Keeping Mum
Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

Opting out?


I was sitting in a Mt Eden park late last week, watching my two year old with one well-exercised eye and my 14 week old with the other. It was a Friday afternoon.

Some three years ago now, I would have been pleasantly and gently intoxicated after a long, wine-laden lunch at about this time.

I would have been considering
a) going home for a nap;
b) where we'd be going out for dinner, or
c) both of the above, plus whatever other footloose and fancy-free entertainment options were on offer.

Back to the park, and being Mt Eden, there were a handful of other mothers of about my age (35) or older, casting weary eyes over their children and - I'm sure - also thinking wistfully of their lives before kids.

Wistful we may be, complain we do constantly, but the fact remains that we, the weary, almost middle-aged new mothers of Mt Eden, have made a conscious choice to stay at home with our kids - we have the financial freedom to do so, mostly - and have acknowledged that it is the best thing we can be doing with our lives while our children are young and impressionable.

We tell ourselves ours is the hardest job there is - and certainly argy-bargy with a toddler combined with the unrelenting demands of a newborn are more tiring than anything I can remember from the pre-children era.

But is it really harder than being an aid worker in a war torn African country? Or an ambulance driver? Or even a parking warden, being cursed at by bad parkers all day long?

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, US cultural critics claimed more and more women like myself were "opting out" - dumping their diplomas and degrees and leaving their high profile careers for home and hearth.

Mass hysteria and fights between working mums and full-time mummies ensued: it turns out the figures were somewhat inflated.

None-the-less, in the US and the UK more and more middle class women are choosing to stay at home. However, it turns out many of them simply transfer their control-freakiness and micromanagement from the office to the home to the little princes and princesses in their care.

That's perhaps why so many women in this position find it depressingly stressful. And engineer themselves back to work as soon as possible where they can, at least, relax!

On the web

- Kindergarchy - Every Child a Dauphin

- Marching into the Mommy Wars

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