Judgements

I’ve been dipping my toes into the issues of parenting, having babies and whatnot, and I don’t really like what I see, particularly looking at both sides of the argument over mothers working.

Mums seem to be divided into Working Mums and Stay At Home Mums (SAHM).

Both sides seem to judge each other.  The SAHMs judge the Working Mums for leaving their children to be raised by someone else in childcare, the working mums judge the SAHMs for not having lives of their own, no ambitions etc.

So which camp do I belong to?  I’ll be a Working Mum.  Not working is not an option for me.  I didn’t go to university to stay at home and do nothing with my degree.  My job may not be amazing, but I’m on a career path and I earn decent money.  We also would struggle financially as a family, Phil having two other children to support too.

I was tweeting with a SAHM today and said that if I gave up work we would probably have to move to social housing, but with working childcare would only take 50% of my salary.  She replied that she’d rather do social housing, and that 50% is a lot.  I was pretty gobsmacked by that.  The 50% I’d have left is 50% more than I’d have if I didn’t work.  Why on earth would it be better to be at home?

Is it so wrong that I enjoy working, and want to work so that my child lives in a decent area, near family and we aren’t scrimping and getting into debt?  Also shouldn’t social housing be there for those that really need it, for people who haven’t had the opportunities I’ve had?  If I can earn a decent salary and be self sufficient then shouldn’t I do that?

Of course I comprehend that money isn’t everything, and having a loving mother with no money would outweigh an uncaring mother with money.  But I’m not so naive to think that money makes no difference in these things.  I’ll be a loving mother no matter if I work or not.  Working will not make me a monster.  I wouldn’t be having a child if I couldn’t afford one, going back to work has always been part of the plan for me.  I know that going back full time isn’t an option, so I’ll be going back 4 days a week.

Moving onto the why have kids if someone else is going to raise them argument – yes, the 32 hours a week the baby is in childcare then someone else is having decisions on the activities and social interactions my child will do. But that’s only 2 hours more than if they were at school all week – do the teachers raise your children?  Women aren’t judged for sending their kids to school.

I don’t regard my child being with someone else for 20% of the hours in the week as someone else completely raising them though.  Phil and I will be there on evenings, I’ll be there on my day off, and we’ll both be there at the weekend.  If we don’t like the values that are being instilled by the nursery/childminder we can change them.

What bugs me the most though is that none of these women judge the men.  Why are they exempt from this?  Why are they allowed to work without feeling guilty?

Personally I don’t think I would feel comfortable in a 50’s style household, where I stayed at home and was given handouts from my other half – but that doesn’t make it a wrong lifestyle choice for the SAHMs doing that, it’s just not the right choice for me.  But I feel even less comfortable knowing that I’ll be judged as a bad mother for working and putting my child into childcare.

I can’t win with this one, can I?

Can’t we just accept each other’s choices, live our own lives and mind our own business with what each other are doing?

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12 thoughts on “Judgements

  1. Natasha - The 1970's Diet

    I am the tweeter! This is the post that I wrote which prompted our tweeting. http://the1970sdiet.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/whinging-women.html. I have to say to get a point across with 140 letters isn’t ideal. In any event, firstly I judge the government more than I judge women that go back to work when the child is of pre-school age. People were forced to over stretch themselves, affordable housing (council housing) was sold off in the 80’s – there has been no real house building since then in real terms which meant house prices rocketed. Which means both mum and dad have to go out to work to pay the bills etc. I gave up a highly paid job in the city as I wanted to raise my children. I would sell up and downsize if I meant a choice of staying up home (my youngest is 2) or putting him into childcare. Ultimately a child doesn’t really care where it lives if its with its parents. Again its what the parent wants/aspirations rather than what the child wants.

    I think a government that sends its mothers back to work is morally bankrupt. It wants mothers to go back quickly after giving birth. The mother pays tax, the young 17 year old at the nursery pays tax as does the nursery. The child is looked after by various individuals for 8 hours. Studies have shown the stress levels of a toddler are increased when left for hours on end without its mother – there is nothing that will change my opinion on a nursery being ‘good’ for a baby. I believe we will look back at this time of our social history and think what an earth were we thinking.

    In the same way as if I were to go into the Dragon’s Den tomorrow and say I have this packet of cigarettes – they are really bad for your health but I’m going to sell loads. I’d be laughed out of the room. At the time no one thought twice about smoking back in the day. Like now no one thinks twice about paying someone to look after their child – they don’t question it. The mother needs something else, its good for them etc etc.

    Society would benefit as a whole if the mother stayed at home. You would argue that many wouldn’t be happy – statistic are alway in the high 80/90 % saying mothers do want to stay with their children. Why don’t people blame the fathers well that to me is obvious we gave birth therefore should in theroy have a maternal instinct to raise the child more than the male.

    I don’t consider I have handouts – we work as a team – the money that he earns is for the family. I’ve never been made to feel I have to earn money to make a contribution – quite the opposite. The house is stress free, there is no resentment on who’s hasn’t done what etc etc. It works for us.

    Ultimately you want to go back to work because you enjoy it. That is your choice – I don’t judge you on that. My only concern is for my children what others choose to do for the good of their family is down to them and so it should be!

    Reply
  2. thirtybeckons Post author

    I like the analogy of the cigarette pack – I hope that I don’t live to regret putting my child into childcare.

    I have two reasons for going back to work – 1. Finances and 2. I enjoy work. The first one outweighs the second, we would be in a terrible state financially on just one wage with three children to support.

    I didn’t mean to offend with my “handouts” comment – I couldn’t think of a better way of terming it. I guess I am very independent and so used to having my own money, the thought of living off a man just doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t even like that I won’t be able to contribute as much to the household financially when I go on maternity leave.

    I do think your post was quite judgemental on Mothers who work though – but we are all allowed our opinions – it’s certainly an interesting debate and I like the way you’ve written about whinging women – women whinge, bitch and moan – we’re never happy no matter what!

    Thanks for clarifying your points 🙂

    Reply
  3. Natasha - The 1970's Diet

    Hi – you didn’t offend re the handout. As I said on twitter most of my friends are raving tories and have put their children into nurseries and the like, we agree to disagree but we are still friends. To give you an idea how strongly I feel (and I do appreciate I am in the minority) I was offered full time salary i.e 5 x a week to come back 2 days with 1 day working from home and I said no. yes women whinge and moan but if they’re running around like headless chicken (even part-time is full time in real terms doing a full time job in part time hours), resenting the housework not being done etc and feeling guilty then is it any wonder. There is no guilt here not even when I ask for extra handouts!

    Reply
  4. techiefairy

    My mother had exactly the same dilemma, with the added complication of only a basic education. That still didn’t stop her being the brightest woman I know. I could read, properly, by the time I was 3, and when the school I started at 5 tried to teach me ah buh cuh, instead of a b c, she was not happy at all, and thought they were taking me backwards. But I digress.

    I also have no issue whatsoever with whatever a new mum decides to do workwise. I do have the same issue as thirtybeckons though, over this ‘us and them’ stance that each particular group seems to take. There are children my mother used to call ‘latchkey kids’, who are wonderful human beings. There are children of stay at home mums who are total brats. As far as I’m concerned, and from my personal observations and experiences, going back to work will not make a good mother bad, and staying at home will not make a bad mother good.

    My mum? Took one of the few alternative options available to her in the late 60s. She became a live-in caretaker. And as I got older and her health failed, she had access to some semi-decent homeworking schemes in the late 70s, like packing greetings cards and making chocolate box bows. We all know that most modern homeworking schemes these days are questionable at best, and I think that’s a shame for all sorts of reasons, not just because of the opportunities it has taken away from generations of mothers who will have to go out to work when they don’t want to, to make sure their kids are warm and fed. And while it might not be very challenging work, it still gives options for when your child is older, so you don’t feel (or get made to feel) like you’ve missed out.

    And, before anyone asks, no, I don’t have children. But before you all start shrieking “you can’t possibly know anything about it if you don’t have kids” I may not have any. But I was one. And I can remember as clear as if it was yesterday having the most amazingly fabulous childhood and the best parents in the world and I would give anything to have them both still here. They made me the axe-wielding homicidal maniac, sorry, successful businesswoman and generally wonderful person I am today 🙂 Each case should be taken on its individual merits.

    Reply
  5. bakingaitch

    Interesting. Maybe I need to blog about this too. I work because finances require it, but I’d rather not. I don’t think my daughter suffers because I work, she has fantastic care from her grandma 2 days and the variety of nursery 2 days. I think it’s quite small minded to judge others one way or the other. You have to do what’s right for the individual after all.

    Reply
  6. Natalie

    It is very much down to the individual whether you return to work after having a child (if you have the choice) – what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another but I feel it is worth considering how much you miss in your child’s early years if you are out all day. Having said that, I didn’t return to work and there are days when I do think I made a huge mistake and I crave adult conversation and mental stimulation. I am currently considering returning to work for a a couple of days a week. Being a SAHM is very hard work. You change when you have a child and to some degree your identity changes too and you have to work hard to keep it. You are now mummy (or daddy).

    I think your comment about working hard at university and not wanting to waste your degree is a bit short sighted – you certainly add not wasting anything by raising your baby. You sound like you are trying to justify your choice. You don’t need to – its no ones business but yours and your partners. Sod what others think.

    Reply
  7. Natalie

    Also, as a footnote. I never considered there would be a “them and us situation” until I was in that situation. It was always in our plan for me to stop working when we had a family and never considered that anyone would question it (quite naively I now realise) until a woman I loosely knew via a friend approached me and said “oh, you are one of THOSE women who don’t work”. I was quite taken aback at her rudeness (I now know that she is rude to everyone) an thought of all sorts of things that I could have said to her when I got home.

    It is a hot topic of debate which strikes a chord in every mother whether they work or not. Everyone has their own valid opinion – provided it is put across in a good way (unlike park lady!).

    Congratulations on your pregnancy, I really hope it progresses well and I look forward to reading more from you.

    Reply
  8. thrisisblog

    I think you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It sometimes feels like there’s a whole industry around making women/ mothers feeling guilty about their decisions. Take breastfeeding for example – a friend of mine felt she had to apologise when she had to revert to formula because her baby was losing weight and she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But it was the right decision – he started to thrive shortly after and she was relaxed enough to actually enjoy the experience of being a mum. On the working issue, there’s a lot of evidence to show that being a working mum does the baby no harm at all (e.g. http://bit.ly/qLs9EY) – in fact it can sometimes be beneficial, particularly for girls, as it helps foster aspiration and ambitions.

    I think you’re right though – women need to stop judging each other and get on with living our lives in the way that makes most sense to us. And that includes not judging the childless by choice! I’m pretty sure I don’t want kids, and was told by another women recently that I ‘wouldn’t be a proper woman’ if I didn’t. Honestly, life’s hard enough without wasting energy sticking your nose into other people’s decisons. Live and let live!

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  9. Emma

    Whatever you do, you will be judged, and its not just on this issue. People will judge on how you feed, how you wean, what pram you have, if you leave your baby to cry it goes on and on, its ridiculous really but its easy to get drawn into.
    I originally wanted to go back to work but i changed my mind and decided i wanted to stay at home with Seb. I don’t feel like i am getting handouts from Phil, what i do at home is a valuable contribution to our family, i was used to having my own earnings and at first it is weird but my priorities changed. Once our little ones are bigger i will be back at work.
    I think alot of people think being a stay at home mum is easy and you sit and watch daytime tv all day but its not like that at all and its not something that suits everyone. I also think there is a choice between someone who has chosen to stay at home and someone who has to through circumstances but i think they are lumped in together.
    Going back to work, works well for alot of people and if thats what you want to do then fab, do it, if you have a good childcarer then your little one will be fine(personally i would go for cm over nursery at a young age).
    It makes me sad that we all judge each other(even those who say they don’t judge do) as we are not all the same. x

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  10. Sarah

    Totally agree with you! Being a 4 day a week worker but full time Mum, it is difficult but very rewarding and my son knows I love him and loved going to nursery! He is well adjusted and fun to be with! I don’t resent him and think I’m a better Mum because I work! The day I have off is his day all for him and I can give him that because I do work! Do what is good for you and you will be the perfect Mum (in your baby’s eyes you already are!)

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  11. Eve

    Wait until after you’ve had the baby. It’s impossible to know how you’ll feel until then. Plans are great, but rarely do they fully fall into place, most especially after you’ve had a baby! I’m a SAHM and I feel lucky that I had the choice, I did go back to work for 6 months part time but the commuting was gruelling and I only had about 15% of my salary left after childcare and travel etc! I was exhausted at work and exhausted at home (just because you go back to work doesn’t stop baby waking up 4 times a night when he has a cold/is teething/is hungry/too cold/too hot). I have 2 degrees and 12 years of career behind me and I don’t regret one second of staying at home looking after my son. I totally respect and understand your plan, I did have similar intentions at one point but I kept all options open to ‘wait and see’ how things panned out. I tried the work route but it was so hard, emotionally and physically. And I was starting to realise that I was missing out on so much of his precious early years. I missed him.

    But I’m afraid I do resent that you label my family set-up ‘a 50s household’ and that I ‘take handouts’ from my partner, that certainly isn’t how we live our lives and it does make you sound a little mean spirited. It certainly hurts to hear that’s how you would view my family. I work longer hours than my partner does bringing up my son, and I have the harder job, physically, emotionally. Standing orders and direct debits sort out the money so I don’t have to wait for him to kindly give me ‘a handout’ when he takes pity on me! We just felt that giving our child his mother for 100% of the time for his first 4 years was worth far more than the extra cash (both for those 4 years of wage I missed and the extra wage I would theoretically be on later had I not sacrificed 4 years of career). After looking at the various research/opinions on the best outcome for the child depending on care environment/contact with mother it did seem to be the best choice, if that choice is open to you. We’re very lucky that we can financially manage that at the moment and I very much appreciate the position we’re currently in.

    Your final comment/sentence “Can’t we just accept each other’s choices, live our own lives and mind our own business with what each other are doing?” – I’m afraid you do seem to have already answered that negatively. I started reading your blog comment very much on your side, as I hate judgemental people, especially judgemental Mums who I try to give a wide birth to, but it does sound like you are in danger of being one already. I haven’t witnessed any stay at home Mums criticising working mums, but maybe I’ve just been lucky with my choice of Mummy-friends. Most of us have been in both camps at some time or other and understand the pressures of each. I do however still get little snippets of negativity from working mums (whom I used to work with) who look down on my situation and pity me for no longer having a career. That seems very sad as we’re all mums and all trying to do our best in our own way. I know you’re not going to be any less of a mum by going back to work but please try and give stay at home Mums the same respect, we aren’t Stepford wives.

    Reply
  12. Pingback: Being a stay at home mum | They Grow So Quick

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