In a recent interview with The Daily Telegraph, Judith Warner, talking about her new book, Perfect Madness, implied that women today are "sacrificing all on the altar of parenthood"- that our relationships are suffering because our children are the be all and end all of our lives, and all of our energy is invested in creating perfect lives for them to the degree that we have no time for ourselves, our partners or our sex lives…
"American Mothers have lost their sexuality and individuality, scarificing all on the altar of parenthood. These women are in a worse place than ever before, she argues; even the 1950’s housewife understood the fundamentals of keeping a relationship going. "It meant keeping yourself sexually attractive. it meant knowing how to create a mood conducive to romance. It meant letting a man feel, when he came home in the evening, as though he wasn’t in for a second shift as "mummy"."
Maybe i’m reading this wrong: but what I am hearing is- You are not doing enough. You are not all you could be. Your instincts are wrong.
"Weirdest of all for Warner was that the domestic "control freaks" she interviewed were her own generation: women who had grown up with an unprecedented level of freedom, education and equality. Yet on becoming Mothers, these women were caught up in "mindless and self-belittling pursuits". As she says "Never before in America- not even in the much maligned 1950’s – has Motherhood been concieved in this totalising, self-annihalating, utterly ridiculous way"
But this isn’t my experience of the very women Warner is talking about. Perhaps I am not intelligent enough to analyse this to the degree that Warner does, but I know what I see: women at my Mums and Tot’s groups who after the first harrowing year of Motherhood have become strong, beautiful and confident in their new and life-changing roles. Women everywhere embracing the new domesticity and learning that far from chaining you to the kitchen sink, taking control free’s you to pursue more creative avenues. My own HouseKeepers, one by one, creating businesses from their kitchen tables. Businesses that sustain them financially and more important, emotionally, while they bring up their children.
This is a media backlash. It is other women taking our lives at face value. Seeing our obsession with Cath Kidstons frilly aprons and truly imagining that we have bought into the dream of an era that never existed. We are not given our proper due as intelligent, capable women because we gave that right up when we professed to care about our tea-towels. And it worries me because it makes me question myself constantly: to no longer rely upon my instinctive urge to make Finn’s life as wonderful as I am capable of making it. At any cost. It worries me that somewhere along the line I have been duped into this lovely life and I am too stupid to recognise it.It scares me because it makes me feel somewhat dim: as if by making the choice to put my babba first I have hopped over the fence into idiocy. The pressure on us increases by the day. And it isn’t helped by a government intent on undermining women who stay at home with their kids. Because make no mistake, as Judith Warner states, this is a political issue. In this country
New Labour makes it dramatically clear that they are keen to subsidise
women who choose to work, but do very little for women in the home.
Life is hard for us because they make it so. SAHM’s aren’t recognised
as valuable and all the policies make that very, very clear. And what does
that say to the women who do work? To the media, all too quick to sex
up the woman in the business suit and annihalate the drudge in the
Says Warner: "The revived ideal of a woman’s life work comforted those uncomfortable with their decision (by choice or by default) to stay home with their children or to downgrade their workplace ambitions"
True. My workplace ambitions have all but been abandoned in favour of something that is satisfying me on so many levels and yes I am peddling a life revolving around domesticity and Motherhood: but it is my choice, and I am fully aware that going back into the workplace is a viable option, but life as it is suits us as a family. We are a team, both fully aware of the roles we play, and if I’m honest I consider myself to be the winner…
I suspect I have said this many times to my lovely Gayla, but from
the moment Finley was born it seemed to me that our family unit
consisted of Finley and I + Mark. Not because Mark loves Finley any
less than I do . Or because he is a bad Father. He’s wonderful. But
because something told me that Finley was still a part of me in a way
he could never be a part of Mark: that I would always, always be able
to pre-empt his needs in a way that men often are either incapable, or
more truthfully don’t offer the mind space for. Is that a terrible thing to say?
I enjoy being a Mummy. I like the creative freedom it has given me. The rewards come thick and fast from a child who’s life isn’t filled to the brim with activities. Yes I know the kind of SAHM’s who fill every minute of every day with an activity for their toddler. Who turn motherhood into a harried, demented job. Who worry if there isn’t some kind of group to go to on a Wednesday morning. Of course I do: we all know women like that, but no-one shouts louder than me in favour of not filling our childrens days. I, like Judith Warner, hate seeing exhausted kids dragged of to activity after activity, never being allowed to have their imaginations wander free. But I hate it because it isn’t good for them, not because I believe that they are stealing our precious time with their tumble tots and ballet classes.
Here’s the thing: for whatever reason, if we are at home with our children, we owe it to them to make their lives as fulfilling as possible. Children aren’t accessories we should squeeze into our lives like one more sofa. Sacrifices are a given we should have acknowledged before our babba’s were conceived. So if we have to make sacrifices of our time, energy or indeed commitment to our marriages then so be it. Our children matter more.
Yes I am exhausted. Absolutely, bloody exhausted by a bright, happy, relentless two year old. But then I was exhausted when I ran a business, when I worked in a hairdressers, when I climbed ladders painting pictures on other peoples walls. Anything we choose to do well emotionally and physically drains us. No there isn’t as much energy for sex as their used to be. And sometimes I forget to hug Mark in favour of a snuggle with my babba. But the truth is that if a relationship is precarious enough to be damaged by this, then it need’s work. And if a man is offended by the sight of a woman who hasn’t got round to pedicuring her toes, then he isn’t worth having. Strong relationships ride the storm of early parenthood.
Our children matter more. Don’t they?