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Earning My Keep
Earning My Keep

Earning My Keep

Yesterday, my youngest went to kindergarten, for the whole day, on her own. As the youngest of three she has been counting the days since we enrolled her in February, so for her, yesterday couldn’t come fast enough. She is beyond excited to be at school “with the big kids”.  In a lot of ways, I too have been counting down the days till “all my kids are in school” since my oldest came along 11 years ago. I imagined freedom. A sense of relief. A little sadness. A lot of joy. What I feel now is obsolete. As a stay-at-home mum, I sort of feel like I’ve been given my pink slip. My kids asked me all summer what I was going to do without them, maybe hoping that I would spend my days weeping and wailing now that they were not there, but I answered gleefully that I was going to have fun without them. I thought I would finally get to organize and clean my house. Bake a lot of cookies and try not to eat them all.  Maybe I would catch up with my scrapbooking, or finally work on my novel (insert snicker here). Even I am having difficulty mustering any enthusiasm for this plan now.

I admit that I have struggled with feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness since I made the decision to give up my teaching career to be at home with my kids, but because I had little people who depended on me I soldiered on. I convinced myself I was doing it for them. Sacrificing my needs and wants to meet theirs- St. Kirsten of the Suburbs. While it is true they still need me- my five year old is hardly independent at this point- that need is concentrated into the hours between school pick up and bedtime each day leaving me with a lot of empty hours to fill. My husband, a very supportive guy, is constantly telling me to take time for myself and do what makes me happy, but I feel ridiculously guilty when I think about filling my time with my hobbies or “lunching with the ladies”. Our lifestyle and schedule doesn’t really leave room for me to get a job outside of the home, as many of my friends have, and frankly we don’t need the money. There are a lot of families who need two incomes- I don’t want to take a job from someone who needs it just so I can feel good about myself. The question I have been asking myself constantly is how the hell am I going to earn my keep now?


  1. I really really get this post. We know staying at home is valuable but not having a job really seems wrong. I have stayed at home for twenty years. When they were small and all at home it was okay but once they went to school I felt as you do “Guilty”. I work part time at night now, but I still feel guilty although now they are older I am so glad i was lucky enough to have been able to stay at home.

  2. Moira

    I struggle with this everyday. I feel like if I do scrapbooking I should really be doing housework. if I go shopping for me (for once) then I really should be organizing the house (notice all the shoulds!). I am coming to terms with making time for myself without guilt! We need it for our health, body, mind, and soul.

  3. Sonja

    Kirsten, I saw a sign the other day, and it said ” the phrase ,A working mother is redundent”. I have struggled trying to hold down an outside job part time, up until my youngest went to kindergarten, then I too struggled with the guilty feeling that maybe I should be doing more outside the home (being that I had spent 9 years in university), so I took on full time outside work. This was a mistake.
    I have now come to the conclusion that having somebody at home who is not exhausted at supper time, who is available to listen to the kids, to encourage their interests, to cook and plan healthy meals, to keep on top of the home front is absolutely important. I am finding that as the children get older, parenting has become more complicated. The issues needing addressing really require an intuitive, energetic mom to work through. Society as a whole undervalues the role of a home maker. I was brought up in a house with two full time working parents. My mother scorned my grandmothers for being stay at home. My father never wanted his daughters to be domesticated. They wanted us to be university graduates. Take- out meals were okay. You didn’t need to learn to cook-it wasn’t important.-Of course these teachings came from women’s liberation. We are now seeing the outcome of this. For example childhood obesity rates etc…Cooking a healthy meal is ultimately important to the whole family-this takes time and energy. Having a calm home front works best for all-so please do not ever underestimate the importance of your role.

    1. I know most of this comes from me- I was raised to make my own choices and this is something both Dale and I agreed to do. It is just hard in a society that values the bottom line above all else. Maybe we are seeing echoes of women’s liberation in the messages I sometimes get about being a homemaker. For instance, on the BC Teachers website I cannot choose homemaker as a valid career when I pay my fees to keep my teaching license in good standing (just in case, you know!). I have to say I’m unemployed- it is pretty demoralizing. With no salary I sometimes feel like a non-entity in our economy. Reality, of course, tells me a very different story- most days!

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