My mum raised me alone. She worked many jobs. Sometimes she didn’t work at all. Sometimes I went to my friend’s house to fill up on food as we didn’t have much at home. I’m not sure how many choices she had, she sacrificed many of her choices when she decided to be a single parent in the 1970s. But she did choose to encourage me to pick good friends and work hard at school.
I was the first woman in my family to get a University degree. I beat out hundreds of other hopefuls to secure a journalism cadetship. I traveled to London, all expenses paid, in a News Ltd work exchange. I went on to work in a variety of media organisations. I had a promising career.
I got married. My husband and I jointly purchased a house. He quit his high paying job, to start a business. I supported him financially. We chose to do that together, because we could. We ate a lot of cheese toasties. We still do.
We decided to have children. You might say “we had that choice”, but really we had no idea what we were getting into. No-one does.
Our business grew and my husband set-up an office at home so he could share parenting responsibilities. I gave up full-time work, to raise the kids. We chose to put our first two children in childcare a couple of days a week so that we could both work from home. We hired a cleaner. We were lucky. Many are not. We had the financial, emotional and physical means to make choices.
We then chose to have another child. Our finances were blowing out. We stopped childcare as we could no longer afford it. We cancelled the cleaner. We sold our car to pay a tax bill and moved closer to town so we had better access to public schools and public transport.
We could have both gone back to work full-time, but we chose not to, because we decided we could get by. For us, staying at home while our kids were young was a choice we wanted to make. We often wonder if it would be easier to work for someone else and live with the guilt.
I tried to learn to bake to save on food costs. Our kids choose to eat a lot, all of the time. We bake together, sometimes I take photos of what we cook, but mostly I don’t because there are no filters grainy enough to cover up the burned bits. Sometimes we choose to take the kids to Maccas, because we can’t be bothered. I even do craft with the kids and am thinking about making poms poms, but that’s another story. I suppose you could call me retro, but that would be an inaccurate description of my life choices.
I clean the toilet, my husband mows the lawns. We choose to perpetuate these outdated gender roles because I’d rather clean shit than drag bins down the driveway.
Mostly, we spend a lot of our time telling our children to go and watch tv or play outside because we have work to do so we can pay our bills. We chose not to work for someone else and because of that we have no superannuation, no holiday pay and no carer’s leave. We live from invoice to invoice. We chose that so that we could spend more time telling our kids to find something to do so that we could sit at our computers all day trying to get work done to buy food. I am not sure how much quality time we are actually spending with our kids as opposed to working in an office. But to be really honest – I hate offices.
We all have choices. Oh wait, no we don’t. Many people in this world have no choices.
But for those of us with choices, they all come with trade-offs.