I have read some pretty catty (and downright ridiculous) comments this week regarding the choices parents make about working. Or not working. Actually, not the choices parents make - god no, how 21st century would that be! - but the choices mums make. I'm not talking about comments from the media either. I'm talking about comments from mums slating other mums. Full-time working mums labelled 'uncaring' and 'selfish', mums who are not working labelled 'benefit scroungers,' and a whole host of 'My Choice Is Superior To Your Choice' comments in between.
This has got to stop.
It is hard enough to know whether you are doing 'the right thing' (and to not feel guilty about it) at the best of times, and, when it comes to working, it seems you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.
Why oh why are we damning one another?
We should be proud of our own choices, of course we should, but shouting about the superiority of one's choice is often done at the expense of people who have chosen differently (I'm using 'choice' with caution here as I know there are a whole host of factors at play - it is not always a case of simply choosing whether or not to work). Sometimes, I don't think we consider what we are really saying when we self-justify our own circumstances. Perhaps we fear being judged (and found lacking) - I'm pretty sure I have defensively blurted out bullcrap about work being the righteous option because deep down I've felt insecure alongside mums who are at home full-time. (In truth, I don't believe either is a better option - how many hours you work, if any, doesn't determine your Parent Brilliance Ranking).
Below are just a handful of things I have heard and read, from both working mums and mums who do not work, all of which carry judgment for the alternative.
From mums who work:
"By going out to work, I'm teaching my child the value of working hard."
What are you saying, exactly, about mums who don't go out to work? That they are bringing their kids up to have no work ethic? What absolute cockwaffle!
"Well, I'm sure we'd all love to stay at home!"
What happens if that isn't the case? [Even if money was no object, I for one would still choose to work. Is 'I work because I want to' not justification enough? Should I now be feeling even worse? Oh dear. Awkward.] It's also pretty condescending to suggest being at home is the easier option.
From mums who do not work:
"Why have kids at all if you were just going to palm them off onto somebody else?"
Ah yes, because I'm sure palming the little buggers off is the sole aim of working-motherhood. What about financial pressures, the desire to work, both? What about children who benefit from time spent in a childcare setting? Most children go to nursery or a child-minder at some point - is it only neglectful if you are at work when they are 'palmed off?'
"My children are more important to me than having a career - I'm making the most of their early years."
We all have to weigh up what's important to us, that much is true. But does this mean that working mums have deemed their children unimportant by going out to work?
What happened to The Sisterhood, The Motherhood, the 'we're all in it together, whatever the weather' hood? It isn't necessary to pledge allegiance to one camp, is it? Is it terribly controversial that I have mum friends who don't work alongside mum friends who work full-time? Am I in some kind of limbo camp, the camp of the part-time worker - not fully committed to parenthood, sometimes 'palming my children off to others', but not being an impressively dedicated 'Career Mum' either? Does working part-time make me just a bit crap at everything?
I like to think not. I like to think that nobody is crap here. Nobody's decision is better. Or more righteous. They are just different. Different needs, different wants, different families.
I'm not sure what the point of this post was, really. It certainly wasn't to set the cat among the pigeons and kick off a debate (it's a prickly subject matter, though, so I will hide under my bed for an hour after posting). Perhaps I just wanted to remind myself that the Sisterhood of Motherhood is a real thing. I've seen it. I am lucky enough to have brought together a whole host of mums on my blog and social media pages - I have spoken to mums who work up to fifty hours a week and mums who won't work again until their children are at secondary school. Work (or lack thereof) is not the common ground bringing everyone together and is quite often completely irrelevant.
The real common ground is that we are all mums.
All just trying to do our best.
Let's remember that, ey.