Cherie Blair, the wife of ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair, has pissed a lot of mums off this week by criticising stay at home mums (SAHMs); apparently they’re all “yummy mummies” who’ve married rich men so they don’t have to go to work. It’s making women “too dependent”, wasting their education, etc etc.
I wanted to stay at home after I had Isabel but unfortunately we weren’t in a financial position for me to do so: I had no choice but to return to work. Having done so, I remembered how much I liked working and, thankfully, Isabel gets a lot out of nursery (daycare). I am not entirely sure what the future holds for post-maternity leave with Oliver — because I’m trying to balance wanting more time with the kids (thus reduced hours) with a reduced income, increased overall costs, childcare etc — but I do know that whatever happens I will still be working.
So now we know that I don’t see this from the point of view of a bitter, defensive housewife (homemaker, whatever is the PC term these days) pissed at her judgement on me… I think she’s full of crap.
Personally, I am of the opinion SAHMs are brave, brave women. Looking after kids is surprisingly exhausting. Even before they’re old enough to make verbal (spoken) demands on your attention every minute of every hour, just being emotionally and physically available to even the tiniest baby requires constant draw on the energy levels. Shit, I struggle being emotionally available to Karl 24/7 and he’s a responsible adult who’s capable of looking after himself. Suffice it to say I can easily respect women who stay at home with their kids. I don’t know if I could.
So, this yummy mummy, living the easy life on Daddy’s pay packet, sipping cappuccino at Starbucks, shopping in Boden while hard-working women like Cherie set an example for their children shit? Bollocks. Even if we ignore the hordes of mums who have no choice but to stay at home because the cost of childcare is so high that working would actually put them in debt, the mums who’ve sacrificed their career because they’re the lower of two earners in the household (thanks to an ever-present glass ceiling that gets in the way of so many women) … there’s still the small matter of where these mums would put their kids if they went back to work. Childcare, childminders, nannies? But if looking after children is so worthless, why do these occupations — often paid minimum wage, not exactly an inspiration for the next generation — differ? Or is it only raising your own kids full time that’s worthy of derision?
Anyway, I digress… this is supposedly about dependency. Are these women depending on the salary of a man who might not always be around? No more so than I am as a working mother. Oh, I have my own savings but I’d still be up shit creek if Karl left (or died) tomorrow. I’d get about 6 months out of my savings and then what? Work? With childcare costs of £30+ per day per child, I’d have to make £60 per day just to break even; that doesn’t factor in mortgage costs, house insurance, travel, council tax, utilities, food, clothes… the list goes on.
The reality is that life isn’t as simple as “choose to stay home” or “choose to work” as Ms Blair makes out. Guess it’s easy to forget that on a QC’s salary though.