Search this blog

Monday, 1 May 2017

Stay-at-home mums vs Superwomen?

As far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted a career, and pretty much the same career; author, recording musical artist, and if the former doesn’t work out I wouldn’t mind going into journalism. There are many, many jobs I wouldn’t want to do: doctor (I’m hella squeamish), teacher (teenagers infuriate me), chef (can’t cook well), athlete (I’m lazy), stripper (would make me uncomfortable), engineer (dunno what that even is), waste management (don’t want to join the mafia) etc.
But there is another life path that I don’t object to doing: being a mother. Since feminism granted women the right to the same education and work rights as men, women have succeeded tremendously in the workplace. So now we can have kids and work, right?

Girls statistically outperform boys in school and are more likely to go to university than boys. But no one can disagree with the fact that more choice is equating to more pressure. In the ‘old days’ it was easy; women stayed at home with the children, whilst men worked. No one is saying (apart from a few traditionalists) that we should go back to those days, least of all me. But there was and still is a convenience in it. It is nothing to do with sexism and everything to do with practicality. If you want to have a family, someone has to take care of the children while they’re young, and someone has to put bread on the table. Historically, women have taken care of the children because we’re the ones who give birth to them, and men take care of the family. This is apparent in all animals.

Because women now have careers, which is wonderful, it also comes with a lot of pressure. Being expected to be successful at work, with some women even being the chief breadwinner, but also being expected to do the house work; take care of the children, and spend time with the husband as well. I saw my own mother carry these stresses. Men, on the other hand, are congratulated for taking time out of work to spend time with their children and are less likely to do house work. Cooking and cleaning, especially the latter, are still seen as ‘women’s work’. Sure, many middle class families can afford to employ a maid to take care of the house, but most women have that maternal instinct and want to spend time with their children.

The wonderful book I don’t know how she does it by Allison Pearson highlights this problem in a sad and funny way. It tells the fictional story of Kate Reddy, a financial advisor at a top company in London, who also has two young children. The humour of Kate’s narrative but the sadness of her situation comes into play. ‘Having it all’ is seen as do-able. Yes, women can have careers. Yes, women can get married and have children. Yes, women can look great through it all. But at what price?  A rise in stress levels and mental health problems? Middle aged professional women now being 70% more stressed than men? This is unrealistic. No one should be superman or superwoman. Good God, we’re only human. And what about women who make more money than their male partners? Does that make their men feel like less of men? Create pressure for women of being the sole breadwinner in the house?

 And what is so wrong with wanting to be a stay-at-home mum? Shouldn’t feminism encourage women to be and do whatever they want? Staying home and raising children shouldn’t make anyone feel guilty, as if they’re not ‘doing enough’ with their life. I used to think that if you weren’t striving for some major career you weren’t aiming high enough, but actually what’s so wrong with it? The primary purpose of humanity is to pro-create. Goes the same for any animal. Stay-at-home mums should be given more credit; raising kids sure as hell ain’t easy. And what about stay-at-home dads? It doesn’t have to be the mum who stays home with the kids. Sure, it is mostly women because women give birth, but nowadays gender roles have shifted giving men the opportunity to stay home too. Of course if one parent’s income isn’t enough it makes sense for both parents to work, which in itself is also a problem. One can only be a stay-at-home mum or dad if their partner makes enough to support the whole family.

But what are modern career women who want to have it all supposed to do? It is currently a major problem in the UK. Personally I think men should pitch in as well. I even used to think that as a kid; why doesn’t my dad help with the house work? Why does mum have to do it all? If both parents are working, then both can help with the children and both can help with the house. It all has to be
Helen Gurley Brown first coined the term
 'having it all' meaning a career and husband,
but not children. 
divided. Because to have true equality means everyone sharing the labour. And women deserve to have careers like men and shouldn’t have to decide between children and a career. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking time off depending on what you do, but for many who want to go back into work once the kids are in school, things can become difficult. Compromise is the key word. The woman working part-time whilst her children are young, the father agreeing to spend more time with the children and doing the shopping or cooking sometimes. And of course not all women even want to have children, which makes things a whole lot easier on the career front.


  1. I think that instead of forcing the man to take on more for a woman's choice to not stick to her own gender role is not the right answer and selfish of the woman to ask for. The reason we have gender roles is because it works out best for children to have 1 parent working and 1 parent at home with them. Just because women have convinced themselves that the workplace is a great ideal for them doesn't mean that men should be forced to follow suit and convince themselves that staying at home and taking care of children and the house is a great ideal for them.

    I think the better compromise, as has been suggested by many other women before me, is that women can still have it all but not at the same time: Career first and family later or family first and career later (depending on what kind of career) tends to work best for working women with families.

    1. Or have some men stay at home whilst the woman works - nowadays there are 'house husbands' that look after the kids.

    2. Perhaps you misunderstood but my comment was already in response to that. Having men stay at home whilst the woman works IS forcing a man to pay for a woman's selfish choice. If she wants to step out of her role, that is her prerogative but why should he have to follow suit just because it's what she wants?

      The problem with that is:

      1. Most straight men do not want to be in the home. They have spent hundreds of thousands of years evolving as the hunter-gatherers. Unlike women, they have embraced their gender role and it has become a part of them that most of them are not trying to rebel against. As I said before, just because women have the means and/or desire to change their gender roles doesn't automatically mean that men want to switch their roles too.

      If we're not anti-male sexists but rather egalitarians/humanists, then shouldn't the man's opinion on what role he wants to play be just as equal as the woman's opinion on what role she wants to play? If the woman doesn't want to play her gender role, that is fine but he shouldn't be forced to switch with her. We don't like men to force their women into playing a role they don't want to play, so it should be the same concept in reverse.

      2. Most straight women don't respect men who do this as women are more likely to divorce a stay-at-home husband than a bread-winner husband. When men take less hours at work, it increases their rate of divorce rather than decreasing it.

    3. I guess nowadays gender roles have become more flexible and less fixed then they used to be. Some people would say that saying a woman's role is to 'stay with the kids' is too backward as we've evolved past being hunter gatherers and housewives. But yeah it's true that due to the way things have been it naturally makes more sense for men to go out and work whilst women stay with the children. Personally I would have no problem being married to a guy who earned less than me or wanted to stay with the children, but it depends on how liberal/traditional you are.

    4. The technological revolution is really what allowed women to transition out of their gender roles. Technology made housework go from taking all day to just a few hours or even minutes. It freed up a lot of women's time in the home and technology in the workplace also afforded them more job opportunities because they were more in line with feminine skills; They relied much less on masculine strength etc.

      Even look at driving: More women started driving when cars became automatic as most women cannot or do not want to drive shift sticks. That wasn't men oppressing women and trying to not let them drive, technology just hadn't caught up to women yet - then it boomed specifically for them.

      I'd like to ask you, as a modern woman: What do you find to be liberating about working - especially if you are not your own boss or have a uniquely-skilled job like a surgeon etc.? It's a person telling you what to do, bossing you around, paying for your lifestyle and holding you to certain expectations. A [healthy] relationship is much less stressful and demanding of a woman. In a traditional [healthy] relationship that follows gender roles, the woman still has some expectations (cooking, cleaning, rearing kids) and her lifestyle is being paid for, but by her husband who actually loves her, rather than some boss who doesn't love her and might not even respect her. So why is it seen as being more empowering to be bossed around all day at a job rather than having more freedom in the day to do the things you want, as long you cook dinner and clean up a bit (which only takes a couple hours these days) while you’re at it?

      [Aside from nursing and teaching, the following jobs in America that are heavily dominated by women (70%+) are: Secretaries and administrative assistants, Cashiers, Waitresses, Maids and housekeeping cleaners, Child-care workers, Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks, Receptionists and Information clerks, etc.) So why is it seen as "more liberating" to cook and clean and organize for other people rather than your own family?]

      Why is it “backwards” for a woman to get to choose what she wants to do with her time and have to answer to no one except her loved ones?

      If a woman who wants to work is able to find a man who wants to stay home and they both are willing and respectful of each other’s decisions, I say good for them. I just don’t think it’s right for a woman to try and force a man to trade gender roles with her just because she wants to, if he doesn’t. That’s not really fair, you know?

    5. Just realised I never responded to this. I think working allows financial independence, and if you're young and unmarried then this is just a necessity. Or if you're born to working class parents and want to earn money for yourself to feel independent and take the pressure of parents then it can be a positive thing. (I had several jobs in my teens). Or if you are married but your husband doesn't make enough for the whole family to be supported, then it makes sense for the woman to work too from an economic standpoint.

      My main view in terms of careers is that people should pursue what they enjoy and want to do in life. All my life I've been told that music and writing are 'unrealistic' and probably not going to get me anywhere, up until the last couple years really (people take you more seriously once you pass 18, even if you've had the same ambitions your whole life).
      For me, what I want to do in life is not something I see as work, it just is my life. I constantly write - as you've probably gathered I post on my blog almost everyday, I'm constantly writing, I write stories and poems, I write songs, I play music, I read a lot and watch movies and listen to music and go to gigs when I can, etc. None of this stuff is 'work' to me. So I think work, in general, isn't actually a liberating thing if you're only doing it 'to live' and as you said 'answering to a boss, being expected to be held to certain expectations.' Like certain jobs probably wouldn't allow you to have tattoos or brightly dyed hair. I think the reason working has been seen as 'progressive' is because feminism wants women to be 'the same' as men as opposed to treated with the same respect. You've probably seen articles about feminism making women 'become men.' As you showed me in another post, women have been able to pursue things prior to the suffragettes, and it is true that the technological revolution was lucky to come in around the same time as 2nd wave feminism.

      Really I think what is 'empowering' is what makes you happy. If staying at home and looking after a man and doing the housework makes you happy then that is fine. Some women wouldn't feel fulfilled doing that. I know I wouldn't; I hope to have a family someday but I will never feel fulfilled without writing and music. I think 'Office Space' 'Fight Club' and 'American Beauty' are good examples working for the sake of working without actually living or feeling passion for your life. I don't believe in 'work', I believe in the pursuit of happiness and inner peace, and that if you're going to aim for a career than it should be something that brings you joy. In my experience girls in school were taught to aim for careers and boys were practically disregarded, like 'don't focus on boys, aim for uni; you don't want to end up a stay at home mum.' I understand this is to try and make girls become financially independent and to think on their own two feet, but then I felt a lot of bias because 'certain careers' (STEM subjects, law) are better than 'others' (media, music, drama). There was even this whole programme called 'Moodys' at my secondary school when I was 15/16 that was about encouraging young women to pursue finance. I just think that if women want to do finance they will; why should we be 'pushed' into it? It made me feel really alienated as an aspiring creative artist.

    6. *Moodys is this financial company with offices in London and New York, and it had this partnership with my secondary school and started this mentoring programme to encourage young women to pursue finance. Great if you want to; not so great if you don't. And as I mentioned, if a girl wants to pursue finance/STEM in the first place she will anyway.

    7. Just a little tip: If things don’t work out for you as a musician, maybe you should look into becoming a promoter or something like that, this way you get to stay in the music business and do stuff you like that doesn’t really feel like “work”. :)

      Marriage and motherhood isn’t for everyone but you shouldn’t belittle them as “not fulfilling” careers just because they’re not fulfilling to YOU personally.

      You’ve mentioned before about how not everyone is lucky enough to find their soul mate etc. Well not everyone is lucky enough to get to find a career that brings them joy either. In fact, more people find romantic relationships that make them happy than find jobs/careers that make them happy. Most of us have to work to live and as the saying goes, “beggars can’t be choosers”, so many people get stuck with jobs that don’t really feel “fulfilling”. It’s very idealistic to hope that everyone could find a job that brings them joy – or that everyone will find their soul mate – but unfortunately, it’s not very realistic.

      My experiences in school were similar to yours: Focus on careers; Not on love. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of a woman named Susan Patton but she was a Princeton alumnus (Ivy League university) and now a mother, that told female students in Princeton that IF they want to become mothers/wives someday, they shouldn’t disregard men at this age. She told them, hey, you’re at one of the top universities in the country and most of your male peers are going to become great catches some day; So don’t ignore them or treat them like crap because they’ll be likely to remember that later in life if you try to get their time/attention later. She also reminded them that nature put a biological clock on giving birth, that they don’t have until forever to try and have a kid so they shouldn’t put it off too much or too long or they could miss out on that dream. The Feminists had a full-blown temper tantrum and fit over it. They tried to accuse her of telling women to “abandon their careers to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen”; Even though she clearly never said that. They tried very hard to demean her as a “misogynist”, “cavewoman”, etc. They attacked her viciously simply because she reminded women that there was an alternative choice to “careerist”. She spoke about how, when she asked the Princeton girls to raise their hands if they wanted to be mothers at some point, they actually all turned and looked at each other for approval, before raising their hands. She talked about how Feminists have been so anti-mother and anti-housewife for so long, that girls who really do want this lifestyle are often pressured into staying silent about it and pursuing careers instead – forced to give up their real dreams for the sake of “not regressing the women’s movement” (because Feminism has never been about choice, it’s always been about turning women into “men”, so to speak). She was trying to help these women so they don’t turn out like so many others, who chose career over motherhood – but wanted motherhood – and then were left with such choices as in vitro fertilization or adoption (overall single motherhood) and just plain giving up on that dream. It was the Feminists who attacked her, just for trying to help women. Again, showing that Feminism has never been about “freedom of choice” etc.

    8. You make a good point about some careers being more “respected” or having more positive connotations put on them. If it was really just about women having jobs in general, it wouldn’t matter which careers they chose. You may have noticed that the careers they put in more positive lights are the ones that are more traditionally male-dominated as opposed to female-dominated. Again, going back to Feminism never being about choice but conformity and change instead. When women were pushed into the workplace, most of them chose “traditionally female” jobs, which caused the Feminist backlash to pressure girls into the more “traditionally male” jobs instead. As one famous Feminist icon said, “Women shouldn’t be given the choice because they’ll choose wrong.” She was of course talking about that they’d choose “wife/mother” over “careerist” but that quote can pretty much be applied to all Feminist doctrine. Even if women choose “careerist”, to the Feminists, they choose the “wrong” career and therefore have to be manipulated or pressured into the choices that Feminism wants women to pick, not the choices each individual woman wants to pick.

      As you said, “if a girl wants to pursue finance/STEM in the first place she will anyway”. Same can be said for careers in general: “if a girl wants to pursue the workplace (as opposed to being a wife/mother) in the first place, she will go for it anyway”. (And as you’ve seen, the women who wanted to work even in 1890, did get to work.) As I’ve said many times, we’ve never needed Feminism and all it does is hurt women; not help them.

    9. Sounds like those feminists attacking that Princeton alumnus were being dumb bitches. And yeah I've heard that phrase about 'choosing wrong.' It's like trying to turn women into men. And saying we have a clock on our fertility is just common sense because we do.
      I know I keep saying this too but this is why I think the novel 'I don't know how she does it' is so important, because it literally addresses these problems of trying to balance career and motherhood and the working woman 'becoming a man.' Also addresses some other stuff we've talked about, like the protagonist kept her own name and makes more money than her partner and yes, her partner does feel slightly 'emasculated.' It's a great book and you really sympathise with the protagonist and want to laugh and cry at the same time.

    10. Come to think of it, I think I have heard of that book before as well. I'll try and check it out sometime.


I've published three YA fiction books and two poetry volumes. To check em out, copy and paste this link into your browser: