Working for the man: the value of paid employment

I’ve been working for money since I was fifteen years old. I’ve done all types of casual, part time and full time jobs. From an unglorified dish pig at the local restaurant, a bar wench and cleaner while at university, through to a statistician, archaeologist and policy adviser (I’ve had a very varied career!). Through out that time (which incidently is twenty five years), I have always supported myself financially. I’ve always been able to work to pay the bills or to buy what I wanted, when I wanted…within reason of course.

But now, I’m in new territory. I’m not currently working or earning any money, and it has made me realise the importance of paid employment. At the moment I am being fully supported by my husband while I raise our new edition to the family. Even though it was a family decision that both my husband and I agreed to, I’ve noticed a subtle shift in my status as a stay at home mum. It’s nothing to do with a change in my husbands viewpoint, but rather it’s how I feel about being financially supported.

It’s something that women do all the time, it’s perfectly normal to not work while caring for children, but receiving regular pay did wonders to my self worth and confidence. At the moment it appears like the world is only interested in economics and monetary value, a person seems to be judged by their ability to work and contribute taxes. A stay at home parent is perceived as a ‘leaner’, a non economic commodity. But if you think about it more closely, stay at home parents are providing a vitally important economic function…raising the next generation of tax payers. 

Being out of the workforce for a long period of time can have a lasting impact on a woman’s self confidence, especially if she has left behind a successful career to have children. I’m very fortunate that I have the option of opting out of work to care for my child, both financially and that my employer can accomodate my absence and still keep my job for me. My parents generation certainly were not that fortunate; my mother returned to work only six weeks after having me, while my husband’s mother had three months off (all without the availability of child care). How did they do it?

I totally respect all parents choices, whether that’s working full time, part time, casually or not at all. After all what works for one family, may not work for another. Often two incomes are a necessity and therefore many families don’t even have the choice to work or not. Sometimes it’s just about surviving! I treasure the amount of time I have to bond with my precious new daughter. Children grow up so fast and I wouldn’t miss it for the world but I know that for both of us, eventually I will need to work; my confidence and self worth depend upon it. And really that’s the most important thing for children…a happy and confident mum, not the status of her employment.

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