Monday, 9 December 2013

Values


We went to a 40th birthday party on Saturday evening. Joe came along (naturally) and there were lots of other parents and children there.

I saw someone I haven't bumped into for a while. She's part of the group I opted out of, although I actually like her very much. And yet I still came away from the party feeling... flat. She was full of questions about whether I'd got a job yet, and when was I going back to work, and wasn't I a bit concerned that Joe wouldn't 'come on' quickly because he's not going to nursery.

She also asked what we'd bought him for Christmas and went on to list the very many things they'd bought for her little girl. There seemed to be some assumption that, because I'm a stay-at-home mum, we must be desperately short of money. She suggested I buy him things from Home Bargains.

All in a friendly, helpful way.


The fact is that we're not struggling financially (no more so than many people at the moment).

Joe has lots of lovely things: bought, made, given. Like the little Polish money box which has his great grandad's buttons from his army uniform inside.


And crayons. We like crayoning.


And little things found at flea markets.


And a new jumper from his auntie in cheery red.


He loves his string of jingle bells (hanging on the tree in his room).


And how sweet is this little toadstool night light? It used to belong to Jay when he was little. It has tiny ceramic mice living inside it.

Anyway, I was annoyed with myself after the party. Annoyed that I felt the need to explain and justify my decision to stay home with him. Annoyed that I let other people's well-meaning comments get to me. Because Joe's coming on very nicely, thank you. Our finances are our business. And staying home with him is my decision. We live simply, are happy and our choices are ours, just as other people's choices are theirs.

I'd love to have more friends who understand that. In the meantime I'll stay away from those who make me feel bad about myself.

Joe's Christmas will be merry and bright and full of little things which show he's loved.

28 comments:

  1. Very timely post. I've just composed and deleted and retyped a draft post all about a friend of mine, someone I like a lot but when I'm in their company I don't represent myself in a way that makes me happy.

    Of course that says more about me than them but it's easy to fall into an old pattern even if it does you no good. Thanks.

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    1. I think we're all guilty of it to some extent. I recently decided to let a long friendship go because that person made me feel like a doormat every time I saw them and yet I put up with it for years.

      The fact that we can at least see it must be a sign of progress. I'm not a particularly assertive person and hate confrontation of any kind so my way of dealing with it is to just quietly move on. Hope it all works out for you with your situation x

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    2. Thanks, I think I just need to learn the word "no" and mean it.

      I recently started volunteering at a charity shop and had a "lady" there attack my lifestyle, call me boring and tell me I'm wasting my life. It wasn't pleasant but I did my best to not engage. She totally ignored me last week so I know I dealt with it in the right way.

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    3. Wow, she sounds a delight! I volunteer in a charity shop too but luckily the people I work with are all very sweet.

      She sounds like a very unhappy individual. And the fact that she has such a problem with you suggests she's envious and maybe feels a bit threatened. Rise above it - and rest assured that you'll enjoy a far merrier Christmas than her!

      Good luck - stick to the high road x

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  2. I seem to attract people who can make innocent comments that spoil my day (standing in the school yard at pickup time....). I stayed at home with my children and can honestly say it was the best dicision I made. It sounds like your doing a great job. Sarah

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    1. Thank you - I know it's the right thing for us. And I know I need a thicker skin. Unfortunately not everyone is tactful or considerate when it comes to the feelings of others.

      The main thing is that my family are all extremely supportive. Hopefully by the time I get to the school gates stage I'll have toughened up a bit!

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  3. You know you're doing it right don't you?

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    1. I do! And I know exactly what the problem is: I care too much what other people think. Ridiculous, isn't it?

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  4. Oh yes...I've been there. My two are six and four and I've been a stay at home mum for long enough now not to care what anyone says, but when my eldest was a baby and it was still new and a big adjustment for me, I felt just as you do now. I think that perhaps some women feel unsettled by another woman's decision to stay at home with their child and it makes them feel inadequate in some way, and so they turn that into little comments just like the ones you heard. Yes, it makes you doubt yourself and your decisions, however briefly. No family should ever judge another, we're all doing what is right for us and what works for one does not work for another.

    I just love the sound of all Joe's Christmas gifts - so many things there to delight him. x

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    1. Thank you for your comment. It's so nice to know that there are people out there who 'get it'. And I agree completely - it's not my place to question or judge the way someone else chooses to raise their children. I just wish others felt the same.

      One thing I do know: I'll never look back and regret my choice.

      And yes, Joe will have plenty - there's lots to come. I can't wait to make him up a stocking full of little treats and we're going to a really lovely toy shop at the weekend - exciting! Thanks again for your comment. All the words of support are lovely to read x

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  5. Oh, words and questions like that can be so poisonous can't they - eating away at you and making you question yourself. I can remember actually pretending to one friend that I had intentions of returning to work (despite having no plans to) just because I was worried of what their reaction would be. Ridiculous now I look back! You know you've made the right decision for you - head up and don't let them get you down!

    And let's be honest, what's better for a toddler? Jingly bells, crayons and a woolly jumper, or a massive pile of plastic tat? (Making a slightly large assumption there...!) Joe's little bits and bobs all sound utterly lovely.
    xx
    P.S Liberty prog is about to start!

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    1. Hello there! I've done the exact same thing - made out I'm looking to go back to work imminently. To be honest I'd much rather be with Joe and be frugal (which I actually quite enjoy anyway) than be stuck behind a desk so I can pay someone else to take care of him.

      And yes, I have issues with plastic tat too. You can't avoid it completely (even if it's just other people buying him things) but I certainly like to keep it to a minimum. Far more exciting to find other things - some of the best hunting grounds are museum and gallery gift shops.

      Liberty programme is recorded, my treat for tomorrow afternoon once he goes down for his nap. Cup of tea, chunk of chocolate, blanket... perfect!

      Hope all is well with you - and thanks for the support x

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  6. Like Gillian, I am a long time stay at home mum ... my little ones are 7,6 and three and a half ... my husband and I thought long and hard about my staying at home and decided it was right for us. Numerous times I have had comments from friends, family and afar with regard to my return to work, our limited budget etc. It amazes me how much these people know about my personal affairs. Time definitely helps, I am more than comfortable with my decision and am endlessly proud of my happy, settled, well loved little ones ... families should have the courage to do what is right for them and the respect for others and how they live their life ... you are so right too ... we will never regret our choice ... Bee xx

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    1. I love that there are so many of us who agree on this. And I'm sure I'll come across others - in person - at some point. I can only assume people are so negative about our choices because they're secretly a bit envious.

      The reality is that it's all about compromise. I choose to be with Joe and forgo a lot of spending, rather than working to fund an extravagant lifestyle. It's nothing to be ashamed of but a real shame that when you try and explain it to others their expression says it all: Does Not Compute.

      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to write - I really do appreciate it x

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  7. My 'girls' are women now - aged 25 and 18. I didn't work for almost all of their childhood, and for the brief periods that I did work it was part-time with hours that fitted in so they could be looked after by by husband. They remember leaf kicking, mornings at play groups, visits to friends, the fact that I was there to take them to school and to collect them. They remember 'film afternoons' in the school holidays - with drawn curtains and homemade popcorn, painting and colouring, baking and making, sewing and crafting. They appreciated those things, and my elder daughter spoke of those and more in the speech she made at her wedding earlier this year, yet none of those things cost much, if anything, in monetary terms.

    People made comments, but I knew that as a family, it was best for us and that was what really mattered. I used to tell them that I couldn't see the point of me going out to work, to pay someone else to look after my children in a way which was inferior to the way they were looked after by me. That usually silenced them!

    It sounds as if you are doing a wonderful job looking after your son, and I hope you can make some friends who are more on your wavelength and who can tell you that in person.

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    1. Oh, me too! I'm sure it will happen. And in the meantime I have to say that everyone who has been kind enough to comment is also a friend :)

      Your sentiment about paying someone to look after your children echoes what I've been saying (in exasperation) to my fiance and family. And I suppose that really, they're the ones who really matter. They also agree completely. I have a happy, confident little boy.

      I now also have some good ideas - particularly the film afternoons. Can't wait until he'll sit still for long enough (although I'm already developing an embarrassing fondness for Peppa Pig)...

      Thanks for your wise words x

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  8. Don't let people like that get you down.... You are following the right path: less materialism, more time and love spent with people that matter!

    So many people get caught up in the rat race just to buy more things, that they really don't need. It takes more brains and courage to side step the rat race and follow your own path. Plus, your lovely blog is an inspiration, so keep up the good work!

    P.S. Next time, ask that woman how ethical her choices are and if she knows where the toys she's brought come from, who made them etc. and that quite likely, children like her own, will have had to make them.... Plus, don't forget - she is probably just envious that you don't have to go to work, I mean, how many of us really want to anyway.... Instead of being happy for someone that they don't have to work; some people react with jealousy and try and make you feel worse about yourself....

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    1. Hi Estelle! I'm amazed at how many people feel strongly about this.

      I have to say, I'm also pretty surprised at myself. When I was pregnant I didn't think I'd be in the least bit maternal and would be falling over myself to get back to work as soon as I possibly could. Then Joe came along and everything shifted competely...

      I want him to grow up with a sense of responsibility - to know that life isn't about how much stuff you can afford, to always feel dissatisfied with what you have... of course, he'll never go without, and I'd never risk him being singled out at school because he didn't have what others have. But I want him to have a fun childhood and in my experience that involves imagination, the outdoors and creativity. Not lots of toys and computer games and gadgets.

      As for the conversation on Saturday, I think there probably is envy involved too. But I'm not willing to be part of a group where I'm the only one who doesn't send her child to nursery. I'm tired of being seen as an oddity!

      Thanks for writing - lovely to hear from you xx

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  9. I am more and more of the opinion that your way is the right way. This ridiculous obsession with giving loads of expensive presents to children is madness. And the things you are surrounding Joe with, like his money box and nightlight, are the things he will cherish and remember always. For all you say that this lady was well meaning, I can sense nothing but patronising interference in what she said to you. Your values will be the star Joe sets his course by as he grows up. Have a lovely, meaningful Christmas.

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    1. You too! I hated the whole commercialisation of Christmas way before becoming a parent and am now even more resolute to make it about presents which mean something. For us that will be our new family tradition of Christmas shopping in Hebden Bridge, choosing a few lovely things from independent shops rather than spending a fortune online (and consequently measuring our enjoyment of Christmas by how much 'stuff' we've bought).

      Thanks so much for visiting and sharing xx

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  10. I imagine she probably envies you. I know one or two people who leave me feeling exactly the same. It has taken me years to realise that I don't have to bother with people like that. Have a lovely Christmas x

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    1. Thank you - I will learn to deal with it in time I hope!
      Enjoy your Christmas too x

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    2. Hi, I'd wanted to reply when you posted this but my silly phone wouldn't let me load my comment. Anyway enough of the tardiness excuses. I can only echo what others have said. I've noticed, especially since becoming a parent, that if you make a different choice to someone they think it's OK to tell you where you're wrong. I've certainly developed a thicker skin since BigR was born. I've had questions about why I went back to work, wasn't I worried about my child's development at nursery when I should be all they need - from others who'd made a different choice to us. The world is a funny place. Joe sounds like he's going to have a fab Christmas. All his things and experiences sound gorgeous. Have a lovely Christmas. xx

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    3. Strange, isn't it - people feel it's perfectly acceptable to interfere where parenting is involved. Interesting too that I get it in the neck from the pro-nursery types while you are pestered by the stay-at-home brigade.
      I'd never criticise anyone's choices, regardless of what those choices are. It's down to personal circumstances and as parents we know what suits us and our children the best. Nobody else's business!
      Thanks for commenting on this. And I hope you have a lovely Christmas too x

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  11. I think the green eyed monster lurks in this person. She probably envies the fact that you want to be with your child more than you want the material things an extra income can buy. I went back to work part time after I had my daughter and felt miserable. I gave up the job, and never regretted it. I had the most wonderful time with her, doing many of the things you do with your son…lots of going out and having fun. I’m not particularly materialistic, and don’t really understand people who would rather have more money than cut back and be with their kids. I know many people don’t have the option, and have to return to work, but if you can manage without two incomes, I think both children and parents benefit immensely.

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    1. Me too! And I know it's not for everyone. We have minimal outgoings, a small mortgage and - fortunately - I was turned on to the idea of living (happily) with less before we even had Joe.

      The supportive people in my life tell me the same thing: it's time I'll never get back again and a decision I'll never regret. Thanks for commenting - this one really seems to have inspired people to join in!

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  12. I am catching up with older posts.... I can't remember how I found your blog but I really enjoy it very much. I am looking forward to many more posts.
    This is a post that touched me very much. I admire stay at home mums, I really do. I think I would make a terrible one myself .... but I'll find out soon enough if this is true as I am now a homemaker for the first time in my life. It wasn't my choice (redundancy) and staying at home scares me just now. I am also a little exited actually. It will take some time to adjust to this new role of mine, I am sure, both personally and financially.
    There are a couple of "extreme" mums on the playground of our school and I always stayed clear of those. I have in the past played down my work, pretending I am not enjoying it for example, or doing it for the money only. I have worked part time since the birth of Sam 13 years ago but was lucky enough to have a flexible job that I loved and I never needed to worry about staying at home with an ill child, or sometimes just for fun. I was also lucky enough to work school hours for the past 7 years.
    Wouldn't it be nice if we all accepted each others choices?
    I love Joe's collection of lovely things! Just the kind of things we cherish, too. Christina x

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    1. Hello - and thank you for visiting!
      I sympathise with you completely. Although I seem to be judged on my decision to stay at home, I can totally understand those on the flip side - who go out to work and are berated for that too. Whatever happened to acceptance and respect for someone's personal choices?!
      I too was made redundant from my long-term job. Luckily the blow was softened by a generous package, but the shock of it was pretty awful and I was reeling for a very long time afterwards. I temped for a while (not great) but have to say, sometimes these big things happening in your life - forcing you to change direction - are a really good thing.
      I hope it all works out and you don't feel too anxious. And I'm glad you feel excited too. You never know what's around the corner!
      S x

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