Rebecca Asher had an interesting piece in The Guardian last weekend. It discussed her personal experience of shared parenting – or rather, unshared parenting. It’s a hot topic at the moment and one that leaves my feminist self, riddled with guilt.
Woman are, in the majority, still the ones who do most of the childcare, who surrender their careers to bring up children. I did that. Actually, I’ll be honest, I did more than that, I willingly gave up my dream of an acting career to be a farmer’s wife.
It was not a sacrifice, it was a choice, and it’s a choice I periodically question.
I do get riled that I have to ask Beloved to ‘babysit’ his own children. It niggles that in everything I do I have to factor in the needs of my children – they’ll even follow me to the toilet.
I take responsibility for the house work and the cooking and the shopping and the washing and I do 99.99% of the childcare EVEN THOUGH I hate cooking. And shopping. And housework. And I spent the first 6 years of mother hood so exhausted I could barely function.
But here’s the thing, whenever I question my choice I always come up with the same answer:
I wouldn’t change a thing.
I love seeing my children grow, I’m grateful for the time I have with them, I like it that they turn to me when they’re in need. I like being an at home mum.
It’s true, I am eating all the proverbial cake – both farm work and writing I can do from home. It’s not always easy – I have broken a few golden business rules – my children have sat in on some fairly high powered meetings – eyebrows have been raised in market strategy meetings where Daughter has sat designing Thunderbird Rockets at my feet. I pay my dues for my at-home status – managing farm work, a fledgling writing career and a family means I work very long hours but, and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this out loud:
I think I got the better end of the deal.
There, I’ve said it.
I wouldn’t swap my life for Beloved’s in a million years. I’ve got 2 children calling on my time – he’s got 110 staff – all of whom expect him to be in his office until 11 at night and, if he isn’t there, will knock on our door to find him.
My kid’s are cute and funny and cuddly. Sorry, but the staff just don’t give back in the same way.
Would I want Beloved to do more to help out? Not really – I like things done a certain way; if I want to hang flowery curtains, I’ll hang them; if I want to fill the fridge with haloumi and lentils, I’ll fill the fridge with haloumi and lentils. He’d be rubbish at mothering- he doesn’t even enjoy school plays and he thinks all that childish chatter is childish chatter – he doesn’t know how to listen for the important nuggets that might be a plea for praise or a cry for help. I like being a housewife and mother. I’m good at it.
Am I smashing all my feminist principles on rock?
I don’t think so.
To me, feminism is about choice, and I did choose my life – or if I didn’t, if it wasn’t what I expected, then I would choose it now. Over and over again.
Important things have happened about equal pay and equal rights but to move closer to true equality I think we should acknowledge a couple of unfashionable facts:
For a lot of men, if they knew they would be doing 50% of the childcare, they might well make a choice not to have kids.
For a lot of women, being a mother will always be their priority.
That has to be OK.
You can’t beat men up for not wanting to parent if they never wanted to do it and always told you. Same goes for women
And you shouldn’t look down on women who choose to be at home with their kids. Same goes for men.
It may not be cutting edge to say it but, I’m happy to be the primary carer. I absolutely believe that we need to make things easier for women to get back to work, for shared paternity/maternity for those that want it. But I am worried that my ‘stay at home mum’ status some how excludes me from the conversation about equality.
There are educated, intelligent, motivated women that do really do enjoy mothering, baby sick and all. Don’t look down on us, we still want to be in your gang, we just want to do it from home.
Though I might have lied about the baby sick.