As maternity leave comes to an end, I can’t help but ask myself the question most mothers will ask themselves: ‘Do I return to work or do I stay home with my children?’

 

Rightly or wrongly I have always wanted to work, to give my kids the best life possible. Work was never something I thought I would give up, or ever consider giving up.

I don’t necessarily want to give up my job to become a stay at home mother, but I do know I don’t want to put my babies into full-time care. Not that I don’t agree with it, I just don’t feel it’s the right choice for us anymore.

We had our first in crèche and although he was really well cared for, he wasn’t happy. He started acting out and was clearly frustrated at the situation. Both myself and my fiancé worked long hours so that meant long hours on our baby also. It quickly became very routine; out the door for 7.20am and home for 5.30pm. That didn’t leave a lot of time to spend with him. He was asleep by 6.30 every evening. It was too much and I didn’t like that he was spending more time with strangers than his own parents.

Once I left on my second maternity leave we decided to pull Max from crèche.

You have to weigh up the pros and cons. Is it financially worthwhile going back to work? Well, with one child it’s doable. When you have two and above it becomes a game of logistics. Having children is wonderful but it comes at a cost. For high earners, it will always be worthwhile staying in the workplace. For many of us that live from pay check to pay check, the cost of childcare and commuting can complete negate your monthly salary. It’s a hard pill to swallow when you realise most, if not all, of your salary will go towards childcare.

That feeling of having to give someone my child and most of my money – I don’t like it. I have a hard time reading that statement, emotionally.

Returning to work post baby. Having to leave on time every day to collect your children from crèche. I remember hearing a mother describe it as the ‘5pm workplace walk of shame’ and I’ve never forgotten that statement.

Going back to work as a mother means you have to be out that door on time because somebody is waiting for you. There is a culture of working late for the sake of it in a lot of workplaces and if you aren’t seen as ‘putting in the hours’, you’re not a favourable choice for promotion. And as for the constant colds and illnesses that are bound to happen once your baby starts in crèche? Licking toys that someone else has just sucked, kissing their new friends, germs are everywhere. Those ‘sick days’ when you’ve just returned to work are the worst.

Whether we like it or not, agree or not, maternity leave and motherhood by proxy, has a huge impact on our careers. For many, it means going from the main earner to taking reduced or part-time hours (if their employer is flexible) and eventually us mothers, leave the workplace.

Coming from a home where my mum was at home with us, I always look back and I’m glad she was there. I feel incredibly lucky to have had my mum there every day. She was there if I needed her. She’d make me a snack before going up to the office to study. Dinner was always on. There was no scheduled time. It was just easy.

Whether you decide to make a full-time commitment to one or the other or split your time between both, you’ll be forced to sacrifice.

Breastfeeding is a big deal for us also. I don’t want to be away from the baby during this first year. There is such pressure to get our little nurslings acclimatised to formula or breastmilk from a bottle or beaker. I’m not the type to stress, but I have had a few sleepless nights worrying about the fact our baby won’t drink from anything but the source.

Being a stay-at-home mum is certainly not the easiest option.

When I returned to work after my first baby I remember thinking how much ‘me time’ I had. That drive to work, all day in work and the drive home. It was all mine. I could pee in peace. Eat in peace. Have a piping hot cut of tea. Have an adult conversation. I was me, not ‘mammy’. I can assure you now, nothing I do is in peace.

Taking it all into consideration, is leaving your babies worth €200 per month? €200 disposable income!

So we might not have the extravagant holidays for a couple of years (but I’m OK with this, as I agree 100% with Ryan Reynolds on this who said, ‘I would rather drink a piping hot bowl of liquid rabies than get on a plane with two children!)

I am around for my children. They are happy and so am I. They get to spend time with their mama. When they’re sick, it’s easy, we have a duvet day. There’s no more having to figure out childcare, feel guilty for letting work down with another sick day or argue with my other half about who had to take the last sick day.

I’m in a fantastic position that I’m able to do this for my kids. Financially and emotionally.

I feel sure in myself that being at home is the right decision for my family. Being on maternity leave has allowed me to re-evaluate my own life and passions. I started my blog in April ‘My Moo and Roo’ and I have fallen back in love with writing.

I asked a mother who had recently left her job to become a stay at home mother, how she knew it was the right decision and her response was simple, when the time comes, you’ll know’.

She was right.

Jessica O’Neill, 26 year old Mama to two under two and author of My Moo and Roo Blog. Currently on maternity leave, winging motherhood everyday.

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