Sunday, 3 January 2016

What Happened to Sisterhood?

I have read some pretty catty (and downright ridiculous) comments this week regarding the choices parents make about working. Or not working. Actually, not the choices parents make - god no, how 21st century would that be! - but the choices mums make. I'm not talking about comments from the media either. I'm talking about comments from mums slating other mums. Full-time working mums labelled 'uncaring' and 'selfish', mums who are not working labelled 'benefit scroungers,' and a whole host of 'My Choice Is Superior To Your Choice' comments in between. 
This has got to stop.
It is hard enough to know whether you are doing 'the right thing' (and to not feel guilty about it) at the best of times, and, when it comes to working, it seems you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.

Why oh why are we damning one another?
We should be proud of our own choices, of course we should, but shouting about the superiority of one's choice is often done at the expense of people who have chosen differently (I'm using 'choice' with caution here as I know there are a whole host of factors at play - it is not always a case of simply choosing whether or not to work). Sometimes, I don't think we consider what we are really saying when we self-justify our own circumstances. Perhaps we fear being judged (and found lacking) - I'm pretty sure I have defensively blurted out bullcrap about work being the righteous option because deep down I've felt insecure alongside mums who are parenting full-time. (In truth, I don't believe either is a better option - how many hours you work, if any, doesn't determine your Parent Brilliance Ranking).
Below are just a handful of things I have heard and read, from both working mums and mums who do not work, all of which carry judgment for the alternative.
From mums who work: 
"By going out to work, I'm teaching my child the value of working hard."
What are you saying, exactly, about mums who don't go out to work? That they are bringing their kids up to have no work ethic? What absolute cockwaffle!

"Well, I'm sure we'd all love to stay at home!"
What happens if that isn't the case? [Even if money was no object, I for one would still choose to work. Is 'I work because I want to' not justification enough? Should I now be feeling even worse? Oh dear. Awkward.] It's also pretty condescending to suggest being at home is the easier option.
From mums who do not work:
"Why have kids at all if you were just going to palm them off onto somebody else?"
Ah yes, because I'm sure palming the little buggers off is the sole aim of working-motherhood. What about financial pressures, the desire to work, both? What about children who benefit from time spent in a childcare setting? Most children go to nursery or a child-minder at some point - is it only neglectful if you are at work when they are 'palmed off?'
"My children are more important to me than having a career - I'm making the most of their early years."
We all have to weigh up what's important to us, that much is true. But does this mean that working mums have deemed their children unimportant by going out to work?

What happened to The Sisterhood, The Motherhood, the 'we're all in it together, whatever the weather' hood? It isn't necessary to pledge allegiance to one camp, is it? Is it terribly controversial that I have mum friends who don't work alongside mum friends who work full-time? Am I in some kind of limbo camp, the camp of the part-time worker - not fully committed to parenthood, sometimes 'palming my children off to others', but not being an impressively dedicated 'Career Mum' either? Does working part-time make me just a bit crap at everything?
I like to think not. I like to think that nobody is crap here. Nobody's decision is better. Or more righteous. They are just different. Different needs, different wants, different families.
I'm not sure what the point of this post was, really. It certainly wasn't to set the cat among the pigeons and kick off a debate (it's a prickly subject matter, though, so I will hide under my bed for an hour after posting). Perhaps I just wanted to remind myself that the Sisterhood of Motherhood is a real thing. I've seen it. I am lucky enough to have brought together a whole host of mums on my blog and social media pages - I have spoken to mums who work up to fifty hours a week and mums who won't work again until their children are at secondary school. Work (or lack thereof) is not the common ground bringing everyone together and is quite often completely irrelevant. 

The real common ground is that we are all mums. 
All just trying to do our best.
Let's remember that, ey.

The Unmumsy Mum
Couldn't find anybody to palm him off onto that day ;-)

Friday, 1 January 2016

Resolution Schmesolution

I love New Year. I get swept up in the feeling of newyeariness and the promise of wiping the slate clean (and clearing out the mouldy cheese/neglected dips from the fridge). I think resolutions are naturally a part of that, and though I don't officially announce any goals for the New Year, I have usually silently considered what they are by the time New Year's Day arrives.

Mainly, I'm talking about food-related pledges - following that post-Christmas limbo week of snacking on turkey and cheese and Terry's chocolate orange (for breakfast) I actually quite fancy a salad. I also make vows about increased exercise activity because my jeans won't do up and the idea of some kind of power walk or mammoth swim sounds quite appealing. I start making noises about digging out my running clothes from that time in 2009 when I did Race for Life...

Then there are the parenting resolutions. I blogged about my failed bash at those (and about Supermum and her fucking chicken) last year, concluding that the whole exercise was pointless because you are no more able to shake up your routines and behaviours on the 1st January than you are at any other time of year.

And yet here I am, on the first day of another new year, feeling slightly tempted once more to try and better myself as a parent by making promises I won't keep. Promises like: shouting and sighing less, restricting the kids' TV-watching, cooking a wider variety of  meals where vegetables don't come out of a tin, being 'present' in the moment (and not absorbed in work emails/Facebook stalking on my phone)...

I can't see myself sticking to any of those. So, I thought I'd take a pragmatic view and set just one resolution I have a hope in hell of keeping:

I'm going to get out more.

I don't mean on a night out (though an increased frequency of drinking and dancing to something that isn't the Paw Patrol 'Pup Pup Boogie' would be welcome). I mean get out more with the kids. To visit people and places and get our arses out of the house. Because even weighing up the public tantrums and tears and risks of dirty protests in National Trust tearooms, I still cope a gazillion times better with parenthood when I'm out and about. A change of scene. Different places. Different faces. Different soft play locations to get my socks wet in.

So that's it. Just one resolution this year that is designed to benefit us all (if we go out more there will be absolutely no need to ever contemplate indoory shit like crafting or baking, which is fine by me). I'm looking forward to braving some new adventures. Though I'm a tad hungover today, so our adventuring will have to start tomorrow...

Once I've finished my porridge and cleared a 10k jog, obviously :-)