I don’t know what “having it all” means to you. What does it mean to you?
Working full time, with a nanny / daycare / husband / grandparents looking after your children, running the house and keeping everyone on track
Working part time, with a nanny / daycare / husband / grandparents looking after your children, running the house and keeping everyone on track
Being a stay at home mum, with you looking after your children, running the house and keeping everyone on track
Is that the range of options? I’m sure there’s a blend around all of these things, but what’s really struck me is that the conversation just isn’t moving on right now – about the women and working conversation. About women being able to “have it all”. But the simple truth of it is:
Most people don’t have a choice around whether they go back to work or not. Simples. End of. So can we move this conversation on now please about women and what they want to do, because that’s not the crux of it. The crux is that more often than not, they can’t afford to do what they want to do. Whether that’s using daycare, childminder, staying at home, going to work – whatever they want to do, they are finding barriers at every turn. And it’s doing my head in!!!
There’s an interesting piece in the Guardian today, about the demise of SuperWoman. Apparently our Justine, Mumsnet Co-Founder, says it’s cooler to stay at home that it used to be. Well lets all stay at home then, shall we? Err, no, because the majority of us CAN’T AFFORD TO. I am incensed by the assumption that women choose whether to stay at home or not, whether to add to the work of being a parent with returning to the workplace. The majority of us cannot afford it. For me, my husband was made redundant. We’d got the plan that I’d retrain as a teaching assistant or become a teacher, once the boys were at school. But his redundancy happened and then mine, and because we saw both coming, I started my business and it grew quicker than his and made more money, so we went with mine.
I have felt “cheated” by the scenario in many ways – it took me months to get my head around the idea that my “job” and “contribution” was to run the home, look after E and keep us on track. And then when I did, R’s redundancy became clear and I felt I had to do something, because R didn’t know what he wanted to do. I felt like we were ruderless, so I set to with the business and our family is now much more financially secure for it. But I still feel cheated in some ways. It’s fine to look back and say “I would never have been satisfied with being a full time stay at home mum”. I would have loved it. I miss my friends, I’m out of my social circle locally, I don’t see enough of people. I miss it! It’s not a choice. If we won the lottery, I would stop the business tomorrow. In fact, today! I’d ditch it. And I’d get into volunteering in school hours, term time, because I’d want to contribute to the community, just like I do now, but through the business.
And do you know who has the worst of it? Women who work part time – adjusting to the pressures of part time work is difficult – when do you use annual leave? Being judged because you have to leave on time / get in late when someone is sick all over you and you have to find childcare / telling someone you can’t do the team building because you don’t have childcare until 7.30pm. And then coming home to run the house, do the shopping, cooking, cleaning, birthday party runs, ensuring you have quality time with the children and still find the time and enthusiasm to be rude with your husband. That’s the rough end of the deal there – because you are fitting two lives into one existence.
Enough !!!! I don’t think women can have it all. I don’t think we have it made. And the sooner that we accept it and stop trying to be all things to all people, the better.
And here’s how I’ve done that for myself this weekend:
1. I didn’t go to the Save the Children bloggers conference that I really wanted to attend.
2. I’ve gone back to bed for 90 minutes this morning when I got the chance.
3. I’ve worked tonight to get a presentation started for next Friday in Glasgow.
4. I’ve done housework so that we’re ahead for the day tomorrow and not flapping about where the clean socks and pants are.
I’m sure I’ve done more than that. But I’m happy with my lot, knowing that there’s more to do, knowing that I won’t get everything done. We’re happy. We’re safe, relatively clean, making progress with our lives, our relationships, our boys. I think that’s more than enough. Sure it’s not it all, but it’s more than enough in my book. And that’s what matters – my book.