STRANGE DAYS INDEED

The last year or two have been strange ones in lots of ways. I have felt somewhat confused and lost by the death of the Celtic Tiger. My country lost confidence – in its banks, its economy and its Government. And I lost confidence in myself, a fact that I am only realising now.

During the Celtic Tiger years I was happy to be a stay at home mom. The photographer was busy and although we were never loaded or awash with money, we were confident that we would usually have enough to get us by. So he left the cave every day to go and bring home the bacon. I stayed home, tended the fire, kept track of all that needed to be kept track of for the kids and I cooked the bacon (you all know that that is only about 10% of what I and millions of other mothers do, but you can fill in the gaps yourself). I was busy at home and I also did some writing as the inspiration moved me. Latterly I began blogging. We all jogged along nicely. I was happy with my lot and content and grateful to be doing what I felt I should be doing. The photographer felt the same.

Then the world wobbled. Something called Lehman Bros collapsed and a shiver ran down my spine. I was very unsure what all this meant but I know now it was the beginning of a tidal wave of economic misfortune which eventually crashed into the side of the photographer’s business. The world had stopped. It seemed everyone was caught in the headlights of the financial collapse, frozen, unable to move. I watched the lines on his face and the shadows under his eyes deepen as day after day the phone didn’t ring and the diary glowed with pristine unmarked pages. There was very little to laugh about.

As all slowed to a halt, I speeded up in my daily chores, became desperate about getting paid writing gigs, applied for jobs I didn’t want. Round and round I went trying to cut costs, save money and think of ways in which I would help bring home some bacon. In the middle of all this chaos and deathly silence, we somehow reorganised priorities, never gave up and got by. And now as we seem to be over the worst (thank you Irish Times for saying this week that our country is coming out of recession) I am left floundering about wondering who or what am I?

This crisis of confidence was brought sharply into focus this week. We went out ‘en famille’ for a pizza to celebrate the younger two’s great end of year school reports. Over dinner it transpired that Carla (eldest – 23 just) got not one but two emails of commendation to her employer this week. And the photographer also got a great testimonial from a client. I beamed with pride at my family gathered around me and tried not to hear the little voice in my head that said “what is it you do again? How is it you add value to this family”. It was a sobering moment.

I have since given it all some thought and I now realise that the slow, painful death of the Celtic Tiger has made me look at who exactly I am and wonder if I am doing the right thing or am I taking the easy option by being at home with my children. I walked away from my career and a job I loved 9 years ago because I passionately felt that I did not want to miss my children’s childhood. I also wanted to have time to pursue my own hobbies – such as writing and reiki. So now as we begin to negotiate calmer economic waters, I am glad we made the choices we did. I am grateful to the photographer for his tenacity and hard work which has kept our particular boat upright through the storm. But most of all I am very proud of my children…. And am grateful for the reminder that that was exactly why I decided to retire from the corporate world those 9 years ago. Who am I? I am a mother, a writer, a Reiki Master and a worrier. I am happy with the first three and am still working on the fourth.

Picture by the Photographer (http://www.sherwood.ie/ – not out of the woods yet….need a great photographer give him a shout) of the three reasons I retired and am ‘just’ a mom!

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15 Comments

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Happy to nominate you for
    B3A3/ BBBAAA – short for –
    Best Blog By Anyone Anywhere Award.
    Brilliant post
    Will be still relevant and still read when we all are dead – I think that is a good thing..
    Congrats. Loved it. P

  3. What a lovely post Barbara. I think you'll be swamped today with Mums who can totally relate to everything you've said. I also left a career 9 years ago when I had my third child. I opted to do the 'Mummy' thing and stay at home. I think when they're young and in nappies, we don't have time to wonder who we are or indeed to ponder the choices we made. We're so immersed in the haze of sleepless nights and tantrums that all we can do is hope to get through it in one piece. Then all of a sudden the children are getting older and need us less and less. That's when we begin to wonder where we fit in. But have no doubt that the job we do is invaluable – there may be times when there's no work for the photographer but there'll always be work for Mum. Let's continue this chat some day soon in Avoca! Maria x

  4. hello ann – ur comment seems to have come and gone!
    Padraic – u r too kind… doubt its that good but will graciously accept the compliment!
    Maria – yep we could write a book on this one (there's an idea). Wud love to do another coffee in avoca..

  5. Hi Barbara, on re-reading my comment it really didn't reflect what I was trying to say. I should just stick to short comments. So I will say, great post. Enjoy your at home work of mothering, because it passes in the blink of an eye and one day in the not too distant future you will wonder where it went.

    My heart goes out to the young couples that started families amid the Celtic Tiger and now due to its collapse are burdened with colossal mortgages and do not have the option to enjoy full-time mothering.

    Hoping things pick up for the photographer.

    Did I say I was going to keep this short?

  6. It's hard to be a stay at home mom and not feel guilty when times are tough. Although we can talk about what we contribute to the family, it's not monetary so somehow it doesn't seem to count. You seem to work out your feelings during this difficult time.

    I hope the newspaper is right, and Ireland is out of the this tough time. And I hope your husband gets more work.

  7. I agree with Theresa, it is tough not financially contributing especially at the moment.
    But we do what we have to do and lets hope things are picking up, although the dole queues are not looking good.

  8. wonderful post. I just need to correct one thing. In the list of who you are I think you meant that last thing to be 'warrior'. Because you are – a warrior of peace – a warrior of growth – a warrior of being true to your vision!

  9. Barbara, thanks for this post.

    I think the Celtic Tiger damaged Ireland in one major way – we began to assess our worth in exclusively material terms. When I was 22, I finished college and was unemployed for eight months (and we are talking the zenith of the boom times here, late 2006-early 2007) and I genuinely felt ashamed that I was unemployed when all of my friends had good jobs. As if they cared, and as if I should have.

    I don't fully agree with the founding principles of the Irish state, that the family is paramount and a woman's place is in the home (it seems very exlusionary to me), but I am sorry to see that we ended up so far from them – dismissing the vital and beautiful work that parents do, and failing to fully value those who do that work full-time.

    You made the right choice for you, and I don't like living in a society that made you question that. I hope that the recession will leave us more open to lifestyle choices that aren't as acquisitive, that we'll learn something from it.

    Thanks again for posting, and I'm glad your family have reasons for optimism again.

  10. Ah Ann there you are… thanks for comment. Yep I am re affirming my love of my job through this post!

    Hi Theresa – yes you are so right. In a recession all we think about is money and we lose sight of what other work we do that earns no money but is invaluable! thanks for commenting

    Hi Brigid – yep lets hold that positive thought.. things can only get better as the song says!

    Hi Jan – I am a Warrior, I am a Warrior. Thank you for your beautiful comment. Yep I am a Warrior!

    Hi Ellen – your comment is very thought provoking and eloquent. Thanks for shining more light on this topic!

  11. Barbara – remember things are never as bad as we think! You've done so much this year really, imagine how much more you have in you:)

  12. As a mom who is the main bread winner in the family, I really enjoyed hearing your perspective on being a stay at home mom. Thanks for opening my mind to what its like on your side of pendulum. I really believe it is more difficult to be the primary care-taker in a family and I commend you on how you pulled your family through a very rough patch in this economic climate.

    Great post!

  13. Ahhh Niamh – thanks for that. Yeah maybe you are right.. have learned so much this year and have enjoyed it all! Thanks

    Hi Chary – and welcome to the Kitchen Table.. and thanks for the kind comments. Although having done both – you have my respect too.. the juggling game is very difficult!

  14. Enjoyed that – I left my job almost 9 years ago too for similar reasons. Also had a surge of pride myself in last week – see my latest blog post.

  15. Barbara, I can really identify with this and also with Ellen's point that it's society that sometimes makes us feel that we should be working outside the home. You've done a helluva lot between being published in national newspapers and what not and as Niamh says I'm sure there is a lot to come.
    P.S. Fingers crossed that this recession is definitely over:)

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