Full time parents: Re-connecting with the world28th Jan 16 | Parent Trap
Being a full time stay at home parent for many people means disconnection from a professional career.
The distance from what we used to do before becoming a parent varies from person to person and we also take breaks for different periods of time. There are some circumstances in which going back to work can be particularly difficult.
Sometimes the break from work is very long and detachment from a job market is total. Some people left or lost their careers before becoming parents. Many families move to new cities or countries to have a fresh start. Without a network, with a language barrier and differences in qualification systems, building a career in a foreign place is a huge task in itself.
It becomes bigger when for a period of time we are preoccupied with the inner world of our family life and most importantly - with the youngest family members (some call this effect having a 'baby brain').
In any case, planning to go back to work often triggers many emotions and brings to light questions regarding our identity, self-esteem, skill set and belonging. Going back to professional work after a long break means reinventing ourselves and facing all the challenges we faced when getting a job for the first time.
Re-connecting with the outside world of people who are getting paid money for the work they do, is an emotional and strategic exercise. It is also an interesting phenomenon in our culture. Our society tends to assign more value and importance to all the jobs happening outside the family home. It can make parents (in most countries – and in majority mothers) feel as if they are contributing less to the community or indeed to the family (not providing any financial income).
It can also feel as if all the outside world was moving forward and learning new things, when in the meantime, home makers were just home makers, doing all the things generations have done before.
The value of stay at home parents is for me unquestionable. They not only dedicate themselves to offering care and support to those they love, they also raise people, who are the future of our communities. They do have a connection with previous generations, by committing to the same task which our great-great and great grandmothers did. They learn - everyday of their lives - about relationships, emotions, themselves, their loved ones. They reach their limits and they learn to overcome their weaknesses. They manage family life and they care for the quality of it - food, aesthetics and warmth. They work and learn a lot and they do not have 'baby brains'.
I am picturing this heroic image of stay at home parents and I am not mentioning the other part - those who make this arrangement possible, by earning money and contributing in many different ways. I will dedicate them a different post.
It's because I sometimes hear when mothers who are planning to go back to work express their feelings of dislocation, inadequacy, low self-esteem, lack of clear direction and confidence. I also share some of these feelings and I think they need strong encouragement and appreciation.
They should remind themselves, that when staying at home, they are not disappearing in a vacuum. They are an important part of the world 'out there' and that they can come back to work or do whatever they plan to do, richer for the experience of being home makers. Yes, it requires focus, commitment and strategic planning. Yes, it's challenging and can be intimidating. Yes, they need a reality check and see what short term and long term goals are within their reach (considering support, actual opportunities, financial situation, further childcare).
But experience of being a full time parent is a great starting point and strong asset. Even if it is not being portrayed like this often enough.
Parents: children will be impressed with your new careers! Good luck.
Agata lives in Galway, she is a mum of two children and author of blog Balancing Parents.com She promotes creative and confident parenting. She is a psychologist, with experience of working as a personal skills trainer and academic teacher. Find her on Twitter @agata4parents