But You're Just A Mum

'But you don't work, you're just a mum'

Sound familiar? Let me just tell about some of the jobs I have had:

Conference Coordinator:
Organising the annual Social Science Conference for a University. This involved logo/image design, marketing, deciding on key themes to be addressed, finding, persuading and coordinating professors/lecturers from across the UK to come and speak for a nominal fee on their field of expertise.

Community Development Worker:
Responsible for working with Black and Minority Ethnic groups across a large UK city. Organizing conferences, steering groups, elections and meetings so that they could ultimately elect one figure from the city to represent them all on the city's strategic partnership board - therefore having a key role in decision making for the city.

Housing Officer (Anti-Social Behaviour):
Responding to and dealing with (to completion) council tenants complaints about their neighbourhood/neighbours. I would be entering the types of houses that most people only ever see on 'Life of Grime' on TV, explaining that a complaint had been made against them and then praying that they didn't have a knife to hand. This involved liaising with the police and the Social Services on a regular basis. I once sat on a sofa that was covered in dog/child poo (still not sure which), I was attacked by a gang of near naked four year olds (I kid you not!) and was once locked in a house until the tenant finished her screaming/self-harm fit and thankfully decided not to do anything untoward to me.

Nursery Business Manager:
This one is pretty self-explanatory. I managed the business side of the nursery including finance, marketing, staffing issues, appraisals etc. Some days I spent more time dealing with staff member's personal issue than I did managing the nursery.

Other jobs I have done include, Factory Worker, Health Care Assistant, Finance Officer and Personal Assistant.

I am currently a full time mum, involving:

  • Working in a constantly changing and often challenging environment.

  • Ability to be embarrassed, an embarrassment, dispensible, indispensible, loved and then hated. All of these may occur several times in any one day.

  • Ability to make on the spot decisions. ie. in case the high pitch squealing from upstairs is actually serious this time.

  • Assessment and application of First Aid under pressure.

  • Ability to work unaided and void of adult company for long periods of time.

  • Basic knowledge of nutrition and ability to prepare healthy and varied meals. Must be willing to have these thrown or sometimes thrown-up on the floor.

  • Cleaning skills essential. It is useful if you can clean, sing and mend toys at the same time.

  • Project Management: Maintain and organise a busy and varied diary. This must be carefully coordinated to avoid clashes.

  • Willingness to sing, dance and generally make a fool of yourself (ability to do this well is not essential).

  • Stock Control and Safety Testing. Toys/equipment must be kept clean, safe and batteries checked on a regular basis.

  • Stock Rotation - in order to maintain a varied and interesting learning environment (knowledge of the National Curriculum and 'Every Child Matters' document is most definitely NOT required.

  • Imagination and quick thinking is essential. You may be required to tell a story or take part in role play with no prior warning.

  • Mediation skills essential. Personal injury is almost inevitable (injury lawyers not an option).

  • Ability to make swift decisions in times of conflict about the best course of action and willingness to take full responsibility for the results

  • Consistency is key in this job. A mum must bring a sense of fairness, continuity and security at all times.

  • Willingness to sit or lie on the floor for extended periods of time.

  • Ability to stay calm even when you are exploding on the inside.

  • Must be able to smile at all times. Fake smiles not acceptable. Children only recognize smiles that reach your eyes.

  • Ability to say sorry to your child is useful. Mums must be able to admit when they are wrong and move on.

  • The ability to love the sometimes unlovable. To love those that hurt you. To love those that disrespect you.

  • Teachability - being willing to accept that there might be more effective ways of doing the job. Willingness to go on occasional courses may be useful.

I have had a fair few jobs and I can tell you that none of these even comes close to being as emotionally and sometimes physically exhausting as motherhood. For those with children with special needs this is even more true and I haven't even started to list the extra job descriptions that apply to special needs parents.

The job of a full-time mum is rewarding and can bring moments of pure joy. But it is also one of the hardest and most thankless jobs available. I love being a mum, but I am also looking forward to both my boys being at school so I can think about work again. So next time you are tempted to make a patronizing comment to someone who has chosen to stay at home and be 'just a mum' - think again. If they don't actually poke you in the eye or swear at you, I promise you that is exactly what they are doing in their head.

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