January 19th, 2005


mum's the word

So, I'm reading a kind of typical "three different women in a small town who become friends" sort of book by a best-selling author for work, and one of the characters is a "career woman" who, 20 pages in, realises that of course she really wants to stay at home with her kids because she's missing seeing them grow up. This is not the first time I've encountered this situation in so-called women's fiction, and it's starting to piss me off. Yes, lots of women do want to stay at home with their kids. And no, I don't have kids, and maybe when I do I'll want to look after them full time. But I was brought up by a working mother, and I'm getting increasingly angry with female authors - who make money working at something they love, and who aren't actually stay-at-home mothers themselves (I refuse to call them "full-time mothers"; my mother was a full-time mother, she just happened to go out to work every day) - trying to make working mothers feel guilty like this. They never show a working mother who's, say, a teacher, or working in a job with flexible hours. No, it's always someone who's got some extreme "high powered" job. It's always all or nothing.

My mother went out to work every day. Yes, she was back at half past three, but she still had to say goodbye to her kids in the morning (something these authors always present as being hideously cruel. Now, I don't doubt that it's pretty horrible to leave your possibly crying kids, but as someone who was once on the kid side of the equation, I really didn't suffer from it, so while it may feel awful to leave your kids in the morning, it really isn't cruel). We still spent our days with a series of childminders (well, two really, of whom we were very fond, but whom we certainly didn't mistake for our parents, as these books suggest we might have). My mother still didn't spend all day with us. She may even have missed our first words and steps. I don't know. But I do know that my sisters and I all have a good relationship with her, that we're a family who really gets on together and likes each other as well as loves each other, and I know that if I was affected in any way by my mother going out to work, it was in a positive one. Perhaps if she'd been coming home at half seven every night (like the mother in this book) it would have been different. But then, I don't think anyone should be working that late, whether they're parents (of either gender) or otherwise.

I dunno. I just find these books for women which basically imply that my mother was a selfish bitch who missed out on her kids' lives, and that every woman who isn't totally content with staying at home is somehow defective, pretty fucking offensive.
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