My daughter started preschool a couple of weeks ago, she is 2.5years old and I found it was a bit of a wrench letting her go but she is also so ready and so far loves it. A mum at school asked me if I was planning to go back to work now she is at preschool. I do work but am lucky that photography is flexible and worked around my children so I am there to pick them up from school 99% of the time. I felt a embarrassed that she assumed I was a stay at home mum and immediately went OTT explaining my job and how it works. I'm not sure why I felt embarrassed, being a stay at home mum is bloody hard work.
Over the last few years I have had friends go back to work after having their children deal with the guilt of not being there, the rushing around between work and childcare and feeling judged because they are working long hours. I also have friends who are stay at home mums who feel judged by working mums for "sitting on the sofa all day, eating biscuits and watching Jeremy Kyle in their dressing gown". (On a side note if a stay at home mum has figured out how to actually pull off the stereotypical sit on the sofa all day watching anything other than "whats the stupid boring story in that eejit town Balamory" without constant requests for a drink, the toilet, losing a toy or wanting yet another snack then please let me in on your secret). The truth is there are pros and cons to both and you have to do what works for your family.
I am friends with an amazing group of women that I met when pregnant with my eldest. They are all from different backgrounds, some are single parents, some stay and home mums and some working mums, I asked if any of them had ever felt judged for working/not working and the resounding answer was that we are in fact judging ourselves more than anyone else possibly could. It must be a given that as soon as you are a mother guilt is a huge part of your life. Guilty if you do and guilty if you don't. At my sons school they tend to call a lot of last minute meetings, class slide shows and stay and play kind of things, this is usually at 2pm and most of the time siblings aren't allowed. Whilst I may be able to take a break from editing a wedding or the like I am usually stuffed as far as childcare for my youngest is concerned so it can be a bit of a nightmare. Being at home doesn't mean attending those things are any easier than being at work. A lot of my working mum friends have to skip lunch, make up hours or use holiday to attend these class visits, it is tricky across the board.
We also have the whole working for fulfillment thing, I certainly fall in to this category, taking photos is part of me and I love my job. The moments I'm alone in the car driving to a wedding or shoot and I'm able to play a album full of non child friendly swearing lyrics with the wind in my hair is really special, it is a moment of freedom that I relish, and then feel guilty for relishing. The thing with my job is that I always feel judged for it not being real, like people think I'm playing around because it is a creative role and something I love with such a passion that even if I wasn't making a living from it I would still do it. I know I'm lucky to be able to look at my work like that, I know most people wouldn't continue the job they are doing if they weren't being paid but just because I'm doing a job I love doesn't mean that it isn't hard work. It is. I am always justifying it to people, probably without any need. When people say, "gosh, you are so lucky you have such a fun job", instead of reeling off the reasons why its not as easy as it looks I should just say "thank you, I'm very lucky" because I really am.
We have to stop being so hard on ourselves and comparing our situations to other people. The grass is rarely greener, the stay at home mum is probably desperate for some adult conversation, to go to the toilet without an audience and to be able to eat lunch without being splattered with someone else's lunch. The working mum probably wishes she is able to do all the things the stay at home mum needs a break from. We need to pull together and show positivity instead of negativity.