Monday, 26 October 2009

Nothing serious

Not sure how I stand in the balance of successful working motherhood today. Two little clinging girls telling me how much they miss me when they are at school make me want to give up the balance altogether. But then spoke to my friend Cathy and fellow working mother, who has been through the most traumatic year, winding up her business and setting up a new freer, more fulfilling, freelance business - and I believe anything can be possible.

Still looking for new childcare - so if anyone out there knows anyone experienced at childcare looking for a job, post me a post!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Do women really want to work?

A new CPS report written by Christina Odone, and based on YouGove research (read it here: suggests very few women want to work full time and truthfully, many working mothers would rather not work at all. (If you read the research also read Mark Easton's analysis of how the research may be skewed here:

Meanwhile, a piece in yesterday's Telegraph by Emily Laurence Baker called Show me the Mummy (frustratingly, I can't seem to link to this for free, though in the paper it is headed in small type "The perils of modern parenting") gives advice on how working mothers can make their children feel loved. Amongst the don'ts it lists that you shouldn't tell your children that you find your colleagues more interesting than children's playgroups - I agree with the sentiment - nor that "your work buys the extras" - ditto. It doesn't however seem to address the issue of what working mothers ought to say to their children about why they work. Is it economics or mental sustenance?

So here is my manifesto. I've probably said it before but I'll say it again. I love my children. I enjoy my work. At the moment, working and being a mother is tricky. There are many areas of incompatibility which make trying to do both a cross between contortionism and juggling. But that is because most work is organised for men, and of course fatherhood doesn't place the same pressures as motherhood does. No one questions why fathers go to work because it is the tradition. And I'm not knocking it! Fathers going to work is good too.

I go to work because I had the good fortune to have one of the best educations available and I think it is pointless to waste this on activity which I can delegate to a very capable person, who also needs and wants work, who enjoys it and wants to do it. And I think I can do this without damaging my children.

Working full time is in many ways easier than working part time - the childcare options are certainly much easier.

I sometimes think I would rather work part time - truthfully, I think everyone would like to work less.

I also believe that if the compatibility of work and motherhood is ever to increase, then ducking out of the workplace because it is a bit hard, or because we get a bit criticised is, well, a bit rubbish to be honest.

If our daughters and our son's wives are ever going to have a hope of being mothers and workers, then we need to stick at it, not worry about the labels, nor the perceived criticisms - and keep trying to find ways to make it easier and better.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Am I happier?

New research suggests working mothers are more hurried, more guilty, probably at work because they enjoy it as much as because they need the money, possibly making their children unhappy, but they are also happier.

I'm going to say a huge HURRAH to that. It's certainly true of me. Work isn't always perfect, and the pressure is sometimes intense. But I enjoy the professional side of my life. Do I enjoy it as much as the mothering side of my life? And if forced to choose, would I choose it? No, and no, of course not.

Perhaps it's because there's an important unvoiced aspect of work/life balance which is the importance of that balance. Work/life needs to be in balance, one shouldn't dominate over the other, but the two are parts of a whole, they support each other. Lose one and the other loses part of its semblance.

Two good friends of mine are annually told by their accountants and sometimes their husbands that they don't have jobs they have paid "hobbies". This is seen as something vaguely comical, like they are being taken in. As though work has no function unless it is linked to high and often disproportionate remuneration.

To me this completely misses the point. Call them paid hobbies or work, to many women, maintaining a professional self is key to the ability to main the "life" self, the ying/yang if you will not just of being happy people but of being happy and capable mothers.

Incidentally, none of these mothers has fat, unhealthy, layabout children. In fact, none of my working mother friends has more unhealthy children than any of my stay at home mother friends - who also incidentally work very hard at many unpaid tasks.