Having It All

Standing in my fortress and I’m holding up the walls
With kids and work and life, Hey, look at me! I’ve got it all.
I’ve created something masterful, come watch me if you will,
Running running running, all the time to just stay still.
One hand is in the kitchen making healthy food for four,
One hand holds back the crushing guilt from knocking down my door
The walls aren’t soundproof, not a bit, I’m wincing as I hear
“No concern you’ve sacrificed your kids for your career?”
That one’s a direct hit, and it gets me in the chest,
A neighbour smiles and waves as she sips tea and takes a rest.
She’s getting on just fine, there must be something wrong with me
If I can’t keep the house intact and raise this family.
The bricks are built of emotional load, they’re glued with mental labour,
The floor is paved with “Could you just…?” and “Can I ask you one small favour?”
I close my eyes for seconds, and the shrill bell sounds again,
A deadline looms, black and fierce, so I pick up my pen.
The voices haven’t stopped. They shout, “Have you made that call?”
No one else will make it, and what’s one more juggling ball?
“Catch it with your shoulder, oh wow you’re super-mum!
Managing this (unfair) load, you inspire everyone!”
Drowning out those voices, which pepper us with guilt,
Assessing all our choices, in these castles that we’ve built.
“If you’re not happy that’s just shameful, look at what you’ve got,
Imagine all the others who’d be grateful for your lot.”
A stone cold cup of coffee, goes in the microwave,
Sifting through the leftovers to see what I can save.
“How’s your hair looking? Your man will be home soon”
Wife guilt in place of mum guilt, we all love a change of tune!
Ding dong, oh that’s the doorbell. Come in- excuse the mess.
Sit down and let me tell you eighteen reasons why I’m stressed.
I’ll laugh them off once I’m done, with a humorous remark,
“You’re allowed to find things tough, just please don’t lose your spark.”
The voices won’t let up, both exhausting and infernal,
Nope, it doesn’t help to recognise they’re almost all internal.
I paste the smile firmly on, you’d never spot the trick
I take a couple Nurofen, no time’s allowed for ‘sick’.
The roof’s twined with relationships, it’s looking quite dejected,
Patched up with late apologies, both surprising and expected
One loose leaf falls next to me, I swiftly read the page
“Where have you been? We’ve missed you! Dude-its been an age!”
I look up at the patchwork papers, many yellowed with neglect,
I watch another fade from sight, well- what did I expect?
“You can’t do everything” they chide, “something’s got to give”
“Work harder” says the other side “craft the life you want to live.”
This week’s different I tell myself, because of X Y Z
Next month is much quieter,
I’m almost sure,

Is it any of your Business, if it’s Working for me?

I turned on my computer this morning to find links to four separate articles about working versus non working mums on my Facebook newsfeed.

I have no issue with people discussing the topic, after all, it’s a difficult and often heart-wrenching choice for anyone to make, and deserves discussion. This is especially true today, where the costs of childcare often make the financial side of having a career almost irrelevant, and yet the costs of living are so high that every penny counts. This dynamic forces women back into the workforce where they might otherwise choose to stay home, all for the couple of hundred pounds difference between the salary they receive from their employer, and the cheque they hand over to their childcare provider each month.
We also live in a time where taking five or ten years ‘out’ to have kids, often results in the way back ‘in’ being an impossibility. All very well while the kids are at home, but most of us are hoping for another thirty or forty years of more than waiting by the school gates once they’re out of nappies. Feminism is in the spotlight more than ever, and the debate is still raging whether your parenting choices reflect your opinions on equality of the sexes.

Yes, there’s a lot to say on the topic. If you fancy, we can go out for coffee and I can tell you my own story of how I came to work part time. The bits I like, the bits I don’t like so much. The guilt I feel when I ignore my 9 week old for an urgent deadline, the happiness I share with my 4 year old who I am lucky enough to pick up from school every day.

Oh no, sorry. I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to the organisations and media outlets who want to get up close and personal with me. Who know what’s best for me, my husband, and our children more than I do. The newspapers who have clearly had a quick look at our yearly income and budget and know how much we need to get by. The university lecturers who eavesdrop on me and the hubby in bed at night when we discuss our work/life balance. The research bodies who know how good I am at my job, and how much my kids like or dislike their childminder, who understand without even asking what my plans for the rest of my life are, the personalities of my children, the aspirations of my other half. I am just so glad that they feel like they know me well enough to give me their opinions as scientific fact as to how I live my life.

I’m talking to Harvard University, who for some reason are putting manpower and funding into research that tells us that “the daughters of working mothers enjoy better careers, higher pay and more equal relationships than those raised by stay-at-home mothers.” Well, I’m somewhere in between on the working scale, so my daughter isn’t completely screwed up then, but I’ll be sure to tell all the strong, unselfish women I know who have made the hard choice to stay at home with their kids that their offspring will be minimum wage women in abusive relationships. Cheers Harvard.

I’m talking to the National Childrens Bureau, who have asked “whether ‘outsourcing’ motherhood is the best way to create a healthy society”. Give me a minute while I call all the fantastic women I am proud to know who work both in and out the home, whether it’s to make ends meet, or to be excellent role models for their kids, or simply because they are bloody great at their jobs, and let them know they are contributing to the loss of functional society as we know it.

I was referring to the EU council, who have thrown their two cents in, calling the “number of mothers working part time… a social challenge.” May I just take this moment to apologise to the whole of Europe, for the gall I’ve had to dare to find some work/life balance in our household. I can’t believe I ever thought I had the right to do a job I enjoy, at the same time as attempting being a hands-on parent.

That’s just three examples, all from the month of June, outlawing working mums, stay at home mums, and part time working mums. In one calendar month. Can you just stop to think for one second what an article that suggested that men were “outsourcing fatherhood” would be like? What the reception would be to the suggestion that the sons of stay at home dads are going to be incapable of forming well adjusted relationships or holding down jobs?

I have hardly met a mum in my life who doesn’t carry around some level of guilt for the choices she makes in terms of her career and kids. The ridiculous thing is, it’s clearly a completely personal decision, based on your finances, your family planning, your own goals, or simply how much you enjoy both your job and being with your kids all day!  And yet so many incredible women carry regret or uncertainty, fuelled by the ridiculous media attention and the questions they force on us collectively every time we switch on the computer or open a paper. “Should you wait to have kids? Do you work too much? Is there ever a right time to go back to work? Should you give in to social pressure to find a job?” The list goes on, when the only question any woman needs to ask herself is, “Is this the right choice for my family?”

We’re there already media, we’re judging ourselves right left and centre. We really don’t need your help.