Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sacrifices of a Stay at Home Mum?

Brew of the day: Lime tea

Quick maths… If I fed my family processed, de-natured junk food I would save at least £100 a week. I invest significantly in my family’s present and future health and well-being by shopping locally at our organic farmers’ market and making all our meals from scratch. It is, without question, the biggest expense of our week. As a rule we don’t have dessert. The cupboards don’t have biscuits, chocolate, crisps or ready made meals. (poor deprived mites!)

Whenever I want to revamp the budget and look at where I can make changes, I always feel sick to the stomach at the thought of feeding my girls anything less than I do. When I look at what other families are feeding their kids, I have one of my “I’m from another planet” moments. Isn’t it obvious that if you want to fuel a machine you have to put in the right ingredients? My husband once, accidentally, put a tank full of diesel into our unleaded run car. Not a popular lad. Not a cheap mistake! Yet we do this to our kids’ bodies all the time and think they’re ok! How long do we seriously think we can run their ‘machine’ on coke, crisps, that awful gooey, processed, cream cheesey stuff with bread sticks without serious consequences? And why don't mums make the connection between sugar-filled dairy yoghurts (which they've been told are healthy) and their kids' snotty noses? Ain't rocket science, you know?

I don’t often give thought to the fact that I’ve spent the past ten years as a stay at home mum, not contributing in any significant way to the family income. A few days ago I shared an experience with my girls that made me realise the ‘cost’ of being a stay at home mum and feeding my kids healthily and ethically. It can’t be ethical to put poison into another human being’s body day after day, can it?

This week I was in Carlisle in a business next to the new Laura Ashley home design shop. I said to the kids, ‘oh let’s go in there and browse’. I love Laura Ashley clothes (beyond the budget of a SAHM) so knew I’d love their home accessories range. I was right!

We had a fab time browsing all the delicious goodies which give a home that comforting feeling. The three of us visualised having patchwork quilts and lovely thick cushions for our dining chairs, with matching fabric napkins. We ooed and aaed over the gorgeous sofas and thick plush rugs. We couldn’t drag ourselves out of there very easily.

I’m not a shopaholic (though probably would be if my purse was heavy!) and for the most part I don’t have material inclinations. I’m not one to get sucked into adverts (unless it is for the latest feel-good chick flick!). Despite this, I would thoroughly enjoy a beautifully decorated home from floor to ceiling and all the bits in between. Watching the delight on my daughters’ faces as they imagined having such beautiful décor and accessories in their own home, has had me questioning the value of these past ten years. I spent a few days thinking of all the things they’ve been deprived of by me not having earned the equivalent of say £150,000 in the past decade. Gosh, we could have had our own home by now, rather than renting.

How different would my daughters’ lives have been? Is my love, my constant availability to the family, remotely equivalent to £150 000?

So what have they actually missed out on? Fancy bed covers, curtains, rugs and wall paper. Pretty, beautiful, psychologically nurturing. Is it any more nurturing though, than having someone at home to read stories, bake, cuddle, go bike riding with? And what about the annual overseas holidays? We had a trip to Italy a few years ago paid for by someone else as a working holiday mission. Other than that, our two nights away at Berwick upon Tweed last year was the closest we’ve come since.

What did the girls get instead of pretty things? A mum who chose to give up a life of fancy clothes and shoes, fine dining and to stay at home with them so they had the constant presence of a loved one...someone who would care for them no matter what. A dad who was willing to let go of his ideal career in order to be available each day and to enable us to live rurally rather than in a city. I don’t know if my kids will grow up to appreciate the sacrifices which we felt were in their best interests or if, indeed, they’ll compare their childhood to other kids and wish instead they’d had Nike shoes, Barbie dolls and an Ipod.

There are some in the media who take vindictive delight in describing my parenting style as selfish. I’ve always found this confusing. Why is it selfish to put the wellbeing of your kids first? Where else should they be for goodness’ sake?

None of us know how long we’re on this Earth for. My hope is that before I leave here, I will have helped to instil a deep sense of self worth into my daughters that they can go forth whole, happy and free. Their needs have been met as much as I’ve been humanly able to do. And I’m sure that they’ll be equipped to deal with any needs we haven’t been able to meet..

I often think that if I didn’t see my 40th birthday next year, at least I can be certain of one thing. My girls know they were loved with a passion and they meant more to Paul and I than a brand new car, fancy curtains or dinners in top restaurants.

It was no sacrifice.


mighty acorns said...

i too have made the 'sacrifice' although i do work from home a few hours a week. we also don't have fancy dinners, flash home furnishings (though with a Cabinetmaker husband i do have nice furniture!). Ask any child, this is no sacrifice at all compared to having Mum at home. I nannied when i was younger, and all the children wanted - they told me so- was their Mum to be at home, ...Gap clothes, dinner out, foriegn holidays meant diddly squat compared to having a 'present' mother.

flowerpot said...

I do hope us SAHM make a difference, i am a solo parent and life would be so different for us if i went out to work and might i say the government expects that of me, but i would have to give up homeschooling, and the life i love, i am with my kids 24/7, no father to go to on the weekend, and i wouldn't trade it for all the fancy clothes in the world, i used to be a preschool teacher and would see the little toddlers get dropped of each day and cry for their parents then at pick up time they would be overjoyed to see mum or dad, but also confused as they had a bond with us as their carers and in a way didn't want to leave us either. I felt for the goos of my children they should be at home in a loving enviroment with both parents, however i had no control over that, but my kids know they are loved and they have the basics of what they need.
As for food, it is something i worry about daily, it is cheaper for me on a very tight budget [$80 NZ per week] to feed my children, coke, juice etc rather than milk, lollies, chocolate instead of fruit and vegetables and the list goes on, i can stick to my budget well, if i buy rubbish food, but if i buy fruit and veges [we used to be fruitariests]i can spend my whole budget in a week on it. What are you supposed to do, we have to survive.
Thanks Veronica for another good read and cup of tea.

rosehips said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hazel said...

At Brownies the other week Romy was sitting in her 'six' as I went to pick her up and they were playing a game. "How many of you went on an aeroplane for your holiday this year?" asked the helper. Romy was the only one not to put her hand up, lol. We've never been abroad but to be honest Romy has never asked (and we couldn't afford to anyway.) I suppose because she doesn't get the school peer pressure it doesn't bother her. We had three nights away in the Lake District this year and the Travelodge we stayed in was £10 per night! £30 for a little holiday. Not bad, and Romy loved it :o)

At Romy's swimming lesson this week I got chatting to a woman with a lovely baby. She was telling me how bad her asthma is and that she could barely breathe ometimes. She also said she'd been sick earlier that day. The poor kid was eating Quavers crisps and being given aspartame laden drinks as we spoke!!! I was speechless. I asked her if she'd tried cutting out dairy products. Couldn't help myself *grin* and she said "Well, she eats tonnes of yoghurts but I don't think that's the problem. It's this damp weather." *SIGH* What could I say? Every time I see her she's eating utter crap :o(

Joanne B said...

I'm a SAHM ,- I couldn't imagine being anything else, as I have 3 children under 5!
My son goes to nursery and I can't believe some of the crap parents are feeding their children( even after Jamie Oliver was supposed to of got junk food banned from schools), white bread, iced buns, greasy sausage rolls, chocolate, and some of them even bring in sweets to share with other children as a "treat",- (and this is to 4 year olds!)

anne said...

I just think everyone is different I get cheesed off with being crucified for going out to work, I tried staying at home and lasted only 4 months as I was bored out of my mind, it just isn't for me. I negotiated hours around school so I'm able to do schoolruns before and after school and even though the girls are now in their teens they still like me to be there after school ends. I don't think the perfect parent exists, you just do your best in your own situation

Star Khechara said...

Can't comment on the AAHM thang as I ain't a mum yet. But he food thing, oh yea, I find it hard to manage my food budget cos I just cannot cut it down anymore but I still can't afford my food!!
Both myself and my husband are out of work (for odd reasons I can't go into here) and we get £90 bewteen us per week to live on, I'm supposed to pay food and all bills from this??? Insanity!
I've now had to abandon all hopes of my lovely raw diet as I cannot spend the whole £90 on food, I now try to spend only £70 and have to eat some cooked stodge to bulk it out :-( grrr!
Even with budgeting, i still haven't been able to pay my electric bill for 6 months (ooops or the water rates or the phone bill!) Sigh. I just can't imagine when i'll be able to even have any kids at this rate!

Star Khechara said...

oops typo, meant SAHM.

sorry :-)

Em said...

You summed it up really well. I have two 4 year old girls and a 4 year old ss, and our hardest thing is weighing up the eating enough food vs eating the right food. Why oh why is it cheaper to eat crap??? Change that and more people would make more of an effort to eat properly.

I don't see it as a sacrifice at all. I can't imagine having children and living any other way.