Back in 2006 I made the big decision to give up a well paid job to attempt to carve out a freelance career for myself, enabling me to work from home and look after my two children. I, like a lot of people had the misconception that working from home would mean lazy days spent in my pj's, mornings at playgroups with my then 2 year old, meet ups with other mummies and their children...WRONG!!
Working from home is actually bloody hard work and I salute any parent who has managed to do this with success. The cold reality is that you have to be extremely disciplined. I found it very hard to sit down to get any work done when there were breakfast dishes to wash up, laundry to get done, a house to try and clean and general distractions.
When my daughter was born in 2002, I chose to go back to work when she was just 4 months old which meant I missed her first steps, first words and other major milestones. It was heart breaking to pick her up only to be told she had crawled, taken her first steps or done something equally memorable.
It was that horrible feeling of missing all of those things that helped me decide to take a full year of maternity leave when my son was born in 2004. It was the simple things like picnics on summer afternoons, swimming sessions, walks in the wood and baking with him that made me realise just how much I had missed with my first child and I thoroughly enjoyed being at home with him.
When the time came for me to return to work I knew it would be hard and I remember tearing up when I left them with the childminder and walked through the door.
I lasted just 5 months, I realised I couldn't do this any more. As much as I loved the money and the social aspect of my career, being away from the children for so many hours in a day was killing me.
I made the decision there and then that I would begin working from home.
To begin with I enjoyed the freedom of it all. My daughter by then was at the local school nursery fulltime and I would take my son to the park, toddler groups and all the things we had done whilst I was on maternity leave, the problem was, I wasn't on maternity leave and I had to find the time to work and try to do the housework too. Suddenly it wasn't like they make it look on film or in magazines, it was hard work. There were days when it would get to to 4pm before I had even managed to get any work done.
It did get easier when my son started nursery in January of '08 because the three hours he was at nursery I would dedicate solely to working and it seemed to work. It had taken a while but I finally found a balance and one that worked really well for the entire family.
No sooner had I got going with this working from home malarkey I found out I was expecting. That's when things took a turn for the worse, I suffered from severe morning sickness, pelvic girdle pain and towards the end my pregnancy midwife discovered that I had pre eclampsia which resulted in my son being born prematurely.
Again I took a year out to raise our latest addition and enjoyed every moment of it but I noticed that I was changing. I no longer was so career driven and my attitude and outlook on life was changing.
I wanted to stay home and bake, take on more DIY projects, make cushions and the like but bills still needed paying.
I continued to work from home after my youngest son turned 1 and found a happy medium between being a mum and working but it's not all sunshine and rainbows. It takes a lot of effort and is hard work.
Now my son is nearly 5 and has just started reception and whilst it is so much easier to get my work done during the days I feel like something is missing. My children and my family are my world, however, I feel I've lost myself a little along the way and what makes me well, me! Part of my 'journey of self discovery' has seen me enrol on a soft furnishings course which is just one day a week but its great being able to discover another side of myself and I am looking into a woodworking course.
I guess now is the time for me to decide whether to continue life as a work at home mum or go back out to work, a decision that I'm finding very difficult owing to the fact that I no longer want to work in the field I am trained in.
I've spoken to quite a few stay at home and work at home parents over the years and it seems I'm not alone. Many seem to lose themselves to some extent, attracting a label;stay at home mum/dad, husband, wife, parent and have to take time out to find themselves again.
I'm hoping that now the children are getting older and are slightly less dependent on me, I can find what makes me tick again.
Are you a stay at home or work at home parent? What are you thoughts on it?