Working mothers and hard hearts do not mix

“Maternity leave used to show how much you love your child; now it shows how much you don’t love your job.”

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.

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4 thoughts on “Working mothers and hard hearts do not mix

  1. I’m a mum who works at home so my views will probably differ somewhat to the views of mums that go out to work. I’m not maternal and probably could have done well in a career if I hadn’t had a child, but I did and I took responsibility for her from the moment she was born. I didn’t want someone else witnessing her first steps, first tooth, first words. I didn’t want someone else pushing her in a pram and watching strangers coo over how gorgeous she is. Perhaps I was a possessive mum, but I had every right to be. I do think, perhaps controversially, that many working mothers who have high flying careers work in a male-dominated environment and mainly do their job to prove a point. All women have a touch of feminism in them and they would be perfectly justified to want the same as the men, which is unfortunately something that women have to work much harder to achieve.

    If a woman needs to have a hard heart and a tough exterior just to make a career for herself, then it is most probably she will one day crack beneath the surface. I don’t care what anyone says, as soon as a baby is born the mother’s priorities change dramatically. And no matter how high-profiled they become, if they don’t put their children first before their career, then they shouldn’t have children in the first place.

    CJ xx

  2. heidiscrim says:

    Thanks for commenting, CJ. I work at home too, and while I have no beef with mums who choose / want / feel compelled to work, I really dislike the thought of any mum doing so reluctantly when there are a million and one resources for mums who want flexible careers these days. I agree that hardening your heart to the inevitability of having to work is probably just storing up trouble for the future, too.

  3. Angeline says:

    Harden our hearts eh? I feel that’s a lot of tripe! Money isn’t the be all and end all, happiness is! If she had been happy in returning to work and it wasn’t about money, I could have understood but having to “put up” just because of material things that she could provide for her kids, shows just how shallow some people can be. It’s about the time we spend with our kids! I hope that my daughter will want to attend university when she is older but I am going to enjoy her in the now rather than worry about if I can pay the fees. It’s a bridge that we can cross at the time.

    Rant over.

  4. heidiscrim says:

    Hey Angeline, thanks for stopping by. I agree that it’s more important – but sometimes amazingly difficult – to focus on the here and now in parenthood. Love your point about leaving other bridges to be crossed some other time. Maybe ‘having it all’ is about not trying to ‘do it all’ at once?

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