by Michele Mistry, mother of 3 children aged 5,4 and 2; a Communications & Marketing specialist, fashion designer, runs Chrysalis Kindergarten and Homeschool, Glenvista Jhb

I am a mum.  Humbly, I request to not be labelled a ‘stay home mum’ or a ‘working mum’. Too often we create labels that pen us in. We then find ourselves attempting to escape or live up to that label. It is soul defeating.

Dear mums,

We are all at different places on our journey, knowing this, sometimes the view from a different perspective can change the entire dynamic of everyone’s trip. I’d like to share mine with you.

My husband and I decided that one of us would stay home with our children until age 5.  This was based on sage advice from our Guru (spiritual guide). We had only a vague awareness of its impact.

I struggled with this decision at first. It seemed a lot to ‘give up’. I felt like my life was disrupted and I was continuously waiting to get back to it. But now I see the true value in being home with my kids, for them and me.

This decision has a high cost if measured in western standards. Two come to mind:

  • A single income: we now live simply.
  • Choosing my children over my career: for women who have seen a measure of success and independence, leaving can be overwhelming. It’s hard on your ego, you feel undefined. There are no labels anymore to define who I am. Herein lies my freedom.
  • There is no greater spiritual opportunity then becoming a parent. Children put a spotlight on everything you need to change personally to grow. Perhaps this difficulty is what used to prompt me to return to my career.

    My culture is historically a maternal one, wherein children were given priority. They were often termed little ‘gods’. Mothers were dearly respected, for the Love in all its forms, needed to raise children well. We are ‘The hands that rock the cradle and rule the world’.

    Unfortunately these values are diluted by more material ones and mums suffer as a result. The value of earning an income is given greater value then raising our own young. Hence our inner conflict.

    5 Years after our decision, there is increasing scientific evidence supporting it. Research into different negative social phenomenon point to 3 root causes:

  • The effects of television,
  • the increase of medical intervention in childbirth and
  • the separation of the child from the primary caregiver from birth to 7 years old. (
  • We can once again become a whipping pole and add to each other’s guilt, or we can acknowledge our role in children’s lives, our own children and the broader community’s. Let’s take responsibility for what we can, when we can.

    Much love

    Michele Mistry

    7 Responses to “It’s the hand that rocks the cradle that rules the world.”

    • Tiffany says:

      Hi Michele.

      Your article is fantastic and offers an unusual and interesting insight into choosing to be at home with your children: the spiritual element. I also like what you say at the start:

      ‘I am a mum. Humbly, I request to not be labelled a ‘stay home mum’ or a ‘working mum’. Too often we create labels that pen us in. We then find ourselves attempting to escape or live up to that label. It is soul defeating.’

      However, I am proud to be labelled a working mom. I feel that it’s the most accurate way to convey the dual roles that define me in my life, whether or not I successfully balance them… Your thoughts?



    • Veneita says:

      HI Michele
      Thank you for your very insightful article .
      It is so apt in this ever busy ,every changing technology driven world we reside in. I, myself share very similar views to what you have and prefer to be termed ‘A MUM’,i too have been at home since the birth of my princesses (4 and 2 years respectively)and i find that this ‘esteemed’ postion is not looked with as much respect as it deserves.I was very career driven and since falling pregnant with my elder daughter a career seemed unimportant as compared to my girls and their well being.
      I feel my girls are much stronger ,confident and insightful little ladies because i have been with them since day one and it gives me pride and pleasure in saying that those of us who choose this path can honestly say that we have been there ,through all the special moments and share in every special memory.Being at home with my girls is probably one of the most rewarding fulfilling experiences of my life thusfar and everyday in my little way ,i capture a little part of this wonderful memory of their childhood of whose memory i capture in my heart always .
      I am a very proud Stay at home mom xoxox
      Much love to all my fellow moms both working and the ones that are at home ……….
      We all make the world a better place by just being a ………MOM ……..
      Kind regards
      Veneita Naidoo

    • Michele Mistry says:

      Hi Tiffany,

      I wouldn’t want to assume anything about why you feel proud of the label so I’ll just share how I feel about it?

      There are different sides to the understanding of it, one is the way we perceive ourselves and the other the way we want to be perceived and last the way others perceive us.

      The labels we give ourselves are not necessary because we know who we are, most of the time right?
      The labels we give ourselves for the benefit of others to refer to us: possibly so it is clear to them what we are and what we are not.
      The labels others give us come from their perceptions of who we are.

      Being called a ‘stay at home mum’ implies ‘I’m not a working mum’ which is not a true reflection of that reality.
      Being a ‘working mum’ aludes to the perception that being a mum at home is not enough, i have to validate my being a mum by saying that I am a working mum.
      In both cases it is about identity and allowing ourselves to be limited by others in their perceptions of us, by giving them that right in creating the label for ourselves.

      If you of the profession you hold in highest esteem, and you were that would you need to share that title with something else? So would you say Hi I’m Tiffany, I’m an astronaut and a cook?

      • Sarah-Jane says:

        Hi Michelle and Tiffany

        I am the mom with the jungle oats on her sunglasses most mornings. I have 3 children aged 9, 7 and 6 years old. I worked full time from 8am to 5pm in a travel agency until my oldest turned 6. My husband and I made a decision that once the children were of school-going age, I would be at home with them. I am presently involved with starting and running a new preschool (from “scratch”), I do the books for my husband’s business as well as clean my own house, and in the afternoons my time is spent running between ballet classes, doing homework, athletics for the girls, cooking, laundry and making sure the house is tidy by the time daddy walks through the door at 6pm. I also volunteer at my children’s school in the tuckshop and actively participate on the school’s Parent Body. I do not have help with cooking or cleaning.

        Whilst I admit that my life is incredibly full and very busy, most evenings I fall into bed (after spending time with my husband and encouraging him from his busy day at work) absolutely exhausted but fulfilled in my role as mom/wife/principle/bookkeeper/domestic worker! I have a best friend who is at the office full day and when I see her heartbreak at leaving her children with the full time domestic worker on a daily basis, I remind myself of the blessed, albeit busy, “set-up” that I have.

        I’m priveleged enough to view the “argument” from both sides, I have gone off to a full time office job while the children were small and I’ve also had the privelege of being at home with them working part-time.

        I rarely get a free minute, and when I do those free minutes are spent having tea with a friend or finishing the ironing or dusting picture frames or researching healthy food options for the school tuckshop. Without sounding boastful, I am not overweight, I get the opportunity to eat lunch with my children daily as well as share dinner together with the family every evening at 6pm around the dinner table. I value our family life. My husband values the role I play as home-maker and has often said that he prefers me “at home”.

        There are days that I wish I had a full time office job to escape the madness of this busy schedule. But when I see the confidence that my children have developed in having mom around during the day, I would not give this up for anything. We have also sacrificed a lot through the years in order to live off one salary. We have a simple house with two small cars and are able to participate in everything. We run a tight budget and when the money is finished…it’s finished!!! Our kids do not go without and if they do, it’s no big deal.

        I respect and admire full time “office” moms as well as those of us who are at home with the children, or working part-time. The thing I love the most as the girls get older are the spontaneous conversations that we share at odd times during the day. I often wonder if I’d have those if I was at the office all day?

        Yours in “raising children”

    • Beverley says:

      My name is Beverley – Mom to a two boys aged 8 & 4. I work full time , run the pta at the school were my eldest attends, am a member of the Governing Body there too, do charity work at least one weekwend of the month,taxi driver to various activities the kids are involved in and spend time with my family and friends but I would give anything to be full time Mom without the necesssity of giving away valuable time working to make someone else rich as I most certainly do not find it rewarding but something that I have to do.
      I regret not being able to be with my kids in the afternoons especially my school going son as he needs me to help with homework etc. My youngest starts school nect year , so it is my goal to at least find a job where I can work half day and be there for them both. I dont think that being a stay at home mom or being a working mom makes it easier for either as we each have different things to bring to the table, ultimately we do what is best for our kids and for us as Moms…
      I have thankfully amasing time management skills and a wonderful husband or I dont think I would be able to manage and yesr I dont have a free minute to myself but whatever sacrifices I make are for the benefit of my kids and their well -being and the other things I do are to feed my soul as I like being involved and helping others

    • Manilal Roopa says:

      Hi Michelle

      Wow! Truly inspirational. I have just returned from a local primary school where I had the privilege of interacting with cute little 11/12 year olds; addressing the UN International Family Day. When I posed the question: “Who is your first teacher?”, the response was unanimous – ‘Mother’. So mothers are very special children and your children and Ilesh are blessed to have you in their lives. So too are the little ones attending your creche.

      With love and His blessings

    • Michele Mistry says:

      Hello beautiful people,

      Thank you for sharing so much of you with us. Sometimes parenting can be lonely. Its always good to know we are not alone, there are others trudging along as we are.

      Manilalbhai, thank you for your comment I think all of us are encouraged by it.

      Beverley, Sarah-Jane, Tiffany and Venetia I feel as if among friends. I’ve learnt the hard way that the greatest gift you can give your child, is to look after yourself, body, mind and soul. They learn to value us and themselves by the example we give them.

      Be happy and be MUM happily.


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