Some months ago, I wrote The Adventure of Being a SAHM (Part 1) which focused on how not going to work has affected my appearance. I had a whole host of blog posts planned on being a SAHM; I had a lot to say about the matter. But after reading Part 1 (which actually only scratched the surface of my feelings), many of my friends and family members were a little bit concerned about me. My Dad found it “depressing”; my husband “had no idea I felt that way”; my Aunt “felt a lump in her throat as she read it”. Friends texted me promising a “big night out” next time I came home from Vienna. Soon after, my husband put a picture on Facebook of me without a smidgen of make-up, a wonky smile and a squinty eye, and I was bombarded by comments from my loyal friends about how fantastic I was looking. So, not wanting to cause any further alarm, I let the subject of being a SAHM lie.
Until now. Because now my SAHM days are numbered. Soon I will be but a part-time SAHM and, not long after that, I won’t be a SAHM at all.
My husband works in London. He sees Noah in the morning for half an hour. He goes in to Noah when he wakes up, has breakfast with him and then goes to work. He gets home ten minutes before Noah goes to bed. This is hard for my husband, especially when he gets home and Noah is in a bad mood (a.k.a. Little Shit Mode). On bad days, when he comes home to find me face down on the sofa wailing about how awful my life is, about how terribly Noah has behaved, about how I can’t cope with this existence for one more day, he informs me that he would “give his right arm” to swap places. Of course, when he says this, I would like to strangle the man. But I refrain, because, actually, if I could only spend forty minutes a day with my Noah, it would break me in half.
Being a SAHM, I find my days are often long. So very, very long. I live quite an isolated existence and it can be mind-numbingly boring (sorry my Noah).
“Shall we all go to the park?” my husband sometimes suggests at the weekend.
“The park?!” I sneer. “The park? I spend my whole bloody life at the park. I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than go to the park on a Saturday!”
“Well, I’ll take Noah to the park, then,” he says.
“And leave me here on my own? I spend my bloody life on my own!”
And so on.
Sometimes it feels like my days have no purpose. Over the past two years, I have missed using my brain, using my training and skills. I have missed adult conversation. Most of the time, I feel like I have no idea what I am doing. My main responsibility (apart from ensuring Noah is safe and well) is to know where Leo the Lion is at all times so he is not left anywhere or lost, so we know where he is when bedtime finally rolls around. Before, I was responsible for hundreds of teenagers’ exam results. Results which they will write on job application forms for the rest of their lives. It just felt a bit more important.
Our days are precious.
When I am not with Noah, I feel slightly untethered, like I am missing something. Slightly. Sometimes, when he is asleep, I actually miss him even though he is just upstairs. Every day, a hundred times a day, he makes me smile. In fact, despite everything, despite the fact that I had to move to another country to enable it, I am lucky that I have been able to spend these two years as a SAHM. I haven’t missed a thing.
This is especially important because Noah (like all children) has grown up so fast. Everything is a phase. All those clichés are true. God knows, Noah’s sleep has been a nightmare on and off (mostly on) since the day that he was born. But the time will come when he calls out for me in the night for the very last time. Just like he used his pram for the last time or used a nappy for the last time. His development over the past few months has been staggering. Many of his sentences start with “Mummy, did you know…” – “Mummy, did you know that the sun is a STAR?!” “Mummy, did you know that inside a volcano is LAVA?!” “Mummy, did you know that my shadow gets bigger when I move further from the wall?”
This one is my recent favourite:
“Mummy, did you know that when it’s daytime, the stars don’t disappear, they stay in the sky but you can’t see them because the sun is too bright?”
“How do you know that?!” I asked, aghast. I’m sure I didn’t know this until I was about 10!
“Ben and Holly.”
Of course. Who else?
We live behind a Premier Inn and Noah thinks it is an “astronaut school” because the sign has moon and stars on it. Where did this ability to interpret signs and symbols suddenly come from? His nursery teacher told me his writing is exceptional for a boy of his age. I’m not quite sure what they’re on about with this because, apart from writing his name, he just writes a load of gobbledygook. I suppose it’s the fact he is trying to write at all. My point is that children advance so quickly in these first years of their lives that time together is all the more treasurable.
After Easter, I am going back to work two days a week. It’s definitely time. When Noah is at nursery, I spend a lot of time tidying up after him or shopping or breaking my fingers trying to create roses out of royal icing (don’t ask), or going to the gym. But sometimes, when I am not doing any of these things, I feel a guilty for having nothing to do. Two days of work is ideal because the balance is still tipped in favour of not working. I’m not even working on consecutive days so I get a rest in between. I’d happily work two days a week for the rest of eternity.
But life isn’t like that. In September, Noah will start school and I will have to go back to work full time. I want to be the one dropping Noah off in the morning and to be the one waiting for him at the school gates at the end of the day. I ache for it. But I won’t be there. I’ll be at work. “Welcome to my world,” my husband says. I’ve had my time and soon I will have to give it up.
I have toyed with the idea of a career change. I’d quite like to be an exercise instructor doing aerobics classes and spinning and Body Pump. When I mentioned this to my Mum at dinner last week, she almost choked on her food. “With your education?!” she demanded in a shrill voice. Alternatively, I’d like to be a cake maker (hence the royal icing flowers) but there are plenty of those about, all of them more skilled than my novice self.
The truth is, I am not a cake maker, neither am I an exercise instructor: I am a teacher and to teaching I will return. I will pick up my career where I left it. Once more, I will work hard to be the best teacher I can be. Instead of dragging, the days will whizz by. I will have much to do and not enough time to do it in.
I have made myself a promise. A promise I hope I will keep. I have thought about what I want from my job carefully, about what will make me happy and what will make me unhappy. I have written a list. I have made myself a promise to be guided by my list when going for a job. More and more, I have realised that so many things happen in life that are out of our control. Last year, my Dad was investigated for prostate cancer. It’s the biggest killer of men in the UK. Blood tests and scans indicated it was 50/50 either cancer or simply an enlarged prostrate. It all came down to the results of a biopsy. I remember waiting for these results was like standing at a junction. Looking one way, there was cancer. Looking the other, there wasn’t. And there was nothing anyone could do to make it go the good way. It either was cancer or it wasn’t. It was terrifying. It wasn’t cancer.
A job is just a job. It’s necessary for most of us, but it is something we have control over. Unless I want to go gallivanting off on another foreign posting (which I most certainly do not), I am going to have to give up my SAHM mantle. Teaching gets a lot of bad press at the moment and there is no doubt it is a challenging career, but there was a reason I went into it and there are lots of things I love about it. I intend to find myself a full time job for September that will enable me to focus on the good.
A change is coming my Noah.