I usually avoid conversation with strangers on trains. To be completely honest, I even avoid eye contact. Who wants to end up making awkward small talk the entire way from London to Newcastle..?
But I made an exception on my last trip up North, and I’m so glad I did.
I got chatting to a wonderful woman who helped me to see, in a way that no-one else ever has, that I am making the right choice for my family by going out to work and placing my lovely little boy in childcare.
Her advice was simple, and it was this:
Do what you love. You mustn’t give up your dreams and career goals in order to spend every second with your child. Otherwise, you may well end up resenting your child and your relationship will suffer.
And this was the best bit:
Just make sure you “get your ducks in a row.” Translation: Find the right childcare for your child and make sure he’s happy. That way, you both go and have a lovely day, and then look forward to seeing each other on your days off. This made me realise that the reason my situation felt so bad was not that I was going to work, but that I had chosen the wrong childcare for my son (an issue I’m in the middle of resolving).
As a result, your relationship with your child will be all the better because you know that the time you spend with them is time you have chosen to spend with them. And when you are with them, you can be fully and completely present, rather than half-distracted thinking of other things that you could be doing, putting them in front of the telly while you get things done, or simply resenting the fact that you feel forced to be there.
My conclusion: If I follow all of the ‘shoulds’ and give in to the guilt, my relationship with my child will suffer, and then I will really have something to feel bad about.
It’s important to show our children how great it is to be inspired and passionate and how wonderful it it to do something that you love. This will lead to confident kids growing up inspired to follow their passions too.
I don’t know the name of the wonderful lady on the train, and I’m pretty sure she’ll never read this, but if she does: Thank You.
PS. This post in no way intends to denigrate Stay At Home Mums. It’s just about mums like me, who go out to work, and often feel really bloody guilty about it. If you have chosen to be at home with your child(ren), and that’s what you feel passionate about, then I wish you all the best. Truly.