Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Having it all

So, it's official. As a working mum I can give myself a pat on the back for making the right decision and not staying with Louis 24/7 because he'll turn out the same either way. Or I could if I had a hand free. Because as a working mum, as everyone knows, "hands" and "free" aren't exactly sentiments that go together. Which is why any sane person grabs every bit of help that they can, whether it's the odd extra hour of childcare courtesy of some very kind grandparents or the ultimate luxury of a fortnightly cleaner (doesn't ask what the house looks like on day 13).

Or at least they do, if they're anyone but Emma Thompson. The actor and mother-of-two decreed this week (ironically via a publicity interview for her latest Nanny McPhee film) that working and mummying don't mix - unless you have a household full of staff to do the dirty work for you. Which was a timely dig at all those supermum celebrities who neglect to mention their back up when they preach about the effortless joys of being a mother (naming no names, Gisele-breastfeeding-should-be-law-for-six-months-Bundchen or Angelina Jolie). Weighing into the debate about how people's working lives just aren't working for a lot of women, Thompson claimed she never wanted to "delegate the running" of her house to others so that she could forge ahead with her career.

I applaud her sentiment but I'm heartily sick of the likes of her trying to pretend that their lives remotely resemble the wider populace. And I don't believe for a minute that she cleans her own toilet. Or mops her kitchen floor. And I resent her implication that she does. (I also resent the fact that I, like millions of other people, try somehow and see parallels between my own life and the rich and famous, but that's hardly her fault.)

It would have been more useful if Thompson had made more of the fact that she hadn't had her biological child until she was 41 to point out the ludicrousness of the situation that means any ambitious women out there feel they have to prove themselves in the workplace before allowing themselves the chance to have a family. Now that we'll all be working well past our dotage, isn't it time that someone pointed out it makes vastly more sense for women to have children in their 20s and then hit the world of work in their mid-30s, when, let's face it, they'll still have a good 40 years toil minimum ahead of them.

Perhaps that way we could move on from the debate about whether working mums are or aren't the devil's spawn. And women really could have it all.


Muddling Along Mummy said...

I've started blogging about Emma Thompson's comments and had to stop in rage that she can't compare her life where one of her or her husband can stop work on whim to look after their children with the real world that the rest of us inhabit. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

KK said...

Having kids in your 30s does often mean your career has developed which poses 2 problems when thinking about a family. Firstly if you're with a partner, your outgoings are bigger than they might have been in your 20s as you've grown to live within the means of two salaries, so it's harder then to do without the money you've been used to. Hefty mortgages and other loans aren't just things you can cut back on by tightening your belt. Secondly, it's possible you've got more into your job and started to build a career so it's harder to think about losing that job (assuming you like where you work) even if you have the finacial possiblility of taking a career break to bring up your children. So I like your thinking behind the rationale of popping out your children in your 20s but that might make people go for it before they're really with the right person and also I'd hate to have missed out on all that fancy-free fun I had in my 20s because I was tied down with the responsibility of parenthood. So I reckon there's positives to both ways of doing things....
In any case, if all goes well with this growing bump, I've got that whole scary work/child battle to come next year at the age of 35. It's terrifying me...

Hulda said...

You make good points!
But lets not forget that you can never have it all ;)

I had my kids when I was 18, 22 and 24. Iceland has lower kindergartens rates so I stayed at home for 6 months and then went to school. It was convenient to go to class and study at home when ever the kids got sick and not have to worry about workplace moral ot other stuff. It also gave me the freedom to pick the kids up early if I felt like it.

I honestly think that the best way to liberate women and help the to "have it all" is to have kindergartens free or almost free. We have them here from 6 months.

The down sides ofcourse are: less freedom for a social life and traveling, nervrecking times around exams, memoryloss while studying and more....
I think my favorite upsite is that having children at a young age makes you more at ease. I have no memories of a childless adult life so it is less bothering to have many of them and a house full of friends.

I am 28 now and working on building my career and enjoying it very much! But I have to say that I am 10 times more stressed now as a working mum and cleaning has become the most difficult thing in my life!!! A husband with low cleaning skills is not helping :/

So please if you have good tips on how to make my kids neatfreaks let me know!

NVT said...

Attaining that ever elusive work-life balance. The thing that probably keeps us sane is the continuous attempt to achieve the perfect balance. Does anyone ever say they have the perfect balance? I've never heard anyone say that because what is the perfect balance? Anyone know?

A Modern Mother said...

This debate goes on and on, I remember agonizing about working. Do what is best for you at the time and don't worry about what other people say or do.

PS -- did your piece on blogging families ever come out?