Girls Gone Wild: Cherie Blair Edition

Ah, the joys of being a woman.

 The rhymes would have us believe it's all sugar and spice and all things nice.  And yet, in the media, we love to tear strips off one another.  Whether it's Samantha Brick decrying the rise of ugliness (irony, thy name is the Daily Mail) or Cherie Blair criticising stay at home mums (yep, you read that right), it seems that every other week there's an article heaping scorn on a wide swathe of women.

Why on earth do we accept this?

No paper in its right mind would publish a story where a vastly wealthy man criticised any men who stayed home with their kids.  The cries of elitism and the folly of prescribing how another family are to go about their business would ensure any such arguments never reached the page.  It's also seen as a given, I think, that if a man criticises how another man works/ thinks / plays football, that's fair game.  But leave his family and home choices alone!

And yet, when it comes to a hugely wealthy and successful woman (who is married to a multi-millionaire) who chooses to criticise how other women raise their kids, it's front page stuff.  A few morsels of Blair's argument bear up, but what she fails to recognise is that how we parent is a choice.  And when we, as women, pass judgement on a fellow woman who is trying her utmost to succeed and live well, we reduce the sisterhood of feminism to rubble.  No longer fighting for a common cause (equality, quality of life, fair pay), it descends into a catfight.  Which is just what the media want.  The moment women start shouting and disagreeing and labelling one another in this way, the media can spin it.  The women involved become labelled themselves as 'shrill' (poisionous, insidious descriptor), and sneaky vocabulary about looks and desirability muddy the waters still further.

Here's the thing though.  I really don't care much how someone else raises their children.  Bar those who are abusive and neglectful, where quite rightly we should all (male and female) be concerned and alert, I don't think it's my job, or Cherie Blair's job, to criticise another family's set-up.  I have friends who have children they stay at home with.  I have friends whose kids are being brought up by nannies, alongside the parents.  I have friends who days after giving birth could not wait to get back to work and others who decided not to go back to work, throwing themselves into gymboree, finger-painting and the hard hard work of raising little people.  I have friends that have chosen not to have kids because they want the freedom, both financial and otherwise, of remaining a couple or a singleton.  I have friends who have delayed having children while they rock their career, and others who had babies early so they could carve out a career later, in their thirties and forties.

How dare Cherie Blair pass judgement on stay at home mums?  What on earth gave her the impression that this would be a good idea?  I agree, ambition is a good thing in a woman, but surely she recognises that each and every one of us has a right to choose the ambitions we pursue.  Why is wanting to stay at home with your children any less challenging and rewarding than working, working, working?  Don't get me wrong, I adore my job and definitely hope one day to be promoted/get a Masters/write a book, but if children come into the picture, I'll want to make sure I do my other job - being a mother - just as well.  Our work lives are getting longer and longer - if you're an amazing worker, a few years out of fifty probably won't leave that much of a mark.  And if they do, surely we should be calling into question a system of work where families 'get in the way' and look at reforming that, rather than taking pop shots at a certain group of the female population.  Also, what if you have a job you don't adore?

I get so weary of the week on week attacks.  Attack working mothers! Attack the stay at home mothers!  Attack the women who choose not have children!  Does anyone else find this as dull and unhelpful as I do?

I agree that the myth of having-it-all is just that - a myth.  However, who ever said that having it all was a good thing?  Surely the key is to choosing what you do want to have, and prioritising that?  For example, in an ideal world, Matthew and I would sit down to dinner every evening at 6, and spend the evening together reading, relaxing and watching Mad Men.  How often do we do this?  A couple of times a month, tops.  Because we're busy with work, friends, events....  As a young couple we're not expected to 'have it all' - we're expected to choose what we wish to prioritise.  Like grown ups.

According to Sheryl Sandberg (a woman I very much admire), there's no such thing as a work-life balance.  I would counter that there is, but again we have to be able to be flexible and the realise there's a flow to these things, a yin to the yang, to go all hippy about it.  There are weeks and months and sometimes years where work dominates, but the reverse is surely true?  Take exam week, a couple of weeks back.  I worked for about 94 hours, plus spending about 10 hours commuting.  Work dominated and rightly so.  Flash forward to next month, when I'm on summer break.  I probably do a maximum of thirty hours of work a week, tops.  That's the time for life and friends and reading to dominate.  Each of us, as humans, can choose what things we 'highlight' in our lives, and there's really no right or wrong.  Be a workaholic, stay at home, prioritise watching the West Wing....make a choice.  There is no 'right way'.

I'm aware there's a certain hilarity in writing a piece saying we shouldn't as women slate one another while discussing the views of other women, but I hope I've managed to be reasonable, accommodating, and anything but shrill.  Conversation (as in the Slaughter and Sandberg pieces) is a good thing.  Comdemnation, as in Blair's message for the stay at home mummies, is unhelpful and infantile, in my view.

Choose your own course, and don't let the media get you down!




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10 comments:

  1. I think of it as a choice too. Society seems very keen to condemn many choices women make though which seems odd to me. I am genuinely baffled by it.

    In terms of work life balance, I think it is about priorities. For those of us who are lucky enough to love our jobs it is one of our priorities, which is cool.

    I'm finding that by being more focussed at work I have more of a life outside of it and it rocks. Its about being completely present in the moment you are in and it kind of rocks.

    And yes, if I am lucky enough to be able to choose to have children I want to work at that hard too (and enjoy it) and not have to justify each choice I make. But I will, and that is irritating.

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    1. *nods*

      We are lucky to have jobs we enjoy so much :)

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  2. I wish people wouldn't criticize each other - as you say, our circumstances are all different. That's why I'm continually trying to win the lottery. :)

    Nice post.

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    1. Ah, the lottery win. All I want is a house on Lake Como ;)

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  3. If one parent can stay home, why not do that instead of having the kids in day care raised by strangers? I don't understand why anyone feels it's right to criticize anyone else's parenting, if they love their kids and want to do what is best for them.

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    1. Amen to that, my friend. I'm a hippy rebel anyway - I pretty much do what I fancy :)

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  4. Good post. I've been a working mum and a stay-at-home mum. Sadly, I have felt the need to justify my decisions to certain people. However, now I've been a mum for four and a half years, I'm beginning to not worry what others think and focus on what's most important - my family.

    Everyone's circumstances are different. What's right for one may not be right for another.

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    1. Thanks, Vic. I totally agree. Glad to read you've found a balance that works for you and your family.

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  5. Preach it sista!
    Mme Muir

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Thank you for your comment - I do read them all but it may take me a little while (a couple of days) to respond during busy times. I love reading what you have to say!

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