I was a "stay at home mother".
It was the best decision of my life. I chose to have children, and I also chose to raise them myself. I was also extremely fortunate that we could afford to have me stay at home. Don't get me wrong - we were never rich. But we had enough. I wanted to be the one guiding my children. I wanted to be the one looking after them, introducing them to new things. Loving them. Cuddling them when they were hurt or ill. I wanted to be the one taking them to the doctor, to the beach, to play with friends. Travelling at sea with their Dad for long stretches of time.
I also wanted a home where they could be free to have friends round to play, where they could be secure and where I could set the boundaries. I had time to check their homework. Take them to tennis, swimming, ballet, music......
And amazing things happened.
Each child brought with him or her a new group of friends for me. Women I met at the schools, who became and remain, great friends. With it came combined family interaction, and a support group which has never let me down. New interests. New things learned. New experiences. New places to go, and we all benefited enormously from the wide circle of people we mixed with regularly.
We watched each other's children. We collectively parented the lot of them. They all knew they were always welcome in our home, and as they grew to adulthood, they all knew that any of us were available in an emergency. If one of my children's friends had called at 2 in the morning, I would have been there. They knew that. And it worked both ways, of course.
The relationships I built with their friends have remained, you know. I still hear from men I knew as babies 33 years ago, with stories of their lives. Some are fathers now, and they still remember.
Did being at home mean I was less of a person? Absolutely not. I have never been bored in my life, and I had the opportunity to do courses as they were growing, develop new interests, practice new skills, and to volunteer in their schools too. Fund raising takes commitment, and time and a whole lot of energy. And we all threw ourselves into that with enthusiasm. And we had a great deal of fun. We also built relationships with the teaching staff which meant that the parent/school partnership was cemented. The teachers were people. So were we. Not just little Johnnie's Mum or Dad.
I got to meet really interesting people volunteering too. Like Archbishop Tutu, for example. And volunteering takes time, as I said, but the huge reward for me was just amazing.
I had time to be around when my Gran descended into senility. Time to go and cook for her, a couple of times a week, to make sure she had good food. I have been able to be there for my parents as my Dad developed Lewey Body Disease. Being a SAHM meant that I could do so much more. Not just helping out at the schools. There was church, teaching Sunday School, playing guitar in the music group, organising bazaars..... the list goes on.
I learned that you cannot have it all. It is simply not possible. So I chose what was right for me at the time. I knew that I was waving goodbye to a successful career, and high earning potential. But it was MY choice, and I will never apologise for not having a visible economic worth. You see, my contribution to society is still there, and has a huge value.
There were no teaching assistants in those days. Mums helped at school for nothing except the reward of seeing their children learn in a happy environment. Work does not have to be paid for to have any value. Take the army of mothers out of the home, and you are left with gaping voids in communities. Who is around to take care of people? Who is around to help out? Who ferries people in need about? Who bakes or cooks for those disabled? Who is there to just listen?
Service is another word I have been thinking about a great deal, but that can wait for another day. My brain did not die because I stayed home. In fact, if anything, I had the time to keep up more with international affairs and financial trends world-wide than a great many people. Because it interested me. And you know what? It interests my kids too now that they are grown. Their view of the world stretches far beyond the walls of their homes.
I have value. I didn't waste my life. You see, I made a conscious and educated choice, and I have never regretted it for a moment. Sure, I could have done many things. However, I chose not to. My choice. No one made me do it.
I am in no way saying that what I chose for my life would be right for everyone. No. It was right for me. I won't judge other people here. I have friends who thought they would wither and die if they stayed home. Until they did. And then discovered that you can save an enormous amount of money when you have the time to cook from scratch, preserve things you have the time to grow. Make things more cheaply than you can buy them. And gain a huge amount of pleasure from looking around your home and seeing the things you have done to enhance the comfort and sanctuary you have created for your family. And the grins at the school gates when you little ones race out and see you? Priceless.
I so wish more young women had the opportunity to do the same thing now, you know. The rewards are spectacular. My kids have left home now, but my life is not over, even though I have been primarily occupied with their upbringing all these years. The list of dreams is still there, and I have every intention of zapping through it at speed. While I can. Geoff's death meant that I had to change my life in so many ways. Not all great. I had to go out to work, and I can now say for sure that I have seen it from both sides. I know which one was best for my children, and best for me too.
Sigh. There is so much more I could say, but that is enough for now.
I have been a SAHM. And I am proud I managed it.