The perpetuation of so-called mummy-wars assumes that there is a distinct split between just two types of mothers: those who go out to work in paid employment and those who stay at home with their children.
Black and White. Opposite ends of the spectrum. Apparently.
And it has reared it’s head again this week, with the term du jour “motherism” – this refers to judgement of stay-at-home mothers. Another attempt to stoke up mummy-wars. I mean, let’s face it, as is pointed out in this article, what kind of mother is not subject to judgement these days?
Those who would stir up mummy-war divisiveness often take it a step further, painting a picture of the working mother as a harried ball of stress, running in heels to drop her baby at creche while checking email on her Blackberry and racing to make the 8am conference call.
The stay-at-home mother is meanwhile baking muffins with her children, ahead of an afternoon of arts and crafts, all done with a beatific smile, a clean house and never a cross word.
That’s how the representatives of the two “sides” look in the stock photos used for mummy-war articles.
Clichés yes, but the more we see these images, the more they become entrenched in our minds.
And the more we hear about mummy-wars, the more we believe in them.
But it’s not black and white, there are many shades of grey in between – in fact it’s mostly grey.
I was asked recently if I resent mothers who get to stay at home with their children.
“Of course not” I replied. “I’ve stayed at home. I’m off for a month right now as I’m between childminders, I’ve been on maternity leave three times. I know just how hard it is being at home.
“I know that although it’s fulfilling, it’s also exhausting, it can be very stressful and sometimes it’s downright boring.
So no, I don’t resent stay-at-home-mums, I have been a stay-at-home-mum, and will be again, on and off, for long and short periods, throughout the next two decades.
It’s great, it’s inspiring, it’s meaningful, it’s fulfilling, but it’s hard work.”
By definition, all mothers are at some point stay-at-home mothers.
All have at least some time at home with their children when they are born (and even the shortest maternity leave can feel long on a wet January Tuesday when you’re trying to entertain a toddler and feed a newborn).
So we all know what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mum, even if after a time we go back out to paid employment.
And similarly, many stay-at-home mothers have previously had periods of going out to work.
Many do so after a first baby, perhaps giving up work when a second or third comes along.
Or as has increasingly been the case over the last five years, when redundancy brings an unexpected (but sometimes welcome) career break.
Some mothers do stay at home after a first baby, and therefore don’t experience the daily separation from children or face the difficult choice between creche or childminder.
But many, in time, start to work part-time, or to work freelance from home, or set up their own businesses.
They may write or create or sell or organise.
Working when a baby is asleep or a child is at school.
|Or working with baby in arms…. (image credit viralmom.com)
And as for the women who go out to work: many do not work full-time, particularly if they have a number of children.
Many work from home for part of the week.
Many work shorter days in order to do the school run.
Many work term-time. Or job-share. Or week on/ week off.
Shades of grey.
Time at work. Time at home.
Days as a working-mum and days as a stay-at-home mum.
Different combinations at different stages.
Not the polarised opposites portrayed in mommy-war articles.
Which is exactly why there is no war. We’re all in this thing together.
My previous post on mommy-wars is here if you would like to read: The mammy-war myth.
And apologies to anyone who was hoping that this post was about the other more well-known shades of grey …