I have a friend; one of the mothers at school, who I have closely observed in recent months. She got a new job in her chosen profession, an absolute gift of a role that she would have only dreamed of when she was qualifying. The catch was that it was full-time and there was travel involved. She had made an agreement with her new company that she would have ‘every other Friday off’ in order to give her some time; a pseudo part-time arrangement. So she took the job and the school mothers stood by and watched as her two children started going to early morning club and after school club and were pretty much at school all the time. A couple of school events passed; a mother’s tea party where she did not attend and instead a teacher ‘stood in’ as Mummy to her five year old son.
|via Dust Jacket Attic|
I pass no judgement here; I am a working mother and I think working is great, if you can make it work for you. Over the time that passed, it was abundantly clear that the ‘Fridays off’ were not materialising for my friend. Yet when I asked her she said she loved the job and that it was what she had always been working towards. And I thought great – isn’t that, after all, why us women got educated and trained? Exactly so that there was this choice to work and have it all? I sense here I am stepping around some fairly contentious feminist issues, so I will try to tread carefully.
Anyway, I asked her again recently how it was going. She said she was exhausted, that having a cleaner and an ironing lady actually made little difference and what she really needed was some sort of house-keeper/home-maker. Basically someone who was another version of her. Who could help with homework and clear the dishes and do the laundry. So that she didn’t have to do a full and demanding day at work and then return home with her children to see the breakfast bowls, complete with congealed milk still on the kitchen table.
You see therein lies the rub. For all that we might want to work and be wildly effective in our working lives, the sacrifice persists. There is no having it all. She is worn out. Her kids are in care a lot of the day. She and they are missing out somewhere along the way, surely (I am sure too that they gain things as well, but still). Yet she is also having the chance to do a great job, is realising her potential professionally.
It’s all about choice and as many more lucid women have said before me, there is no ideal; no easy option. Full time motherhood is hard, has it’s challenges in the exactly the same way as working motherhood. If there were just a way to clone oneself so that there was a work version and a home version, simultaneously performing, maybe that would be the answer? Thought provoking stuff indeed…