One in 11.
That’s how many UK mothers are now stay-at-home mums according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics – the lowest since records began.
Apparently just 9% of mums now don’t work outside the home, compared to 50 years ago when the majority of mums stayed at home raising their families.
It’s testing at the best of times – especially during the school holidays – but because I’m breastfeeding it’s far preferable than going out to work somewhere else (the fact is I had to give up my dream job to breastfeed) and it means one of us is on hand for the nursery and school runs and childcare doesn’t cost as much as it might.
Would I give it up to be a stay-at-home mum if I could? Some days the answer would undoubtedly be yes – when I was on maternity leave I loved being ‘just’ a mum – but forever? I’m not sure I’d be cut out for it. And I’m not the only one.
I asked 10 other working mums (and one dad) whether they’d opt to join the nation’s 9% of stay-at-home mums if they had the choice, and after hearing their responses I reckon I know the reason why more of us aren’t stay-at-home mums.
And it’s got nothing to do with money.
The REAL reason we don’t want to be stay-at-home mums
“Even if I was a millionaire I couldn’t stop working,” says Becci at The UnNatural Mother. “I changed my career in the summer so I can be at home more for the kids but 100% I need for my own mental sanity to work and bring in my own money. If my husband ever found out what I spend on shoes he would divorce me.”
“The truth is I love my job,” says Nicola at Mummy to Dex. “I would definitely love to reduce my hours (I currently work full time) but at the moment that’s not an option. I think being at home full time would slowly drive me insane – I was certainly getting that way when I was off on maternity.”
“I couldn’t wait to go back to work and have been back part time since my little girl was seven months old,” says Teri at Rhyming Mum. “I get serious cabin fever and need to do something with my brain or I go a little bit crazy.”
“I need my work for the social interaction and the chance to retain that side of me,” says Hayley at Devon Mama. “I worked hard to get to the position I’m currently in and even though some days I hate being in the office, I wouldn’t give it up for the world. It makes me a better parent (and probably a better person to be around!)”
“I wouldn’t choose to stay at home and not work, as I believe it’s important for all adult members of the family to contribute to living,” says Sophia at Tattooed Tealady. “Instead I’d choose to work from home over going out to work in an office.”
“I’d still work, even if I won the lottery!” says Victoria at Lylia Rose. “I love running a business and need to work to keep me sane!”
“I’ve just started working part time and I’m loving it so far!” says Jessica at That Mummy Blog. “I’m pretty much earning enough to just cover nursery fees but we decided as a family that it was worth it. My mental health was declining being a full time SAHM, I needed to get back to work for my own sanity. Now if I had the choice, I’d work full time!”
“I love my boys but I need adult conversation, job satisfaction and the mental stretch that a job brings,” says Hollie at Thrifty Mum. “Financially I’m actually worse off going back to work in January after mat leave, but for my mental health it’s worth it and the cost is only temporary.”
“I don’t think I could be a SAHM, I need my own time away from the kids and I worked hard for my nursing career so didn’t want to stop that,” says Helen at Blogging Beautifully. “I do three days a week and think I have a good work/life balance. Plus earning my own money is also a bonus!”
“We could survive as a family but I don’t feel like I could survive as me,” says Amy at A Mum Full of Dreams. “I have spent a lot of time thinking about my career since I had my son and I just am not ready to let it slide at the moment. It makes me me.”
I then asked a working dad the same question: if he had the option to be a stay-at-home dad and not work either part time or full time, would he? The answer is interesting.
“I work full time but took Shared Parental Leave for 100 days, allowing my wife to go back to work,” says Andrew at MadDadSkillz. “I loved it. That period of SPL was long enough to get fully out of the ‘work mindset’ and into ‘parent mindset’, running the household, shopping, parenting. I loved being so in tune with the kids’ routine. It’s far from an easy path but it is so rewarding. It’s caused me to absolutely re-evaluate my professional desires. I’m a military helicopter pilot so I spent 12 of my son’s first 18 months deployed. To become a SAHD and be the supporting player to my wife’s professional ambition would be something I’d love to offer our family.”
What I find most interesting about these responses is the number of times mental health comes up: many of the working mums I asked report being at home as having a negative effect on their mental health, but when it comes to the dad being at home has had a positive effect on his.
What do you think? Are you a working mum or dad and would you become a stay-at-home parent if you could? Or if you’re a stay-at-home parent, would you go back to work if you could? I’d love to hear your thoughts!