I’ll clear one thing up before I even start this post – I am not a Daily Mail reader. I read lots of stuff, but I don’t read that. But thanks to Twitter and the blogosphere sometimes you can’t escape some of its headlines….especially when the headline takes a swipe at me (well, not just me, but my circumstances and my decisions).
Lowri Turner, her off the TV, wrote a lovely article called A plague on you smug Stay At Home Mums.
I say ‘lovely’, it wasn’t really. I found it rude, unfair and actually quite offensive (3 of the very reasons I’m not a Daily Mail fan in general). I don’t enjoy driving any traffic to its website, but take a read if you don’t mind losing 2 minutes of your life and – if you feel the same as her – then, well, perhaps you won’t like me. For that I apologise, but I won’t apologise for the decisions my husband and I have made when it comes to looking after our daughter.
Paul has, and I had, a full time job. He is away most of the week at the moment. As I write this, he is in Sheffield and I am in Cardiff. I worked for a national company too, and while I was based in Cardiff out of personal choice, I was the marketing manager for a ‘patch’ that covered the South Coast, Essex, Hertfordshire and the Thames Valley. As a result I spent a lot of my time on the UK’s motorway network, and a lot of time away from home. I’m not after sympathy for this – it was my job, my choice and not an uncommon one either. I never took a gap year and started my first job 2 weeks after leaving uni (again, not uncommon). I’m not moaning or complaining in any way when I tell you all this – I’m just aware that lots of my readers don’t know me at all and so I thought I’d fill you in.
Anyway, we decided I would resign from my marketing job after maternity leave and take a few years out to look after Bear full-time. Do I feel sorry about that? No. Do I think other people should do the same? No. Because we’re all grown adults and we live in a society where – shock horror – we’re entitled to make our own decisions without being condemned (or apparently not, if you’re Lowri Turner or the Daily Mail).
“Working mothers like me are used to being made to feel guilty”, she wrote. Well Ms Turner, here’s a newsflash for you – I feel guilty most days too. I feel guilty that Bear might be seeing too much of me. I feel guilty on days that she doesn’t have enough hours of interaction with other children. I feel guilty that some days are spent in Tesco and running errands with me, rather than a 9-5 trip to soft play to socialise. I wonder if there are many Mums out there – in work, not in work, whatever – that don’t feel guilty about something each day. I think my guilt gene went into overdrive the moment I gave birth, but that’s another issue.
“Too many full-time mothers allow their brains to go as soft as overcooked spaghetti. They are intellectually stunted by a steady sink into a totally child-centred life.” Well that’s charming, cheers for that. I’m not going to even grace this with much of a response, only to say that my brain is fine, thanks. Without taking a test to prove it, I don’t think I’ve lost the plot any more than any other parent who is getting a little less sleep than they did pre-children. Plus arguably I lost the plot years ago, but don’t blame parenting for that, Lowri.
“No wonder their husbands, who they need to pay the bills, have that pinched look that comes from trying to shut out the drip, drip, drip of obsessive drivel.” Good Lord woman, get a grip; that’s not an opinion, that’s an unfounded insult! First off, how many stay-at-home mums made that decision to do so on their own? Perhaps their other half might have actually been involved in the decision making, too? I didn’t just announce to Paul one day – “surprise! I’ve resigned!” And Lowri, if your partner has ever looked at you with that ‘pinched look that comes from trying to shut out the drip, drip, drip of obsessive drivel’ then maybe it has nothing to do with parenting at all? Just a thought….(*goes to pour own saucer of milk*).
Apparently stay-at-home mums are expert at “chatting aimlessly to each other about soup recipes and yoga. We working mothers don’t have time to chat aimlessly. If we could, we would probably communicate in semaphore. It’s quicker and when your brain is going at 100 miles an hour – trying to process information about work and home and what you’re going to cook for dinner and whether you remembered to book the dental appointment – normal conversation is pretty much impossible.” Oh yeah, us stay-at-home mums are all about the aimless conversation – it’s what we live for. Seriously, how rude? I can promise I’ve never swapped a soup recipe, nor talked about yoga and – eat this Lowri, – I have even been known to have a serious grown-up conversation. Controversial…
“Thank goodness full-time nurseries are the preserve of working parents who dash in and out in a cheerful panic. And the children are confident and self-starting, unlike the wimpy little princes and princesses you see clinging to the skirts of Stay-At-Home Mums. They know how to share toys and take turns and don’t think the world revolves around them.” Wow. Nice general swipe at children’s personality traits – mature. And offensive, too.
What I am doing – being a stay at home mum – is not the right thing to do. It’s also not the wrong thing to do. It is just the decision that Paul and I made, and I feel no more or less ‘right’ or apologetic about it than every other parent who questions a decision. I say ‘apologetic’ – I never volunteer the fact that I haven’t gone back to work after maternity leave, but I do find myself awkwardly trying to explain the decision when people ask. A few people have asked why I am so guarded about it, and people like Lowri Turner are the answer. I have never met one myself, but I am aware that there are the rare few that think my circumstances are born out of laziness and will breed a sub-standard child. Well, Bear’s doing just fine and I make no apologies for that either.
Being a stay at home mum isn’t an easier or harder option, it’s just a different option. There are loads of options when it comes to any choice in life, and people are free to choose different ones – isn’t that what makes the world go round? Surely we’d all be boring if we agreed all the time. But is it really necessary to be so damning of a decision that, for some, is the one they felt was right?
Having now finished writing this post (with no swearing, for which I think I deserve a medal), I’m wondering why I am even justifying myself. I don’t need to, neither does anyone else, and if you read Lowri’s article in full you’ll probably agree that she already detests people like me so I’m no doubt knocking at a closed door. But she and the Daily Mail want a reaction, and here’s mine; she’s rude, offensive and if the article was from the opposite perspective I doubt it would have been published.