Did you hear that? It’s the sound of a can of worms being opened. I’m not entirely sure who Jenny Dillon is (Jenny, do you have kids? A job?) but she wrote a very fiesty opinion piece in News Ltd papers yesterday claiming that working mothers have it easy.
I read this article while I was luxuriating in a bubble bath sipping a cold glass of sauvignon blanc after a tough day shopping for expensive shoes and having beauty treatments. To make matters worse, my in-house chef was making a terrible racket using the food processer to make macrobiotic pesto to go with the home-made gnochi. Damn selfish he is. Honestly, I don’t know how I do it.
….. while they may be understandably proud of the tag, claiming to be a “working mother” in fact trivialises their roles in the workforce. It suggests they will pull out of money-making meetings to deal with the ironing. Or put the marketing strategy on hold because the chops need defrosting.
Despite this, it’s now almost an imperative that, when a woman fills out her resume, the box next to “working mother” gets a tick.
But the reality is that for the past 40 years many of these working women have been perpetuating a hoax, pretending that running a household is still as hard as it was 40 years ago when Ms Greer and Co railed against the sheer drudgery of the tasks involved.Advertisement
Instead they were standing over the agitator washing machine and down on their knees polishing the linoleum. They were baking biscuits from scratch, digging in the vegie garden and, since these were the days before the supermarket in every suburb and a deep freeze in every home, there was the daily shop.
They were the real working mothers.
Since then there’s been a gradual erosion of these hardships. In fact, everything of importance that has been invented these past four decades has been to make things easier for people who run households. Even NASA got in on the act, helping develop things we now take for granted such as cooking foil.
With fewer children and more labour-saving devices than you can poke a stick at, women have never had it so good.
I was quite gobsmacked when I read this article. I don’t think I complain a lot (oh wait! I do!) but I do find it incredibly hard to balance it all. I sent Jenny Dillon’s piece to Kerri Sackville to see what she thought. To summarise (and remove the f-bombs): Kerri was not in agreement with Jenny Dillon. She made some excellent points which I wanted to share with you.
Yes housekeeping is far less labour intensive now than it was in the days before vacuum cleaners, washing machines etc. However there are pressures on women today that simply did not exist in those days.
Dealing with the emotional needs of children. There is a HUGE focus on that these days. This simply was not an issue in the 40s, 50s, even 60s. Probably not till the late 70s or 80s did this become an issue, along with the onset of the effective parenting movement and the identification of childhood issues such as ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism etc. 30 years ago kids with these issues would have just been considered ‘difficult’ or ‘slow’.
Maximising the potential of our kids – shlepping them to after school activities so they can keep up with all the other kids going to after school activities, supervising homework, taking them on improving excursions, engaging in educational play…. parents in the 50s and 60s didn’t do any of that, and in the 70s and 80s we each did maybe one after-school activity, not five.
As the article said, back then kids roamed free all day. This does not happen today. It can’t happen. It’s not the same world. So mothers don’t get the hours and hours alone in the house each weekend and after school to get things done. The kids are around all the time. Very different.
Back in the ‘old’ days there was no focus at all on healthy eating. We ate vegemite sandwiches, fish fingers, salami, whatever was easy for the mother. Now there is a huge focus on nutrition and healthy eating which makes for far more work (and, again, presssure) for the mum.
Plus having children is hugely emotionally draining and saps our energy. Everyone needs down time and working mothers do not get this and THIS, I believe, is the key.
In my dreams, I am hoping that this post is not going to turn into a fight between mothers who work outside the home and mothers who are at-home full-time. NOBODY is denegrating one to make the other look better. EVERYONE agrees that raising children is hard. Working is hard. Doing both is hard. Not to complain necessarily about it (oh wait! I’m complaining!) but it needs to be said and acknowledged. This is NOT a post about how much tougher working mothers have it than full-time mothers.
What interested me was Jenny Dillon’s claim that technology (everything from X-box to online grocery shopping) has made parenting so much easier. Has it? Because hell, it doesn’t feel easy most days. Kerri’s points resonate far more strongly with me. Whether you work or not, I don’t think being a parent is vastly more cushy in 2010 than it was in 1960 or 1980.
There are many many things I am incredibly grateful for (24hr kids channels, portable DVD players, the Angelina Ballerina iphone app that frequently saves my bacon when I just need my daughter to be quiet for 2 minutes while we’re out and I need to do/say something. But there DO also seem to be so many more pressures. So many more expectations. Did women in the 60s have to bounce back after having their babies, all while preparing organic meals for their families and cleaning their houses in environmentally friendly ways?
Do you think parenting is easier now than it was for your parents and grandparents? What piece of technology saves you the most time and can you share any other ways you make it easier for yourself? Because I’d like to know……
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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