Four years ago I was preparing to leave my professional life to adopt Katie. My working life was where I was a trained counsellor who specialised in working with teenagers for an organisation called Connexions. I worked in schools and colleges and offered one-to-one support for young people with multiple problems that impacted heavily on their education. I specialised particularly in Sexual Health and worked with teenage parents and I taught SRE in schools and colleges and was a Trainer for a Teenage Pregnancy Partnership; training adults to support young people in issues relating to their sexual health. I loved my job but it was hard going at times. I wanted to help my young people succeed in their lives but it was a challenging job because there weren't always the services available to help with emotional difficulties and I often had clients who had chaotic lifestyles and several who no longer wanted to live in this world. Working with clients who feel chaotic led to very chaotic and responsive working. The joy that I felt when I was able to help someone and watch them blossom in their lives was the best feeling though. In the evenings I went to tap and Reiki and Mo-jive. TCM and I went on holidays and to gigs and mostly out to eat. We had a life of freedom but we wanted children more than anything else.
I took a year's adoption leave when I first left my job to adopt Katie. I knew I didn't want to go back but we left our options open and decided to claim the higher rate of adoption pay. Fortune smiled on me though because several months into my adoption leave the possibility of redundancy was offered. I jumped at it and was not only able to keep my year's higher rate of adoption pay but also received redundancy pay. For the first time in my life I did not have a job. I was officially a Stay At Home Mum or SAHM.
Before adopting Katie and Pip I remember watching the film Parenthood with Mary Steenburgen's character going against expectation and wanting to stay as a home parent because she was good at it. I have to thank the film for not only many jokes that I still recycle but for highlighting that all children and all parents are different and people can make different choices. The film has pride of place in my DVD collection, mostly for the joke about the electric ear-cleaner! A SAHM is still quite invisible in the eyes of the world however. We are an underappreciated bunch within society. Our skills are not recognised in the world of business. We apparently sit around drinking lattes all day and are seen as letting the side down by many feminists. Personally I feel true feminism is being able to choose what you want to do without boundaries - be that working in business; running the country; being a builder; driving a taxi or being a home parent. Feminism to me is about choice.
When we adopted Katie we were out and about all the time. She slept from 1pm until
3pm each day but we had the mornings to see people and there was still time in the afternoon to play. We had lots of fun. We went to the zoo; to soft play; we ran and chased each other; we did painting; we went to our local farm to feed the pigs and we chatted. She could miss her nap and have a sleep in the car on big days out. It's very different with Pip thus far because he is so much younger than Katie was when we adopted her. Pip and I do go to soft play and we do go to the zoo but it's been a very different experience to this point. He needs a full sleep every day (boy does that child need his sleep!) so we have to come back home. I did get him to sleep in his buggy more during the summer but that's not practical during the winter. We are currently quite tied to the house. Because Pip is still not legally adopted TCM and I don't really get to go out together in the evening. Our last evening out was this time last year! Asking our CRB checked people to babysit isn't as easy as it might have seemed on paper as circumstances have changed. I have felt let down though by some people who I thought would be my lifeline
to the outside world but their children are grown up now and their lives
are far too busy to even remember how isolated they might have felt
with a young baby at home. They've moved on from all that now and have adult lives, which is fair enough. Their houses are no longer baby proof so it feels stressful for us to visit with a mobile toddling baby who's into everything. There is no real conversation able to take place under those circumstances because I'm just running after Pip trying to stop him breaking things. It's not long now until our case goes to court so hopefully within a few weeks all that will start to change. I've also been lucky to have a few wonderful friends in my life who offer so much support on the phone and who also take me away from it all once in a while!
It also helps that Pip is becoming great fun. He's walking and trying so hard to find his words. He is incredibly engaging and chats away in what I think might currently be Klingon. We are starting to explore his world together and I think the summer will be great fun (except for the fact that we will be moving out of our house for about 6 months whilst we build an enormous extension - that will be an adventure of many proportions I think!). I have some lovely friends that I see for a few hours each week. I am getting out to my tap and Reiki groups and am treating myself to a painful remedial massage once a month so I do get to experience some life outside of the house and I know that it isn't forever.
So having said all that I'd better get back to my housework....or shall I do some yoga or have a latte before Pip wakes up? Hmmmm Yoga I think! The housework can wait......again!