If life were a zoo, then the SAHM would be the number one endangered animal, a black rhino. Kept separated from the other animals, it is a topic of bewilderment and discussion.
I regularly feel like the black rhino. At first it was fine. All mum's take maternity leave and you don't feel quite so odd that you're the only one not going back to work. Then slowly, each mum takes their self out of the enclosure, one by one, into another enclosure; the office.
During feeding time, aka the coffee morning. You start to be the only one that is bringing a toddler along. Your baby rhino is no longer a baby and dwarfs all the others. You wonder how much longer you can say to the other maternity leave mums, "she's just big for her age".
At play time, aka the play group, you look around and see you're the only one not over 65 years of age, has obviously not had children (the nanny), or frantically checking their emails on their phone.
The other mums are regularly incredulous that I'm a SAHM and I frequently encounter some amusing questions or hear some equally interesting conversations. Here are some of the most regular questions I encounter from the other animals:
The tiger says (puts children into nursery from 3 months and goes back to work full time) on hearing i'm a SAHM and refusing to believe that I choose to work in the home: I guess times are hard and jobs are few and far between.
The tiger means: You clearly are the sort that isn't qualified for anything. You probably live on benefits and would only be able to contribute, 'wipes noses and bottoms' to your CV.
The monkey asks (works part time but only because family are available to babysit): Don't you get bored at home?
The monkey means: You must be stupid and a bit dull that you don't require the social interaction and mental challenge of working on something other than a play date schedule.
The peacock whispers, worried about being overheard: If we could afford it i'd love to be a SAHM. I'm so jealous of you.
The peacock means: I don't know how you can live like you do. You must live in a cesspit and only buy new clothes once a year, especially since i've heard you own a sewing machine!
The chameleon asks: When do you plan on going back to work?
The chameleon means: You're still not working?!!!
The sheep states: I don't want my child to miss out on opportunities of social interaction.
The sheep means: Your child is going to end up a recluse unless she is interacting with other children at nursery from day one.
In response: Pre SAHM life I had spent 7 years studying for the high flying career that I was enjoying, along with the perks of being a higher rate taxpayer payer. In all honesty, sometimes I get bored stupid at home, picking up toys all day long is not my idea of being mentally challenged, I also miss the social interaction of the workplace. However, I got bored at work too. There are pros and cons to every situation.
I love that I am the one to shape the learning and development of my rhino cub every single day. I love that I am the one to teach her everything that she needs to know to as she grows.
My home isn't as big as it could be and my clothes aren't as new as they could be but to me that is not what is important in life. I don't want to miss a moment of my child.
That's my choice and these are my priorities. It doesn't mean those of the non SAHM category are wrong and mine are right, they are just different. I respect everyone's individual life decisions. I have chosen not to miss a moment of my child's years growing up. Just because i've chosen this, doesn't mean I think you're a terrible mother for going back to work. It's your choice. Please respect mine.
That's what I would have said, if I had:
a) thought of it at the time,
b) have the inclination to repeat it twice a day, and
c) wanted to make enemies with the already depleting pool of potential friendships.