Why I have to stop being a stay-at-home parent

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 Photo: Getty

After nearly nine years of being a stay-at-home parent, I have to find a job outside the home. I have to. It's not that I'm desperate for cash, as my partner earns enough from his full-time job to pay the bills. Nor am I trying to escape from my two sons, now aged eight and six. On the contrary, I love being with my bright and spirited children and wouldn't mind continuing to care for them full-time, to remain at home where everything is familiar and safe. I'm actually filled with pants-wetting terror at the thought of re-entering the workforce. And that's why I have to do it.

Looking back at a time before having children, I'm stunned I ever possessed the courage and confidence to try my hand at various jobs. I've been a theatre usher, park ranger, an administrative assistant, environmental consultant, and a manager in a financial services company. And I proved to be capable at many roles.

But most of all, I liked being part of the working world. I liked being part of a team, developing new skills, solving problems, and the satisfaction of earning a decent income through honest, hard work. I thrived on the sense of purpose a job gave me. Pursuing a career drove me and became part of who I was. 

I left my last job when I moved to a new city and was in the midst of sending out CV's when I discovered I was pregnant. As my belly grew, I didn't like my chances of finding someone willing to hire me when I'd have to take maternity leave within months of starting work. Plus, I didn't have any family or close friends nearby to help care for my baby. So I decided to become a full-time caregiver with plans to resume searching for a job after a year. 

But then my second child came along. With my time and energy sapped by the relentlessness of caring for two small children, my search for employment was placed on the backburner again. 

Then gradually as the years stacked up, self-doubt crept in. Was the gap in my employment history too big for my CV to be taken seriously? Did I have any skills left to offer? After years spent babbling to children, was I still capable of speaking up in meetings or navigating office politics? Was there still a place for me in the working world?

One of the main reasons why I've stayed at home for so many years is because I love taking care of my children. It makes me smile to know I'm the one who keeps my sons safe, witnesses their milestones and school events, and helps them learn the ways of the world.

But the other motivator for staying at home is fear. That is, I'm afraid to go back into the workforce. I'm scared that if I send out my CV, I'll fail to even score one interview, let alone secure a job and perform it satisfactorily.

And this is a problem for me because the career driven part of me still exists and is longing to be nurtured, longing for something beyond the occasional freelance work I do from home. I know that "if only" will keep haunting me if I don't throw my hat into the workforce ring once again.

It's time to stare down my fears. Not just to prove to myself I'm capable of achieving my professional goals, but also for my sons. I don't want them to ever be so paralysed by fear and self-doubt that they don't dare to pursue their goals in life. So I need to take a deep breath and be a good role model.    

I've spoken to my family about my plan to enrol in a short course and then find a part-time role which, hopefully, fits in with school hours. My sons know that soon they might spend some afternoons at after school care and they're looking forward to it like a new adventure. My husband is looking forward to the benefits of being a double income family. And with the sense of achievement I'll derive from daring to pursue my ambitions, I think I'm going to be an even happier, better mother.