The Grass Is Always Greener

One of the main perks of being a working parent is the cherished opportunity to talk to other adults about things other than teething and infant sleeping patterns.  I call this “water cooler conversation.”

This morning’s water cooler conversation, so called because it took place next to an actual water cooler-albeit one that is not currently operational-was a massive feminist rant about a song I had never heard sung by a band I had never heard of, being a parent whose repertoire of popular music now consists solely of the theme tunes to children’s television programmes and the occasional enthusiastic rendition of Wind The Bobbin Up (Piglet can totally do the actions.  I am SO PROUD).

“Ooh!” I cried happily as I filled up my enormous maximum strength coffee cup, “this sounds like an interesting conversation!”

Before long I was spouting what I considered to be the Manifesto of the Feminist Revolution in my Head.  This feminist manifesto is basically an extended whinge about why everyone except me seems to be a stay at home mum these days and whatever happened to the sisterhood.  Weren’t we supposed to be tearing down the fabric of the patriarchy or something?  What happened to us all?

My much younger and child free colleagues looked at me, baffled and also quietly hinting that everyone else might now hate me and my controversial ideas, and I slunk off, realising that I was just projecting my own insecurities onto everything and everyone else, rather like the other day at work, when someone complimented me on my hair and my response was to launch into a tirade about how I have totally turned into a mum, what with my short hair and my sensible trousers, and my younger and child free colleague looked baffled and was probably wondering what she had said to provoke such an outburst.  It was less a case of me not keeping up with the youth of today, and more a case of them not keeping up with me and my mum-complex.

The thing is, I suffer from a serious case of mum-envy.  I love my job, but-as jobs generally do-it takes up a lot of my time, and sometimes all I seem to see around me are all the other mums working part time, or not working at all.  Then there are my mother’s tales of the conversations that go on in my absence at toddler groups; the conversations that she feels excluded from as grandparent and carer, and not parent.  The conversations I am excluded from as I am at work, with other people’s children and not my own, and I think about the mummy friends I had in London, the long lunches over tales of breastfeeding and weaning woes.  The same conversations going on all around me all the time, but which I am not part of.  And sometimes it gets the better of me, and I resent it.

I resent the stay at home mums and their adoption of conventional gender roles.  I resent the way they cook their husband’s dinner and talk about the importance of being a good wife as though feminism never happened and we’re still at the Netherfield Ball swooning over Mr Darcy and his ten thousand a year; and I resent the way they just accept that it has to be them who stays home and forfeits their career and education while their husbands keep on climbing the career ladder and widen the gender pay gap.

And then I stop, and I push the thoughts back out of my head.  I acknowledge that it’s jealousy getting the better of me.  Jealousy that I never met the love of my life like they did.  Jealousy that I will never know what it’s like to have a child with someone that you love.  Jealousy that I don’t get a choice about whether or not to work.

And then I realise that their choices may also be limited by factors beyond their control.  I remember that life isn’t all it seems.  I don’t know these women, and I don’t know their stories.  I may imagine that everyone else is living life in a rose-tinted bubble, but then I remember the endless days of maternity leave, pushing a pram around in circles trying to get the baby to nap.  Of weeks where I didn’t speak to anyone except the barista in Costa Coffee.  Of the knowledge that I only enjoyed maternity leave because it was never going to last forever, and thus had to be enjoyed to its fullest, even if the pinnacle of enjoyment was only changing out of my pyjamas once a week.

And what if having a husband brings its own pressures?  What if, in addition to feeding and clothing a little one and keeping them alive, I also had to maintain a relationship?  I can honestly say I have never felt happier since I stopped looking for a relationship, let alone trying to maintain one.  Would having a husband really be such a bed of roses?

So maybe the stay at home mums don’t have it easy.  Maybe they have it harder.  Maybe they spend all their time wishing they were me, swanning off to work all day, drinking coffee in relative peace and wearing something other than pyjamas.  Life is never black and white, but always shades of grey.  We all make our choices, and we all wonder if they are the best ones.

Perhaps I just need to stop worrying, stop envying, and enjoy the life I have.  After all, the grass is always greener, but is it really any happier?

This post first appeared on the website Meet Other Mums 

If you liked this post, please feel totally free to vote for me in the Mum and Working Awards 2016 (shameless plug alert).

Cuddle Fairy
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

26 Comments Add yours

  1. MMT says:

    Every time I think ‘I wish I was at work’ I try to visualise myself being at work wishing I was at home with the children. It helps me to appreciate the here and now!

    1. Min says:

      I have a similar method-mine mainly involves visualising how knackered my mum looks when I come home and she’s been running around after Piglet all day!

  2. I’m the working mom in this two mom household, and I do get jealous. Of staying at home, of witnessing more moments, of intimate time to and from school, and 8,975,647 other things, at least. I don’t have the answer. I know I often walk into clothes strewn saga of woe from all my girls when I get home from work. I know I wish I had the opportunity. And then, I decide to stop wishing and live in the moment, however choatic that moment may be. #fabfridaypost

    1. Min says:

      It’s difficult isn’t it. There’s always going to be pros and cons to both. Thanks for commenting!

  3. laughing mum says:

    no matter what we have or do, we’ll always at least wonder about the other side of the coin,… life really is just for living (cliche as that sounds) and just roll with it… good, and bad, better and worse on all sides 🙂 #kcacols

    1. Min says:

      Totally agreed! Thanks for commenting.

  4. Michelle G says:

    It’s such a balancing act and as women, we are always torn. I went back to work early and my husband looked after baby….this caused a fair amount of ‘raised eyebrows’ where we live which made me angry. All women should be given the choice of what they want to do and we should all support each other to pursue whatever path is right for us. #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Absolutely. I can’t understand why people would think that was strange. He is the other parent, after all!

  5. Sarah says:

    Life would be different if it was different but not necessarily better. I’ve come to realise that everyone has challenges, just different ones. Thanks for your openness and thanks for linking up #FabFridayPost

    1. Min says:

      Yes, very true! Thanks for hosting and commenting.

  6. Emma says:

    I thought I had commented on this but I can’t find it 🙁 I love this post as I was the one at the water cooler wandering why anyone would ever give up their career for their children and I was quite vocal that I never would. Whoops. Backfired now! This has inspired a post from me which goes live next week!! But basically I agree, we always think the grass is greener. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

    1. Min says:

      I’m sure you’ve commented on this before as well! Forever fishing you out of the spam. I have no idea why my blog doesn’t recognise your comments by now! Look forward to reading your post-flattered to have inspired you!

  7. I think it’s really hard not to think the grass is greener. I can’t imagine not working to be honest – even if we could afford it – it would drive me insane. But I know, when I go back in July, it will be wrenching. I think as MMT says, we just have to appreciate the here and now! #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Very true. I definitely feel that I enjoyed my maternity leave more because it was temporary, and although I was sad when it came to an end, I wouldn’t have wanted endless time stretching into the future where it was just me and the little one at home.

  8. I do understand what you are saying … envy isn’t a bad thing but jealousy is. Envy is sometimes what drives us to make choices in life – and we all have choices to shift an area in our life that perhaps needs changing – oo I could chat for hours about this – let’s have a glass of wine at Brits and mull this over! #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      That’s an interesting point. Yes, we’ll definitely have to chat at Britmums!

  9. Ali Duke says:

    I only work part time, but I hate that I don’t get to spend the whole day with the kids and that hubby and I don’t actually get a day off together. I am sure if I was home all the time I would still be moaning lol.

    1. Min says:

      Haha, yes, the grass is definitely always greener!

  10. Yummyblogger says:

    Yep the grass is always greener, I love my job but do I fit in with all those non-parents? I hate the daily grind/routine and logistics that comes with it. Could I be a stay-at-home mum? I’m not sure!! #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      I guess we all do what we have to. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Thanks for commenting!

  11. There are definitely pros & cons to working outside the home versus full time motherhood. Being a full time mom doesn’t mean you give up on feminism or your personal goals. It’s quite a challenging job & I often think it’d be easier for several reasons, if I was working outside the home. I agree with the other commenters – the grass is often greener on the other field but there are difficulties with every job that you can’t see looking over the wall. Thanks so much for linking up with us at #BloggerClubUK

    1. Min says:

      Definitely agreed. Sometimes it’s easy to think that things are easier for others, but everyone has their own challenges.

  12. Such great post. I so so want to get back to work but the nursery won’t take Evelyn on until September, and I’m like – great more time just waiting… But it’s all good. I like spending time with my girl and just wait a little bit longer won’t hurt.

    Thank you so much for linking up with us again Min on #FabFridayPost xx

    1. Min says:

      Absolutely. Take your time if you can! x

  13. Bread says:

    My wife wants to stay at home, but there is a level of practically involved. To actually pay for a day of childcare she would actually work for a day and a half. With the travelling it’s not even worth it. The government only pays like 8% of childcare which might as well be 0% for all the help it it. My mum worked three jobs when I was a kid, and I never saw her. I much preferred having the stay at home mum I had when we were teenagers.
    Feminism is about having the choice, not necessarily the actual choice you make. I will be a working mum because I can and need to work. My wife will be a stay at home mum because she wants to and because we can afford the damn nursery fees.

    1. Min says:

      I agree. I had to change jobs and move to another part of the country (taking a substantial pay cut in the process) so that my mum could look after my son 3 days a week, as otherwise he would have been in childcare 5 days a week and it would have been unaffordable. There was also a sacrifice on my mum’s part as she had to cut her working hours down from full time to 2 days a week, which affects her pension. I am very lucky to have her as I know many don’t have this level of family support, but even so, sometimes I feel as though my mum is raising my son and not me. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to all the choices we make.

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