Sunday, May 15, 2011

I'm on the 'mothers should work' side of the fence. You?

UPDATE: I've since posted a follow-up to this one expanding on points only touched on here. You can read it here:

Ok, I admit I picked this photo because mother and daughter
are both smiling, and that suits my purposes.
Image credit:
I read an interesting column this week. It was called 'Staying mum's a cop-out'. What was even more interesting was that it was published 10 years ago. And writing it got the author, Leslie Cannold, fired.
Her basic premise was that women, including mothers, should be expected to work in a paid job. Here is part of what she said:

Feminists expect fathers to do domestic work, so how can they tacitly exempt mothers from paid work?
This is how I remember a conversation last week between me and two other mothers of grade 1 children:
Mother 1: Does your child sleep at night?
Me: Yes, why? Doesn’t yours?
Mother 1: She gets up two or three times a night.
Me: I think it’s because I did some “controlled comfort” with him when he was little; it teaches them how to put themselves back to sleep when they wake up.
Mother 2: I think “controlled comfort” is barbaric.
Mother 1: Well, I’m just exhausted.
Mother 2: Me too. Actually, half the time she sleeps in my bed. That’s why I could never get a job. I’m too exhausted: motherhood is my full-time job.
Is it really barbaric to set limits for your children? To expect them to, say, put themselves to sleep and to sleep in their own bed? Or is it simply weak and self-indulgent to refuse to draw the line, and to characterise this refusal as evidence of maternal love and dedication?
This is not an idle question (although I am sure some of you are wishing I’d left it idling). Rather, it is an explosive issue that the women’s movement has long sought to stifle with the rhetoric of “choice”. So while feminists have long struggled to enshrine all women’s social freedom and legal right to work, regardless of whether they are married and/or mothers, most have argued that the decision to engage in paid work or to make motherhood a full-time job is a woman’s prerogative.

You can read the rest of it here:

So, is she right? Are you cheering her, even 10 years later (as I am)? Or is she totally out of line? A deluded cow who should count herself lucky that the worst she got was the sack?
I could write at length about all the variables involved in this topic but want to keep it short so will say this: I agree with her on virtually every point.
There are myriad reasons for parents not working. And I accept that not all are completely invalid. But the idea that some mothers use the demands of parenting as an excuse and an escape is also valid.
And one other aspect of this debate that bugs me (I know, I know, I said I'd keep it short! I fibbed) is the limited ways in which stay-at-home women are portrayed. According to mainstream media, they seem to be in two camps only: a) the (often self-described) mothers who are so wholly consumed by their role and responsibilities they don't have time to change their socks; or b) the carefree, swanning-about ladies of leisure whose biggest challenge of the day is deciding between Oprah and Days of Our Lives?
Surely the reality (excepting mothers of newborns) is somewhere in between?

So. Anyone like to share their thoughts?


  1. Um honestly I think u should stick to blogging about subjects u have experience of! U talk about women making a choice about whether to leave their baby to scream in a cot until it falls asleep or deciding to stay at home with their kids cos their lazy?! But u mention nothing of the emotional attachment between a mother and a child. Rule books and common sense get thrown out the window when your heart is being torn in two!! Not so easy to leave the love of your life with complete strangers at day care when he's begging u not to just cos some fucking feminist says u should!!

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, anonymous. I believe you'd place me, and Cannold, in the 'deluded cow' category!

    I don't discount the connection between mother and child. However I don't believe mothers should be 100 per cent beholden to their children all the time, particularly once the child is a little older.
    I also don't believe choosing to stay at home automatically means the parent is lazy. Only that this is the case in some situations. I also mentioned that I didn't think the stereotype of a mum watching soapies all day actually reflected reality.
    And yes, I am not a mother. However the column I mentioned, and said I agreed with, was written by a mother.

  3. I've read both your posts on this matter and did not get DVT (but thanks for the warning, I wiggled my toes and kept on reading).

    In short my response is that I didn't have kids for someone else to raise them.

    And, I am a feminist.

  4. I believe it is up to the parents and their circumstances. I agree with Toru, that I didn't have them for someone else to raise them, but also my profession of choice was one of love and unfortionatly not money and I therefore do not earn enough to pay for childcare and it still be worthwhile. My two are still quite young, so maybe this isn't the time that you think that I should be back at work, but I keep very busy with a structured plan for my kids(teaching them skills, interaction with other kids etc.), as well as my own things, such as studying, exercise and dinners out with the girls once a month. I am lucky to have a husband who is very supportive, and prefers me to be with the kids - but I don't see that as old fashioned, as he would be just as supportive if I chose to work. So although I can see your point, I sit on the fence - where it is up the the parents and there circumstances.


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