So says Jo Craven, a mother of two and the former features editor of Vogue. Writing thoughtfully in the Daily Mail’s You magazine this weekend, Jo touched on the eternal conundrum that is balancing motherhood with earning a living, and proposed her solution: “Something has to give, and right now I think working mothers are going to have to be hard-hearted, realistic and try to stay in their jobs, no matter how generous maternity leave or tempting part-time work may be… There is only one answer: someone else is going to have to push the pram, because women need to be at their desks… .”
Jo, who gave up her staff job to go freelance and spend more time with her children, adds that if she had her time again she wouldn’t sacrifice her career for her kids: “The choices and the security a regular income offers in uncertain times will pay for university education if it’s required, or even provide for old age and maybe a holiday or two in between.”
I see the logic in the argument but I’m not convinced. Had I done as Jo proposes and clung to my glittering career instead of giving it up seven years ago to bring up my babies, I’m pretty sure I still wouldn’t be amassing sufficient fortunes that, at this rate, will be required to put my sons through University. And as for storing up a fat pension or splashing out on holidays, I didn’t manage that during the years when I was childless and working full-time in a highly-paid PR job, so how would I manage it with two more mouths to feed and four more feet to shod? What’s more, many of the women I know who’ve held on to their careers since becoming mothers seem to earn little more than enough to cover their childcare costs.
Can the solution to wanting a family and needing to earn a crust really be that we ‘harden our hearts’ and simply set our shoulders to the wheel whilst trying not to care that someone else is caring for our kids? I don’t think so. There are endless creative possibilities for women who want to work and be mothers – and the idea that we must hand our kids to someone else and unquestioningly accept our place in the office is as uninspiring to me as the old adage that a woman’s place is in the home.
Thankfully history is full of women who, when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, rejected the status quo and fought for radical alternatives. I’d rather follow that example than harden my heart – the one thing which, to my mind, a mother should never do. If we must harden our hearts let’s do so in response to antiquated outlooks that only serve to keep women repressed. After all, it matters little whether our repressors chain us to the workplace or the kitchen sink – the outcome is the same.
I don’t know about you, but this Feisty Mama doesn’t like the sound of a world in which working mums are largely typified by shackles and hearts of stone.