I am a little late in responding to this, but I still think it is important to highlight how mothers who are the primary caregivers of their children are viewed by society. And who it is that is shaping this view.
One would think that as a woman invited to speak at Fortune’s first Most Powerful Women conference, Cherie Blair, would know that by referring to all stay-at-home mamas as “Yummy Mummies” she would be contorting terms and lived realities. Most mothers who care for their children full time (upon whom Blair actually focuses her rant) aren’t the women who fit the meaning behind the term Yummy Mummy. In the UK, where Blair serves as a top lawyer, the phrase is most commonly used to refer to a young-ish woman who ‘apparently’ marries strictly for money and position and spends her marriage focused on designing her homes and acquiring new personal trainers (hats off to Canada’s YummyMummyClub who is reshaping this meaning).
During her talk, Blair painted the picture of a simpering mother, chained to a retro image of a family where women are incapable of shaping their own happiness or satisfaction in the bogged down existence of motherhood. According to Blair the drudgery of motherhood denies a woman any fulfillment or self-satisfaction. In Blair’s world, a woman decides to stay-at-home in the following thought process:
‘I look at the sacrifices that women have made and I think why do I need to bother, why can’t I just marry a rich husband and retire?’
Really? If this is what Blair thinks is pumping through the minds of women (and men) who decide to become the primary caregiver to their children than she is terribly removed from the everyday lives and realities of most of the population. She suggests that by choosing to leave our careers we are leaving ourselves open to becoming dependent on the state when our working partners drop dead in the street and we are incapable of providing for ourselves or our children. The brushes she uses to paint the lives of mothers are broad and inaccurate.
Conveniently, Blair ignores one of the huge factors in why some families have a working father and stay at home mother: wages, lack of pay equity and poor child care support. Many people decide to leave work when the calculations are tallied up and a woman would only be bringing home 100 dollars more than she was paying for the childcare services needed. If companies and government worked towards progressive ways to make child care more accessible than perhaps more women would opt to work outside the home in addition to caring for their young children.
I find it most interesting that Blair is unable to imagine the women who were very much in love with their careers but who still wanted to care for their children in a full time capacity. She is incapable of seeing successful and mother sitting beside each other on the couch. I know many women who work against this vision of a passive and dependent mother, and live a life full of successes and interests, women who parent all day and make their children a part of the rich and blossoming lives that they have created for themselves. I also know and honour many women who upon having children have reshaped their vision of themselves and their future BECAUSE of the new life that parenting has helped them carve out.
I feel a slight sadness for the four children that Ms. Blair has mothered. She says that she wanted to “raise children who could live without her”. I want to raise a child who will live with me. Grow with me. And love with me. I am certain by taking the time to focus on my child now, I am helping him craft a confidence and certainty within himself that I suggest Ms. Blair was trying to convey in her ill-phrased sentence. Part of the beauty of attachment parenting and nurturing Aodhan with all of my heart and soul is the beautiful and genuine independence I see in my son. Aodhan explores and tries new things not because he has been scared into doing it; he doesn’t head off without a second glance at me me because he has learned to do things with me never there. He is strong and capable because he knows that we love him and he trusts us to protect him and help him if he needs it.
I also see this rant of Blair’s as dismissing the tender love and attachment parenting practiced by mother’s who maintain a career outside their role as mothers. Blair offers us a black or white vision of utopia; you either focus on work or you focus on your children.
In the end it is rather shocking that a woman who once helped her husband run the government of England is incapable of understanding modern motherhood and can’t even get her colloquial sayings right. I wonder what David Cameron’s wife has to say on the subject?
What has your experience been in making the decision to stay home or return to work?