I quit a dream job to be at home, but I’m no surrendered wife
Too much of what passes for feminist commentary involves slagging off each other’s choices
Am I happy? Very. Surrendered? Give me a break.
At its most basic, feminism is about equality and the freedom to choose – too much of what passes for feminist commentary involves slagging off each other’s choices.
There are many women for whom putting their career on hold to spend more, or all, of their time with their children is the best course.
There are women for whom paid employment is essential to their economic and psychological wellbeing; others who would like to be at home more, but don’t have the privilege of that choice; others who are at home only because they can’t find a job. And, of course, all of these complexities are true of men too.
The faintly creepy cult of motherhood being perpetuated by the media doesn’t benefit anybody. It excludes men, denying their ability to care for their children and reducing their role to one of paycheque-bearer.
It encourages women to pit themselves against each other in a contrived career-mother-versus- stay-at-home-mother dichotomy, and against unattainable (if you’re anything like me) standards of domestic and parenting
It over-glamorises the role of caring for small children without answering the question of what happens when those children are no longer small. It also contributes to the feeling that, as a woman, you are damned whatever you do.
Then there’s the question of what all this “super-involved parenting”, as the Vogue piece on the Obamas terms it, does to the children.
Most people would probably agree that “super-involved” is better than uninvolved – but isn’t there a happy medium somewhere between encasing your kids in bubble wrap, and hurling them out into the world with a McDonald’s voucher and the address of the nearest A&E?
I doubt a violin lesson ever caused long-term trauma, but when did “play dates” replace “playing out”? When did “after school” stop being the period when children lay about moaning about being bored, and become the collective noun for the endless series of activities to which they must be ferried?
It is often easier to jump in and overparent, than stand back and let children develop at their own meandering pace – especially, I suspect, if you have left another career to make their development your chief goal in life. But children, unlike corporations, are not designed to be micromanaged.
When I left my job, I made a promise to myself that I would not try to replicate at home the standards I had sought at work. Instead, I would aim for a steady mediocrity. Most of the time, I don’t even manage that. And I suspect we’re all the happier for it.