Friday, November 06, 2009

Who Wants it all? Not me!

I quite like the cut of Kirstie Allsopp’s jib. In another life I would have quite fancied having her job - and it’s not only because she gets to work alongside the rather handsome Phil Spencer who I have a bit of a crush on.
She’s sensible. She’s successful. She’s really very good at what she does - from selling houses to decorating rooms very nicely indeed. She wears stylish clothes and she’s not a size 8. In short, she is the kind of woman I think I could be friends with without feeling intimidated. We’d go for lunch somewhere fancy with china plates and a distinct lack of straws and paper napkins and she’d tell me where she buys her clothes and then she would help me transform my house into something with an ounce of style.
Of course, the fact that she might introduce me to the lovely Phil Spencer would be but a mere bonus to the equation.
And then we would sit back, all talk of ‘Location, Location, Location’ cast aside, and talk about what we women really want to talk about. How the promise that we women can have it all is a big, fat, stupid lie which is responsible for making a generation of women demented with feelings of inadequacy and depression.
Speaking to Closer magazine this week the mum of two (she has a three year old and a one year old) said that many women struggle to raise children while pursuing a career.
She added: “I resent women in the public eye who look glam, do glamorous jobs and try to pretend they have it all when they don't. You can't have it all without help.'
'It puts pressure on all mums. Even as a 'celebrity mum' myself, there is now a huge expectation that you'll have a natural birth, get your figure back immediately, take naturally to motherhood and continue a successful career. It's rubbish.'
As a woman not in the public eye I have to say it’s not just celeb mums who feel these pressures, Me - and those friends of mine with children - all feel it. There is no sport in this world more competitive than motherhood.
I doubt there is a mother in this world who has not been made to feel as if she has to justify her parenting or lifestyle choices. Stay at Home Mammies immediately get wound up if someone dares to suggest they don’t work for a living. Working mums feel their heckles rise if someone suggests they shouldn’t have had children if they weren’t going to look after them themselves.
Competition starts right from the moment of conception. Morning sickness is these days seen as a sign of weakness. When I was puking my anatomy several time a day while battling hyperemesis with my last pregnancy, I even had it suggested to me that I must have not wanted my baby and my sickness was a reaction to an unwanted pregnancy!
I’ve been told I didn’t have a natural birth because I had a shot of pethidine while in labour. Some women like to boast that they managed to get through the experience without so much as a suck on the gas and air as if it somehow makes them superior to any woman who required more help.
I even saw one eejit argue that taking pain relief in labour was akin to injecting your baby with heroin and that “if it hurt you must be doing it wrong”. No matter how “right” you do labour, I have yet to meet a woman who said it didn’t hurt.
And then we go home - no week spent resting and recuperating in the hospital any more - and we get on with life. We are expected to host visitors, make them tea, have home cooked meals on the table every night and have a house fit for the poshest relations to drop in unexpectedly.
Our children are expected to be seen and not heard - yes, even in these modern days you will get many a disapproving look if your infant lets our a roar in Tesco.
Going back to work (for those of us who do) is a further minefield - one where you have to plan your days with military precision, where you have to keep track of appointments and milestones and plans for birthday parties as well as put on a professional exterior appearance and try not to call anyone “honey” or “sweetpea” down the phone or, worse still speak in a babyish voice.
You become almost schizophrenic with exhaustion - trying to remember if today is a mammy day or a work day and all the while wondering when on earth you are going to find the time to clean the skirting boards this side of Christmas. My wains have nothing to fear from the Swine Flu they have been exposed to more deadly substances just crawling around the living room floor.
Kirstie Allsopp is lucky though - she has employed a nanny and a cleaner. I have a very accommodating aunty for childminding duties and a husband who isn’t too bad with a mop - when pushed. But most of the time I’m just trying to get through the day and thinking that I don’t want it all. What I have, right now, is more than enough for any mere mortal to contend with.


Jessie said...

Kirstie is a modern day heroine for saying that. I call myself a feminist as I am strong woman can handle it all- honest! But take last week- on a WORK call and actually honest to goodness I said instead of "bye Jimmy" said "Bye baby". Now. What is that about? After crawling out of a hole which I hid in mortified and seriously wondering if I could find myself in a sexual harrassment case from a sixty year old I realised what can you do? Baby brain...

Claire said...

Jessie, there was on memorable time when I told the husband of a city councillor - again on a work call - "Love you" at the end of a call.
Shame x a million

beedlemama said...

Well you are writing books AND publishing them, yay! You are also a working journalist and you have two young babies - as you say more than enough for a mere mortal! What I think us girls are bad at is sitting back, appreciating what we have and taking TIME OUT for ourselves amongst the madness to just 'be'. I know, I know. Impossible. And so hard when working and overloaded with guilt and skirting board cleaning laden to-do lists... You are doing an amazing job. Your daughter with have an brilliant example of a 'real' working mother. I salute you (and Kirsty for being flippin normal too)!

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