I never wanted to be a stay at home parent. My plan was to go back to work when Oscar was one, probably full time. The only reason I didn’t was financial. Full time childcare along with my commute meant that it would cost me more money per month than I was going to earn at my mid level admin job. So I quit and stayed at home.
The recent changes to the Government’s support for external childcare have made me wonder if I would have made the same decision had it been mine to take today. Maybe we could have made it work (if only just). And because financially it would have (just) worked, I would have put him into paid daycare, five days a week, regardless of how hard, or stressful or tiring it would have been. No other concerns came to mind back in 2013. It was all about the money. As seems to be a common thread in recent policy. I’d have done it and that would have been that.
And the thought of that makes my blood run cold.
Not because I’ve loved being able to be at home with Oscar. It hasn’t been easy being at home with him. Life with autism, isn’t easy. There have been many days where I just wanted to hand him over to someone else and go to a crappy admin job, just to get out of the house, to get away from what I’m having to deal with at home. No, it scares me because of what might have been missed. It scares the hell out of me to think that perhaps a daycare setting would have missed his speech delay or his different developmental paths. What if his ‘difficult’ behaviour (particularly between the ages of 2-3) had just been classed as that and nothing more. He could have reached the grand old age of three, with a label. A label of difficult, challenging or God forbid naughty. It makes me shake when I think what might have been had we been able to make it financially and I’d left someone else to pick up on the things he was so desperately trying to tell us.
I know my experience of raising my child has been a little different to that of other families, but I didn’t know that was going to be the case. How many other families are missing chances for early intervention or help or support? Just because parents are being leant on so very heavily to leave their children and earn money?
Everyone takes that choice as to whether they return to work after having children. I did. But I never considered anything other than the financial implications, when I now know, there was so much more that I should have been weighing up. I have ultimate respect for how any family makes it through the day. Raising children is the hardest job in the world. But where is the support for Stay At Home mums and dads? Why are we used by the media as scape goats for the ills of the economy? It feels so humiliating to be lumped in to a category of unemployed, when I’ve spent all my time and energy working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life, raising, what I now know is, a child on the spectrum? A diagnosis of which could have been missed had I done what the government wants mothers to do; go back to work and raise the country’s GDP.
I hope it’s clear I have no opinion on whether staying at home or working is a better life choice. My issue is the pressure applied to people, but particularly mothers, to bolster the coffers.
After all isn’t a child’s future more than just pounds and pence?