Working Mother or Housewife; the Debate Rumbles On

I switched on BBC Radio 5 Live this morning to hear a discussion about a very familiar story and lifestyle issue in modern society. It is the debate about whether women should be working mothers or housewives. We all know the story. Some women are adamant that they can have it all: successful career, comfortable family, and all the trappings of a middle class home and life. Other women prefer to stay at home with their children and take time away from the professional workplace for a few years or longer. I am somewhere in the middle.

I feel very resentful about the plight of working women in the UK. To begin with, I do not like the titles ‘working mother’ or ‘housewife’ and even worse ‘stay at home mother.’ Why must we always succumb to labels, and why must they define us as people? For example, in my life at the moment I am considered unemployed by the authorities. This is because I do not earn enough money in my writing career to survive as a self-employed business owner. I am currently working on a business plan to diversify simply to bring in some more cash and put myself in a more official position.

Catherine the Empath

So, when people ask what I do, what do I tell them? When my daughter was a newborn baby and I was on maternity leave from my part time sales assistant job, I would say just that. I rarely mentioned my writing, because at the time it felt like a hobby. As I developed my novels and manuscripts, and got into the hard slog of self promotion, I realized that this is my career. The fact that I earn no liveable wage from it at the moment is not an issue to me (well it is, but not for this discussion). But it means something to the wider world, and the collective ‘authorities’ who run our country.

How do we progress from this? I would love to have a job with a regular decent wage, and money I can call my own, without having to rely on my husband for everything. At the same time, I am not prepared to give up these precious early years with my daughter. She truly does fulfill me in every way, and I would not put her in a nursery so that I could go and work for some soulless corporation and spend my days missing her and feeling guilty. I also appreciate that I am very lucky to be able to spend time at home with her now, when so many women have to work for financial reasons.

British PNR by Catherine Green

This post isn’t about the money, although of course that is always central to these sorts of discussions. What I am concerned about now is the fact that we still seem to adhere to outdated beliefs of family life. Even now, in the supposedly enlightened 21st century, women struggle to make themselves heard. Those that can be heard are more often than not labelled as hardcore feminists, man-haters, or even not in touch with their own kind. The ideal of the stereotypical 1950s ‘Stepford Wife’ seems to be creeping back into our collective subconscious.

I would like to see a progressive society, where women are encouraged to pursue their careers without fear of losing out on raising their children. I understand that the economy is tough, and smaller employers might struggle to offer flexible working hours to fit around school and nursery. But I am convinced that our workplaces can be more accommodating if they would only loosen up a little, and more importantly, show some trust and belief in their employees, both male and female.

Summer Parent Challenge #TheGoodStuff

Perhaps I seek a utopia of modern living. For my part I have decided that is not suitable for me to seek employment with an organization. It would be too restricting. My only option now is to develop my business as a self-employed writer, and somehow fit it in around raising my family. Again, the issue of childcare falls to the woman. My husband is the wage-earner, and always will be due to the nature of his career. Therefore, he goes out to work, he does a lot of overtime, and he leaves me in total charge of our daughter. It is not ideal. I want to change that. I am just not sure how at the moment.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Can I hear from other ‘working mothers’ or ‘housewives?’ Do you like or accept the labels? Would you like things to change? Have you seen changes as your children have grown up? And what about the working fathers out there? Please share, because I am interested to hear everyone’s opinions.

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18 Responses to Working Mother or Housewife; the Debate Rumbles On

  1. oscarsparrow says:

    This is a very important issue that our society does not address. At the root of it is the question of how we want the development of children to be handled. There is no leadership from above and folk make ad hoc choices and arrangements, often based purely on money. I’m an old
    bloke and a bit conservative I think. I do believe that parents are best at bringing up their own kids. I often pose the question – what are kids for if they are nothing but a care issue where you are living in a scramble to get them looked after? My solution would be to subsidise parents to care for their children rather than opt for official state care systems. My school yard impression is that it is often career driven women who scorn other women who have opted for more time with their kids. The fact is that people often have to give their children to strangers to be cared for when they would not dream of lending them their car. The driver of the problem is economic necessity. We have become a low wage society and both parents need to work. I sympathise with your situation with regard to earnings as a writer. Few scribes make anything approaching a living wage. if anyone can make it – you can.

  2. Thank you Oscar, and a very insightful opinion. I too agree that a parental subsidy would be more appropriate. After all, I would guess that a large proportion of people on Jobseekers Allowance (mainly women) are only claiming because they have young children and no facility to provide reasonable childcare in order for them to go out and work. I most definitely would not like to put my daughter in full-time nursery simply so I can go out and work in a job where I am under stress and undervalued, which has been my experience in recent years. And yes, I intend to make the writing career pay!

  3. xaralouise says:

    Hey Catherine!
    I’m in the SAME boat! The authorities don’t class me as anything other than self employed, but I haven’t yet earned enough to pay taxes, so which “hole” do I fall into?

    My answer is: I don’t care what label people want to put on me. That’s their view of me and it’s not the whole me. I have 2 children who are young, primary age for the eldest, nursery school age for the other and the 3rd is “in the oven” and due out in about 6 weeks!

    I wasn’t put on this Earth to comply to societies rules. I was put on this Earth to be a mother, mum-trepreneur, Tarot Reader, wife, witch and be myself, not to comply with whatever rules society has. I rely on the husband for the financial stuff, but he relies on me for the home stuff, keeping the kids fed, out to school on time, clean clothes… We make a good team and I like it much better like this than I did when I was “working”.

    That said, can we both win the lottery please?? *lol* 🙂

    Happy New Year and I hope you are able to achieve what you want this coming year. I have a tingly feeling in my spidy-sense that it’s going to be a good one!

    • Hi Louise, thanks for the comment! Phew, it is so good to hear from someone with the same opinion. I keep telling myself that it’s fine, that I’m on the right track, and that I’m in the right place with my career. Of course this is all true, but I still struggle with those ‘societal demons’ that keep pecking at me… Anyway, here’s to a prosperous and exciting 2013 for us all.

  4. scskillman says:

    I read your post with great interest. This is an issue which deeply concerns me too. Recently I was reading about feminism and how it had failed, because women did indeed prove they could do everything men can do – plus everything else they had traditonally done, as well. Nevertheless despite the fact that women can rarely shake off their traditional roles (i.e. as nurturers and child-rearers etc), there are many hugely successful creative women around, whom I greatly admire. Regardless of your financial situation, I believe you should call yourself “a writer”; if people must define you – something we all have a compulsion to do – let them define you by your own greatest passion and creative goal.

    • Thank you Sheila. I call myself both a writer and an author, for which I am very proud. It does bother me that society must always place labels on people, and yet I find myself doing it all the time. Hey-ho, we persevere! I have also decided that I would like to resurrect feminism in a positive and empowering way for our young women making their way in the world. Are you with me?

      • scskillman says:

        Certainly, if by “feminism” we mean the right to equal opportunities in every sphere. I believe that the key to resolving problems of political instability, injustice and conflict in various communities around the world is the empowerment of women to make real choices.

      • Precisely! I truly feel that 2013 is going to be pivotal in this movement, and in a very positve way.

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  13. It’s my belief work’s work whether it’s paid or not. Although I only make a small amount of money from writing, I see myself as a self-employed poet and author. Rather than being a stay at home house wife, it’s my parents rather than a partner who put me up, which is probably seen as far more shameful in this day’s society, but I’m not ashamed of that. I’m currently in a position of appreciating their kindness knowing that one day I will make a living from my vocation.

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