When I was a teenager my mother and I used to have quite heated discussions about the merits of being a stay at home mum, compared with being a career orientated mother.
My mother rarely worked when we were small - and was always there at hometime to help with homework and keep the house running smoothly. I would argue - in that special way only teenagers can argue - that the world was now a changed place and that women could have it all.
“I’m not going to spend years at university, and then years building up a reputation for myself in the workplace to pack it all in for a few years to play mammy in the house.”
I believed in my own argument 100%. I didn’t want my identity to simply become someone’s mammy or someone’s wife. I longed to be a professional - to skip into work each day in a nice office, wearing a nice suit, humming Madonna songs to myself.
But then I actually became a mother. What I could not understand before I held my own children is the strength of the bond and love for them I would have. Nor could I have estimated my desire to care for my children myself - or how I would start to value how much my mother had done for me growing up.
I am lucky - in a lot of ways I enjoy my work. I find the most part of the nine to five fulfilling and recently I’ve been able to reduce my working hours to be there for school pick up three times a week. After ten years of combining motherhood and working full time I know how exceptionally lucky I am to be able to do this.
I feel exceptionally fulfilled helping with homework. Those cuddles at the schoolgates three days a week are priceless. I feel like I’m closer to achieving that magical work/ life balance thing.
So I’m appalled - seeing how my children have responded to extra mammy time - to see the UK government’s proposals regarding reducing school holidays and increasing school days to 9 or 10 hours in length. And offering nursery school places to two year olds.
I’m prepared to admit it - my mammy was right. Children need their parents. Dare I say when they are young they need their mammies. And mammies need their children.
Taking control of parenting away from parents - putting two year olds in 10 hour day formal learning environments - feels beyond wrong. Childhood is the most precious time any of us have - protect it, don’t steal it. Trust my mammy on this one!