Monday, November 25, 2013

The working woman

Nowadays it seems the only women who don't work are the wives of the middle class and the rich. I write yet another post that will win me no friends and alienate some.

The thing is kiddies, I just don't get what is behind having children and putting them in childcare for five days a week while mummy and daddy work. I have no problem if the kids are home with dad or their second mummy or other daddy, whatever.

Of course women have a right to work. Of course they can have a career, but does raising children and having them in full time care during working hours really equate to being a good parent? I see much of it in the better areas of Melbourne and ok, the children probably end up at a good private school too and turn into good adult citizens. But still I am troubled by the matter.

I will never know, but I think spending a lot of time with your child as they grow must be a wonderful thing. They will be watching you and observing you and picking up things for their future life. How can this happen when the child is in care for forty hours plus a week? They will probably pick up information from stressed, tired and overachieving parents.

It is somewhat of a chicken and egg argument, but which came first? The need for mothers to work for the family to have decent life or women working and there is now a higher family income and so housing prices go up? Or is that woman want things to be?

I am very pleased that Sister was in a position that she did not have to work for a couple of years after Little Jo was born and now with Bone Doctor having a weekday off and Sister only working part time.  Little Jo now goes to crèche for one morning and kindergarten for a whole day each week. Next year she will start primary school.  Money was tight for them but I think it was a good decision.

Looking back, R and I should be rich with our individual and adequate incomes compared to couples who have children with only one person working, but we are not. We have lived a bit too high on the hog at times and not been too responsible about money but that is because we didn't have to be. We had no responsibilities but ourselves. It is a bit tenuous, but we think we may be able to maintain our lifestyle when we are older, but there will be things that we will go without.

It is said that when many older men are asked the question about regrets in the life, they will say they wished they had spent more time with their children when they were young. I fear it is a reply that we will hear from women in the not too distant future. Why have children if you are not with them in their very formative first four years?

Being an essentially stay at home mum or dad and raising children must be one of the most wonderful things in the world and never let anyone tell you that you haven't contributed to society in the most special way to society.

(This post was originally written three years ago. I don't like to offend people but I really don't get why you have children and don't want to bring them up)


  1. I tried it both ways when my son was born the beer fairy got very sick and ended up in hospital for a month so he couldn't work for a while then only part time but I had a wonderful babysitter who lived next door and to this day is a very good friend of mine and closer to my children than their aunties who live too far away and with my daughter I stayed home for 6 years.
    I enjoyed the time but see no real difference in the two of them.

  2. My best solution was working in a Health and Community Centre when the children were little. The nursery was provided for both patients and staff, so the children came to work with me and were well looked after during the day. I fed them lunch and put them to sleep for their afternoon snooze.

    If other working mums were able to find similar, brilliant arrangements, our problems would be solved. But I have not heard too much about work based child-care.

  3. Your theory is absolutely right. Children should be brought up by one parent or the other. However, as usual all theories have complications. I was lucky in that I stayed home with my two girls for seven years until they went to school and then I only did part time work for 3 years. After that it was full time work but being a school teacher meant that my hours and holidays were similar to theirs. It was a super arrangement. We struggled on one wage for 7 years but it was worth it and it was manageable. Unfortunately my daughter is not so lucky. They can't live on his income comfortably so she has to go to work to pay the rent and now the nanny. At least hubby is home a lot of the time to care for the kids and when he isn't the nanny is there. My daughter hates it. All she wants is to be home with the kids. So how does this situation fit the theory?

  4. Anonymous11:19 am

    Oh Andrew, surely there are two things: first, women (as well as men) need to work to pay for housing and the level of living we expect (including for the child), and secondly, women (and men) mostly cannot afford the risk of interrupting their working life (partly because of the first, in the longer term) that being away from work brings.

    Women have always worked; the thing is that in industrial society more work takes place out of the home or further away from it. And working class women (loose term used here ahistorically) worked.

    Incidentally, you've left out of your class of women who do not work the unemployed or welfare-recipient, though of course now we are forcing the latter back to work too and even if the rules are more lenient towards them in their children's infancy, this will hardly help them as they are to be nudged with tough love back to the workforce once their kids get a bit older.

    And historically the upper middle class and upper class didn't look after their kids directly very much at all. Maybe you are overestimating the need for children to pick up things from their parents: children's minds are sponges after all.

    The other question which seems to me to be missing from your analysis or perhaps begged by it is whether in many cases there is really such a positive decision to have children at all. In the normal run of events, absent abstemtion from sex or (heterosexual) relationships, a woman probably needs to take more positive decisions not to have a child than to have one.

  5. Merle has mentioned the availability of a reliable babysitter - which is a good point. Times change, families disperse, and government rules rule in the "industry" that is now childcare.

    Hels and Diane are both right to acknowledge fortunate career choices and decent childcare facilities.

    Marcellous also raises some good points about history and working class women having to work, and the consequences of being out of the workforce. It is increasingly easy to become "obsolete", and certificates seem to be required for the most mundane jobs.

    Like you Andrew, I'm childless but suspect parents are missing out as much as children. Of course, there is always the darker side to a story - some children would benefit enormously from any time spent away from crap parents [they do exist].
    Before 'equal opp' the role of women in the 20th C was to fill workforce gaps during the periods men were used as cannon fodder - returning to home duties as surviving males came home and looked for work.
    Your explanation of the economics of mandatory tipping in restaurants might have a parallel here [ahem :) ] - women's entree to the work force has not led to an overall increase in disposable income for many families - income has simply been redistributed.
    You will have to try harder to alienate me - no elephant stamp this time.

  6. A lot of women work these days because the cost of things such as electricity, school fees, clothing, mortgages, have all risen to the point where a single income just doesn't cover it enough. Not if you want to eat too. Another scenario is the single wage being enough because you all eat baked beans several times a week, the kids don't get new clothes very often, things being mended, patched and passed down to younger siblings, new toys are for Christmas and Birthdays, with only one per child, no one goes anywhere for holidays, ever.
    My kids may have been better off being at home with me but when we came back to Adelaide, I had to go to work to help out with the mortgage and utilities. I waited until the youngest was in school, then got a job. Things still weren't easy and in spit of working since 1986 I haven't been able to save money. Being unqualified, I was only ever able to get low paying jobs.

  7. Thanks for your well thought out comments everyone. If my blog has nothing much, it does have very intelligent commenters. I suppose in some ways I was theorising and I possibly had a certain demographic in my mind. Practicalities aside, my main point stands. Why have children if you don't want to nurture them, educate them, teach them life skills, read to them, and see them grow and develop in front of you.

    1. Sometimes the children come first, when things are going well and life is rosy. I never planned on working, but things change and mothers everywhere are working because their financial circumstances dictate they must, when they would prefer to be at home raising their children and running the home successfully.

  8. I was a lucky one it happened when I fell pregnant I had a job that I really enjoyed and I was determined having a baby wasn't going to change anything but the moment they put Dave in my arms I knew there wasn't going to be anyone but moi looking after him :) I don't regret not going back to work and enjoyed every minute with them.

  9. I think it is a matter of choice. The poor child staying alone at home with a frustrated mother because she had studied and now has to keep a kid and a household ? Why the woman ? Fortunately this has changed over the last years. Now men stay home and with the kids if the woman earns more. Mostly they like it. I have worked all my life and so did all my friends. Even with 5 children. Or they go to daycare or to preschool or to school and have fun with their little friends. My son had a quality time mother, because when I was home he was the center of my occupations. Cleaning, washing, and dealing with screaming children is not to the taste of all women. In Belgium a "stay at home" mom is considered as a lazy woman depending on a man. I really don't know any couple in my generation or in the generation of my son, where women don't work and especially those who have a profession. Of course a cleaning woman prefers to stay at home and clean her own house then other houses only because she needs the money. It depends also on available day cares, preschools etc. We are lucky in Belgium, there is no problem there are enough compared to other European countries. My grandson is in day care too and that is not a question of money it's just because my DIL loves her work and I can understand her. They both were in daycare too and apparently haven't suffered at all from this !

  10. Hey Andrew :) As you know, my four children were brought up by myself and hubby taking it in turns to be the stay at home parent. Hubby did a fabulous job caring for four children under the age of 6yrs. Then, as the children began to go to school, and our plans for our future changed, we had an Au Pair (in fact, three Au Pairs in all) live in to assist us. Not having family that would/could assist us when our shifts begin and end at horrendous hours, the Au Pair worked out fabulous. Now, the kids are old enough to walk to and from school together yet without an adult. I may be asleep three out of seven days when they arrive home from school, but I awaken not long after so they can fill me in on their day. I do know of people who use day care for their toddlers and never see them from 7am until 7pm, sometimes five days per week. It is sad, but I do see that they have no family to help them, and they do not trust the idea of having a live in Au Pair, so full time day care it is .
    As a side note, each of my children did attend kindergarten/creche two days per week between ages 3 and 5. They loved it there, and it was great in developing their socialisation skills.
    I hope you and R are well dear, Cazzie xxoo

  11. I am (was) an only child and both my parents worked full time, in part to establish themselves and in significant part to pay the shocking private school fees for my education.

    I returned from school each day to an empty home. It was a solitary life and some might argue it is the reason I am gay but that is nonsense.

    I do, however, attribute that childhood in part to my shyness with people and an inability to this day to engage in idle chit chat with people just for the sake of filling in silences.

    I know some of my friends find it unsettling that I can remain in total silence in their company and that I am quite content with that silence whereas they have an irresistible need to fill the silence with talk.

  12. when our girls were babies there was almost no childminding places in the town we were in. I did waitress of an evening but Don minded - then he begged me not to work, so he could sometimes have a beer after work - our needs were simple - different times I guess