Huge hoo-ha about working and non-working mothers over at Alphamummy, with the slightly peculiar notion that those of us who aren’t in the office 24/7 are living lives of gin-soaked misery. Potty Mummy and English Mum have written excellently on the whole issue, so I won’t rehash it all, except to say I think it’s woman’s old enemy, guilt, at work again. Ever since we were fitted up by Adam and his naughty old snake back in the garden of Eden, we women have been taking the blame for everything.
I’ve noticed that Child One, at 13, has suddenly got guilt – she frequently says, ‘you’re trying to make me feel guilty/I feel so guilty’ when I ask her to do simple things like clean up her room. This wouldn’t have happened a year ago and Child Two, two years younger, is still immune.
Once girls and women start feeling guilty and responsible, they are very easy to manipulate. They will do almost anything if you tell them they ‘ought’ to – that it’s their responsibility or duty. I know this, because Child One will now tidy up if I approach her this way – I did it once, but ironically I then felt so guilty that I won’t do it again.
Women are programmed to try to make everything work, to help their employers, to do their best for their children. When they feel defensive and guilty about the sacrifices they are making, though, they will attack – not employers or children but, most likely, other women. This is my theory about the Alphamummy piece and I’m sticking to it. The author feels guilty because she is not at home for her children, so she has a go at stay-at-home mothers instead. Does it make her feel better? Probably it just gives her something new to feel guilty about!
I’ve tried various options myself and find it’s impossible to get the balance – either I work and see that my children feel, and are, neglected, or I stay at home (economic circumstances permitting) and feel resentful that I am denied an outlet in the wider world. There is absolutely no easy way, and too much choice just seems to equal more guilt.
Two things sum it up for me – the first comment left on the Alphamummy article, which reads something like, ‘if you leave work, your colleagues won’t miss you – but your children do.’ The second was a line from Decca Aitkenhead, in her recent profile of Clive James in the Guardian, saying that on their deathbeds, not many men wish they had spent more time at the office.
A lot of women have no choice, however, and have to work, and work very hard, to support their families. We shouldn’t attack them – and they shouldn’t attack us. Ladies, let’s call a truce!
* On another note, I feel very guilty – of course – that I didn’t make it clear that the printer I was raving about last time was actually loaned to me by HP, so that I could review it. I think it costs something like £2,000 so there is no way I could ever actually own one myself unless (please, pretty, pretty please) the HP people take pity on me and let me keep it. It is lovely, though.
* And read about my staycation in Margate and Ramsgate on http://www.havealovelytime.com/2009/06/a-staycation-in-ramsgate-by-alice-castle.html. The site is a wonderful resource if you’re thinking about summer holidays, and is run by the fabulous Linda of http://www.gotyourhandsful.com/