>> Wednesday, 10 June 2009
It's been an enlightening few days. Last week, after reading an unnecessarily damning indictment of stay at home mums in The Times, I posted this, in which I wrote of my disappointment that the working mum / stay at home mum debate was still - after all this time - alive and kicking. I asked why we can't just support each other and why, if I can respect the choice of another mother to work, she can't afford me the same respect in return when I choose to stay home.
So far, so good. There were some interesting comments in the box.
Then, on Monday, for some reason I haven't quite fathomed out yet, I forwarded that post to Alpha Mummy, at Times Online.
I can see you throwing your hands up in horror at this information as I type. Why on earth would I do such thing? Everybody knows that some journalists love an opportunity to set off a good debate, and surely I should know that all they will do is take excerpts from my post (rather than using the whole thing) and use them in isolation to add fuel to the whole WM / SAHM cat fight?
Which is, of course, exactly what happened.
The comment box for this post on Alpha Mummy is now up at 54 - not the highest they've ever had, but a respectable showing, I would imagine - and if you want to see examples of prejudice and grand-standing on an astounding scale, I suggest you check in there for a master class.
Or not. It might make you feel rather cross.
It's an interesting experience, being lambasted in the way that some of the commenters have chosen. At least, it's interesting for me, because what it has shown me above all is how I am secure in the choice I've made, and how I know that it is the right one for my family. It makes no odds to me if someone chooses to see me as leech on my husband's side. Or if they want to paint me as the feminist equivalent of a class traitor because I have chosen to stay home and look at my children, rather than going back to work and utilising the opportunities and education I've received. Frankly, if that kind of shortsighted bigotry and blindness to another's needs is what it takes for people to justify their own choices and live comfortably in their own skin, so be it.
But here's the thing. These people are not saying these things exclusively about me, Potty Mummy. If they were, bring it on - I can take it. And just because I haven't descended to their level and brought out the big guns and made criticisms of their choice, that doesn't mean I couldn't . It's just that I am holding on by my fingernails and telling myself that it's not worth it, it's unproductive, and none of my business what they do. If it works for their family, then it works for them full stop. Step away from the keyboard, PM. Let the polarised few stew in their own prejudice.
But it's not just about me. These people are in fact making these inflamatory and ill-informed sweeping statements about all stay at home mums.
And that's not right. Because there are people out there who won't raise a wry smile when they read the claptrap some of these people are writing. There are people out there who this will really hurt. Who will find themselves -yet again - making excuses for what is just as viable a choice as paid employment, and will feel even more isolated and uninvolved as a result.
I've been given lots of advice following all this, and some of it has been of the 'disengage, don't read it, don't comment on it, you'll never change their point of view' type, and it's tempting to do just that.
But I don't think I will.
How on earth are we ever going to impact on the ridiculously wide-held view that staying home to look after your children is a second-rate choice and simply not something an intelligent person does, if we just shut up in these situations? Because I live in hope that changing that viewpoint is possible. And Hope, to quote my counsellor yesterday, 'participates'. It doesn't stand on the sidelines, wringing it's hands and saying 'it's all going to end in tears, be careful, oh be careful, you're going to break a nail!' Hope gets involved.
So here's my take on this. Some women work outside the home, and some women work inside the home. Working Mum or Stay at Home; whatever your decision they're both choices that make valuable contributions to a family. Let's acknowledge that, cut the crap, and start being supportive rather than simply knocking each other down at any given opportunity.
Of course, that's not likely to happen any time soon, so until it does you'll find me trying desperately trying to emulate a 'still small voice of calm' and standing in the centre of the maelstrom, wittering on about how other people's choices in this matter should be respected...