Being the mum I should be…Posted: 03/02/2014
Lily Allen is at it again. Spouting in an interview about how boring it is to be a stay at home mum and that it doesn’t allow any outlet for her creativity.
About a year ago, I was spitting feathers after reading some similar comments by her in Glamour magazine. Something about never being the kind of person who could sit at home all day playing with plastic toys and watching Peppa Pig (as if that is all a stay at home mum does with her day!). At the time, the comment made me want to throw my phone across the room.
The thing is, you see, I am a stay at home mum. A happy stay at home mum who made a conscious decision to quit her job. An intelligent stay at home mum who has to admit it really rankles when it is implied that being out of the workplace makes her less fulfilled, less interesting, less of a thinking/being person. That she is somehow leading a blander life than her working mum counterparts.
Having pondered the issue many times over the last couple of years, however, I have come to realise a few things:
- Our society/media seems to continually try to polarise women and the choices we make. The stay at home mum vs working mum debate is just one example. You are either a boring, no life stay at home mum or the fulfilled, do it all working mum. Or, on the flipside, the nurturing, caring, completely dedicated to her offspring’s needs every minute of the day stay at home mum vs the burnt out, selfish, guilt-infested wreck of a working mum. These are, of course, ridiculous one-dimensional representations and an insult to all mums, whatever they choose (or have) to do.
- While the media will often pit women against each other, we are pretty good at doing it all by ourselves. I notice this more than ever now I am a parent. Every choice we make as a mum on how we will raise our children is fair game – the type of birth you have, whether you breastfeed, how you wean, whether you sleep train, how you potty train, how you handle your child’s behaviour, and, yes, whether you go back to work or stay at home. Sadly, it is mostly women doing the judging. Is this is a defensive reaction (she’s doing it differently to me; this must imply a criticism of my parenting techniques), a way of justifying our own choices (as I think nearly all mums question themselves at least some of the time!) or simply how we are programmed by our society to behave with each other? Or perhaps a combination of all three.
- As a stay at home mum, I can admit that I am probably a wee bit defensive about perceived slights on what I do. How many conversations have I had with a working mum who says something like: “I do love being back at work, it makes me feel like I am using my brain again.” While I am sitting there, smiling politely but bristling inside, thinking: “Er, excuse me, does that mean that I don’t use my brain?!” Maybe some of these people did intend a barb at my expense but I’m willing to believe that most didn’t even realise I would take their comments that way. The Lily Allen interviews are another example: she’s just talking about why she wanted to go back to work. The airy dismissal of everything I do all day may be there or, equally, I could be honing in on those sentences as they are the ones that resonate personally.
- Either way, it ACTUALLY DOESN’T MATTER. Yes, there are without a doubt many high profile or otherwise women who will put the stay at home mum down for whatever reason. Just as there are smug stay at home mothers who make anyone who dares return to work and enjoy it feel hugely selfish and uncaring of their children’s needs. It would be great if this didn’t happen, if we could all stop and think for a second before judging fellow mums. Wouldn’t that make for a much nicer world? Unfortunately it does happen, but here is a little secret that I am just beginning to learn: we can ignore it. We can look to our own lives and the decisions we make and realise that, as long as we are happy with what we are doing, it doesn’t actually matter what anybody else says about it.
Of course, the last point is easier said than done… I would say I am a work in progress as the Lily Allen comments clearly still hit a nerve, yet within a few minutes I was able to laugh it off.
Whatever choices you make as a mum, there will always be a little voice inside your head doubting or casting guilt. My mission for 2014 is to feel confident in the decisions I make and the reasons for making them. If I am not, why not? Should I be making a different choice? Because if I am truly happy with what I am doing (and it works for us as a family) then I am being the mum I should be and that is the only important thing I need to focus on.
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