonetheless. My children are all soon going to be in full time education, they wipe their own bottoms and feed themselves etc and for some reason this has shifted something inside my (male) colleagues brains as they think I will now want to work full time. The secret is this, I will just come out with it straight away; I DO NOT WANT TO WORK FULL TIME. I love, love, love my day off and I will possibly love it even more when there are not any children to look after between 9am and 3.30pm. I will go to the gym, I will get my hair done, I will see my relatives, I will have lunch with other happy day off part time mummy friends, I need to tidy and organise my house and the lives of the people in it. The boys at work are all labouring under the misapprehension that I am desperate to come back full time and am counting the days until I can do so.
I do consider myself a feminist and I am deeply indebted to the women who came before me and fought for equality. I have just finished reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, which is interesting and well written but of course is very US orientated. Part time work is nowhere near as common and as easy to access there and presumably the employer provided health insurance system is one reason for this as well as the lack of state funded childcare and maternity pay/benefits. She makes some great points about women in the workplace and it is an easy read. She does not talk about women who feel like me, perhaps because part time work is not an option. I love my job, it is a massive part of my identity and provides intense satisfaction that I do not fully get from the proper care and feeding of children. I love my children, I love being present in their daily lives most of the time and find them just as (actually much more) interesting now that they are getting bigger and I have not picked up any signals that they need me less now they are out of nappies.
I know I am not alone in feeling like this, my best mummy friends (including a few doctors, a judge, a teacher, a lawyer and a policewoman) all have much loved careers but have the same views of the importance of being a mother and a wife. We all want to work, most of us in professional and senior roles and none of us want to compromise too much on our home lives. I know it is a bit off message with feminist thinking that we should all be equal and be treated just like men but I want more than this. I need to be treated differently, I want to work part time because being a mother is a big job. I can outsource the cleaning, the ironing and the shopping can be delivered but nobody else is taking over the mummy role for me. I am proud to be a mother and have a career and deeply grateful that I am able to do both.
Now I just need to come out of the closet and admit that I am not going to be working full time any time soon and shake of the sense of guilt I have about this.