I missed a rather excitable discussion on twitter this morning between one of the Apprentice finalists and all round hog of page 1,2,3(ironically) and often page 4 of the local paper for the duration of the show and my good friend Being Mrs C. The conversation got a bit heated but I think Zissman seemed to have a bit of a downer on stay at home mums:
This got me thinking because when it’s over 20 degrees centigrade (or should that be celcius?) at night there’s not a lot else to do other than fail to sleep. I think that comment is terrifically and probably entirely unintentionally chauvinistic.
Firstly assuming that a stay at home mum is beholden to a man and spends most of her time in the kitchen sounds like a throw back to the 1950’s. Women burnt their bras in the 60’s over this (rather than leaving them on the back of a chair whilst a photographer snapped away). When my mum was raising us in the mid 70’s and early 80’s she didn’t work but that was out of a desire to do the best for us. She actually had a couple of part time jobs in the evenings after we’d gone to bed to help make ends meet. When she did go back to work, it was when my brother was safely ensconced in secondary school and she felt that phase of juvenile nurture was complete. She, as a woman in the 70’s, was deciding what was best for her children, and acting accordingly. Personally I don’t think that’s indicative of a sad little woman tied to the sink and the whims of her husband, I think that’s single minded, shows a level of self sacrifice that post Thatcher Britain seems to lack and a degree of fortitude we could all learn from.
A poor role model? A lot of stay at home mums are utterly brilliant role models: they have degrees, professional qualifications, have had high powered executive jobs but have chosen to sacrifice it all (for the short or long term) for the betterment of their children. To be completely honest this sort of belittlement vicariously offends me because it is so short sighted and it’s unhelpful in a society that stigmatises people who aren’t wage earners.
And you know what? It doesn’t matter if a mum isn’t a wage earner. Parents don’t, or shouldn’t at any rate, exist in isolation. We are a team, my wife and I. It just so happens that I earn a reasonable wage through dint of my career whilst wifey, who is more qualified in her field than I am in mine, unfortunately works in a profession that isn’t as well paid. The sacrifices she has made for our three kids are mind numbing, and leave me humbled- all I do is go to work and occasionally get up in the night to give the littlest a bottle. Tied to the sink? Beholden to a man? How much further from reality can you get?
Male chauvinism is founded on a false premise that men are superior to women when people are judged on identical criteria. How many successful teams are made up of people with the same skills and attributes? Isn’t it better to have different but complimentary skills? Why does a woman need to have the exact same abilities as a man to be as good as one? I find it baffling.
Wifey has more patience, better organisation and is much more decisive with the kids than I am. I tend to lower myself to their level and too involved with them. I find it difficult to be hard when it’s good for them because I remember what it’s like to be that little and can’t really rise above it. I love being a dad but I’m not daft enough to think I’d make a great stay at home dad. I’d like it, I just wouldn’t be any good at it. And wifey isn’t even a stay at home mum, despite being made redundant at 8 months pregnant from her job as a collections manager at the local museum (how a museum can operate without a collections manager is beyond me, it’s like a library running without a librarian), she retrained as a childminder a matter of months after having our third baby. She is a quiet inspiration, like a lot of the silent majority of mums out there.