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This might be your mother's feminism

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At each other's throats [Apr. 17th, 2008|11:26 pm]
This might be your mother's feminism


I really hate the mothers-against-mothers stuff. I have particular aspects of it I particularly hate, chief among them the idea that mothers who have other jobs / do not have other jobs are not proper mothers / not proper workers. I use the phrases "part-time mother" and "doesn't work" when I'm talking about this.

And today I hurt a mother who wasn't familiar with my heavily sarcastic use of the phrases. She knows me well enough to be able to work out that I don't actually think mothers who have other jobs are bad mothers, or part-time mothers, but the issue is so nasty that the phrase made her wince.

How can mothers express their own opinions to each other without it being an automatic attack? So much of the language is so loaded. I quite see that sarcasm doesn't help, but I get so ANGRY.


[User Picture]From: hartleyhare
2008-04-18 09:10 am (UTC)
I hate it too. It was one of the things I was least prepared for when we adopted Small Hare. IME the thing that makes it so difficult to express opinions is that so many aspects of parenting touch on insecurities and private hurts – meaning that things that aren’t meant as an attack at all might risk sounding like one, especially if you’re feeling fragile.

For me, the issue of having another job is a particularly difficult one, because I found my time as a SAHM so hard. Part of it was the sheer physical shock of going from no children to an instant two-year old – part of it was the fact that a lot of the support we’d been promised from friends and family melted away once people realised just how demanding Small Hare was in those first few months (he’s a lot easier now). But a big part of it was getting used to the whole culture of motherhood, and to the feeling that whatever I did, there would always be someone who thought I was doing it wrong. I beat myself up a lot, back then, with the imagined judgements of other mothers, and it was a thoroughly miserable time – I was lonely and exhausted and desperately needed the headspace and stimulus of my other job.
I went back to full-time teaching after ten months, and it was the best thing I could have done – Small Hare is at nursery three days a week, which he loves, and at home the other two days with my husband, who’s taking a career break. We are all much happier than we were this time last year, but discussions about working outside the home still trigger off all kinds of feelings. I think the most difficult thing is that I had waited for so long to be a mother, and gone through so much, yet being at home full-time with my son was something that I just couldn’t do. No matter how much I rationalise it, there is still this lurking feeling that I failed - and that feeling of failure is still something I find it hard to talk about.

Sorry, long comment. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s an issue where it’s so difficult to know what lies behind other people’s choices, and how they feel about those choices. There are analogies wiht other issues too, but this is my particular sore spot (I need a thicker skin).
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[User Picture]From: ailbhe
2008-04-18 09:43 am (UTC)
I do believe very strongly that people who want to stay home and look after their kids 24/7 should be able to, and that people who want to work and have some of the childcare done by professionals with facilities or equipment or training (or just more patience!) should be able to do that. And "able" covers economics as well as social acceptability.

I get the general impression that mothers in paid employment are seen as more "normal" in the UK and Ireland than in the US and Canada, in that they come up against less overt flak for not staying at home, and that stay at home mothers come up against more flak for not working (depriving their children of money and its products, or of formal preschool and its facilities, etc, not to mention sponging off their partners like leeches).
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