‘Ten years ago they wanted a dynamic career, children AND a happy marriage but discovered they couldn’t have it all… so where did the super women go?’ The article is cashing in on the success of the amazing Allison Pearson story – I don’t know how she does it – by asking middle class, middle aged women how well they have succeeded in ‘having it all.’
I love this book; I must have read it about 8 times and am currently re reading it for the 9th. So much of it resonates with me and makes me immeasurably angry and excited at the same time; angry that so much of it is true and excited that something could be done to change the way women feel and are treated in the workplace. If you haven’t read the book, please do. Don’t be put off by the fluffy pink cover or the chick lit font blurb on the back; I don’t know how she does it is FANTASTIC. It tells the story of Kate Reddy, a mother of two and high flying career women who is juggling all the guilt, pain, fear, anxiety, resignation and pleasure of trying to keep everything in her life afloat. I love it so much and love the way it is written; I find that it manages to convey some serious feminist issues such as why does childcare fall into the realm of ‘womens’ business?’ and why are men celebrated for having children, seen as successful and compassionate whereas a woman is suddenly seen as weak and vulnerable? Why do women feel guilt and a gut wrenching agony for wanting to work full time after having children and why is it made so hard for them to do so? and yet also manages to be easy to read.
The Mail are continuing with their terribly veiled plot to get people reproducing by alternating stories of pregnant celebs looking ‘glowing’ and ‘yummy’ with stories like this; designed to send twenty something women into a spin. We bloody know that our biological clocks are ticking thanks – we don’t need daily reminders with newspapers peddling stories of women depressed and crying alone at night with nothing more than a tub of Ben and Jerrys to keep them company or women moaning about how their wonderful careers have left them hollow and numb and too old to have children. This article seems to coming from a different direction; we should have children obviously but we need to think seriously about how we are going to raise them. The women interviewed include two who have managed to juggle it all – by employing nannies, house keepers and round the clock help and two who couldn’t afford to ‘outsource’ their chores as one woman puts it and who have given up work entirely or cut back. taken themselves out of the ‘career path and onto the ‘job’ path.
I want children very much. Sometimes it is like an ache inside of me. When I was at university all I wanted was to be successful; I thought that that meant being rich and being able to buy whatever I wanted. Nowadays I can afford pretty much what I want but its all bollocks. It feels meaningless, empty. It seems that my body has betrayed my mind and has decided that the path it wants to be on is the one marked ‘baby.’ I still want to do a Phd and write a book; still want to be a successful lecturer but now it feels that all of that can wait. It is the scariest feeling; to yearn for something, to hurt for it and have no real idea why. It also scares me that having a child will change my whole life; I love working and don’t want to give it up but articles like this one published today make me worry that the choices I make will somehow lead to my children ending up on the news at 10 or on a milk carton somewhere because I have neglected them; because I chose to work, because I chose to still be me when there was them. Allison Pearson’s book addresses this issue and talks of how Kate feels constant guilt; guilt for leaving her children with a nanny, guilt for paying said nanny a fortune, guilt that she misses the little things her children do daily, guilt that work takes over sometimes. I already feel that my job rules my life; I bring work home with me, I think about it non stop. There is always something to do. God knows how I will cope when I have children.
Something that is apparent is that childcare in the UK is some of the highest in Europe. Some people pay more for childcare than they do on rent or a mortgage. The Government seems hell bent on getting us knocked up; everywhere I look I see babies; articles in newspapers with a baby agenda, adverts on tv, schemes and initiatives and yet they aren’t doing enough to make sure that when the babies arrive they can be cared for in the best way. Whilst monthly childcare costs exceed a luxury longhaul holiday in the Carribbean then the end result will be both parents working flat out to provide for their families. I think we are all aware that having a child is expensive and that something has to give but what is the real cost of that? Does the ‘something’ have to be us? I’m sure that for every mother who would love to stay home with her children there are those who want to stay working and I think that we need to make it easier for those women to do so. I’m not just talking maternity leave – though to be honest that could be bloody improved – I’m talking about attitudes. We need working mothers to be respected and admired rather than shuffled to a corner cubicle somewhere to get on with the admin tasks no one else wants to do or relegated to the bottom of the promotion/payrise pile. If we could get childcare costs down and more representative of the average working wage and could get attitudes change in the workplace then I think working mothers have a real shot. Hell; they are used to juggling a million balls at once – surely we need women like that running our companies and country? It pisses me off when people use the argument that women need to take time out to have children or aren’t focused enough to fly through the ranks in business – no; they are just being shafted by a society that doesn’t make allowances. A woman has a child, not a lobotamy. If she can do a job before a baby then, if she wants to, she can do it afterwards.
Who knows; I might have a child and decide that I want to stay home and bake fairy cakes all day, alternating between reading snippets of Dickens to my offspring and playing some Mozart. I might turn into mother nature supreme, making home made pasta sauces and extolling the virtues of organic produce. For now though I know that I would want to continue working and I would love to live in a society where that isn’t judged, torn apart and found lacking. I would love to live in a place where my talents as a mother and a career women are celebrated and not compared. I think mothers do a wonderful job but it’s fucking hard and we don’t need to make it harder.