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Marisa Mackle: I take my hat off to stay-at-home mums

I put my hands up. Guilty as charged. I used to be the type of woman who would look down on stay-at-home mothers. I used to think they were lazy people, sitting at home all day doing nothing apart from arranging coffee mornings with other stay-at-home mums and occasionally driving their 4x4s to amuse themselves.

Now I am a stay-at-home mother myself. No 4x4 and I gave up coffee months ago. I am, of course, ashamed of my dreadful condescending attitude towards the women who work harder than probably anyone else.

I cannot think of any other group of people who work all day for no pay, status and breaks; who get yelled at and thrown up on, and are never thanked.

I have a pile of unwatched DVDs beside the TV waiting for a time in my life when I have a spare couple of hours. I have a three-year waiting list of friends I've been meaning to meet up with, and the washing machine is on more than it is off.

Even as I write this, I am aware that I have only one child, and I can't even imagine how somebody else copes with two or three. I truly take my hat off to anybody who stays at home to mind kids.

I remember when I was single and working in an office -- spending most of the week planning my Saturday night out -- and women would come back to the workplace, having been off on maternity leave, all happy and full of smiles. I couldn't understand it.

How could they leave their babies at home with strangers? Didn't it tear them apart? What was the point of bringing a baby into the world if you couldn't spend every minute with it? I felt so sorry for those women. They must have badly needed the money to come to work. But now I realise the reasons they came back were not entirely financially motivated. They came back to work for a break.



thumps

In work, there are rules to abide by. Nobody follows you into the toilet or thumps you when they don't get their own way. Nobody throws their lunch on the ground and expects you to pick it up.

Women can't have it all. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't. We feel guilty for wanting to go to work and feel worthless when we're not working and, in the eyes of society, not contributing.

It is normal to want to get away from your kids. It doesn't mean you don't love them to death. Every mum needs 'me' time. I bet if dads stayed at home, there'd be more one-child families in the world.

Marisa is the author of Along Came a Stork


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