When I was young and had a career with kudos, I was happy to define myself by my career. I was proud of working in magazines and loved that people were excited by my fun job. It was always a talking point.
After Ted was born, I had a wobble about working. On one hand I had been through an earth-shattering maternity leave, where my whole life was turned on its head. You feel so different having become a mother that your goals and priorities naturally shift, but never so seismically as after a traumatic birth and a journey on the rollercoaster of life-long disability.
Lacking the motivation to enthuse about fashion, culture or current affairs, my family gently but firmly persuaded me that I should reframe it as respite and give the magazine world another whirl. While never diagnosed with PND, there was no doubt that I was pretty low and constantly stressed and in tears. Looking after Ted was hard going. He cried almost all the time (in the car, the buggy, the flat, the park, the cafe, the bus, the train…), needed constant attention, near-constant movement and often required close proximity to a warm body to make him feel safe. I struggled with his medical fragility and stressed a lot about how I could ever leave him with someone and go to work.
Luckily grandma took Ted two days a week and we found a reassuringly experienced special needs nanny for the third day so that I could return to Marie Claire on a part-time basis.
Inspired by this recent post by the brilliant Penny Wincer and this old one from the equally marvellous Jess (whose Stories With Sam posts are always a considered, informative, honest look at parenthood and disability), I wanted to chime in with some more thoughts on this subject.
I haven’t worked since May 2014. In giving up my job, I am one the 84% – the staggeringly high proportion of mothers of disabled children who do not work, according to The Papworth Trust. And yet, bringing up a disabled child costs an average of three times more than raising a typical child. Coming at this from the inside, these figures stagger but don’t surprise me.
Reading the Trusts’ facts and figures sheet was pretty depressing. Disability within a household brings extra costs, yet is often a factor in lower incomes and greater poverty. There’s no escaping from the fact that statistically, disability negatively affects pretty much everything from education to work to transport to holidays. That’s not to say that all lives affected by disability are sad (if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s pity) but it can be tough, especially financially.
Interested in other people’s stories, I asked in my closed Facebook group why other mums had stopped working, what industries they had left and what struggles they faced. The same themes came up again and again…