So according to Yahoo! Lifestyle Cherie Blair thinks mums who stay at home and raise their children are unambitious and that the experience will impact negatively on the kids, resulting in them being dependent (http://uk.lifestyle.yahoo.com/cherie-blair-criticises-slams-full-time-stay-at-home-mums.html). The successful QC, mum of four and wife of former British PM Tony Blair revealed her concerns at Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Event. The article I refer to goes on to suggest that some young women aim to marry into money and retire rather than build a career of their own. Personally, I think any job I have had has been far less demanding than the two beautiful children I brought into the world! I would imagine that for the majority of mums starting a family is not a decision made without a lot of thought and planning. When looking at career options I doubt the majority of women think: ok, let’s see rich husband and motherhood or a career? Reading the concerns that Cherie Blair put forward made me think.
I’m a mum. I have been a working mum, a stay at home mum and a student mum. I think my children are happy, independent, rounded individuals. I had my first child in November of 2001, in the aftermath of September 11th. My main concern for my beautiful daughter was; that there would be a world that she could grow up in! I questioned my right to bring a beautiful innocent life into this greed and hate filled world we live in. I made a promise to myself that my child would know love and tolerance. I worked before her birth and I returned to work after her birth. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. She was cared for by a very kind, loving family and very soon she became a part of it. My little bundle of joy didn’t need me. Once she was loved, fed and changed she was happy. I, on the other hand, really needed her.
Within twenty one month’s her brother arrived and the time came for me to stay at home. Not because I lacked ambition or because I was too lazy to work. Financially it made sense for me to be at home with my children. Although it had been tough dropping of two babies before heading into work for 7.30, staying at home was not the walk in the park I had imagined it to be. Living in the middle of nowhere with two kids under two and a half was quite a challenge. Deciding to stay at home with my children meant that we had to sell one of our cars. If I wanted to go somewhere it meant planning in advance and being up and ready to leave my husband to work for nine. With two babies. I’m not complaining. I’m just wondering is Mrs Blair aware of the realities of some mums’ daily lives.
Having been used to a work routine, (I have worked since I was a teen) I instantly began organising my day and had a timetable and routine up and running in no time. I very quickly became aware that I was slowly losing my mind. In a bid to hold on to the little that was left I enrolled in a part time Psychology class in a local college. It got me out of the house and meeting people. I really enjoyed the social aspect and the learning that went with, it was a real challenge. When it finished I found that there was a gap in my life that the kids, cleaning the house and spending time with my lovely other half just didn’t fill.
I found some Psychology modules I could take in All Hallows College and every Thursday for two years I set out from Leitrim at 6.30am to make it for my 9.00am start. Again the learning was addictive and before the two years where up I had decided that I was going to apply to NUIM to study as a full time student. This year I completed my Hdip in Adult and Community Education and I’m looking forward to doing a Master in education in September. Lack ambition? I never thought I did.
I know I’m extremely lucky. While I studied my children where cared for in their own home by their Granddad and their Nanas. My husband supported me a 110%. The encouragement that I received from him and my sister kept me going many times when I wanted to throw the towel in. My lovely children have seen that hard work, determination and asking for help when needed can get you where you want to go.
My journey was not an easy one. There have been many struggles along the way. When I was a stay at home mum my home was cleaned from top to bottom every day. I ironed everything, I mean everything! My children where bathed before bedtime every evening and never wore the same pair of pj’s two nights running. When I started my under graduate study I struggled with college work and keeping up with my impossible household routine. I know now that I measured my value as a mother and wife by how clean and tidy my home was. It was my job, it was my career. It took time before I could admit the world wouldn’t stop if the floors weren’t washed every day.
I know lots of other mums who put themselves under the same pressure. The pressure is doubled when you are working outside the home as well. The majority of working mums do not come home to a spotless house and dinner on the table. Their second shift begins when they put the key in the front door. This capitalist neo-liberal world we live in encourages us into believing that we can have it all. The nice house, two cars, the kids, holidays on sun drenched beaches and the great social life. We are constantly sold a celebrity lifestyle and lead to believe that if we don’t have it we haven’t worked hard enough for it.
What do we have to give up to achieve the success that is sought in today’s world? Reading the article cited above it would seem that we have to give up our freedom to choose. One thing that strikes me about the article that cites Mrs Blair’s concerns is that it claims Cherie suggests “women should strive for both – the fabled ‘having it all’” and having a career. Amazing how there are never articles written about men having it all. The onus seems to lie with the woman when it comes to child rearing and housekeeping.
Yes, all human beings should be self sufficient. We should all be given the freedom to choose what’s right for us personally and for our families. As society becomes more and more capitalist and neo-liberal the idea that we should be self sufficient will grow. When all citizens are self sufficient the welfare state can shut down. The thing is, not all citizens have the same opportunities in life. Mrs. Blair is speaking from a position of privilege. When I had to choose between work and staying home with my children I was paying my childminder four euro more a week than I earned. Sometimes we need to walk a mile in another’s shoes before we make broad sweeping statements.