Sunday, 3 January 2016

What Happened to Sisterhood?

I have read some pretty catty (and downright ridiculous) comments this week regarding the choices parents make about working. Or not working. Actually, not the choices parents make - god no, how 21st century would that be! - but the choices mums make. I'm not talking about comments from the media either. I'm talking about comments from mums slating other mums. Full-time working mums labelled 'uncaring' and 'selfish', mums who are not working labelled 'benefit scroungers,' and a whole host of 'My Choice Is Superior To Your Choice' comments in between. 
 
This has got to stop.
 
It is hard enough to know whether you are doing 'the right thing' (and to not feel guilty about it) at the best of times, and, when it comes to working, it seems you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.

Why oh why are we damning one another?
 
We should be proud of our own choices, of course we should, but shouting about the superiority of one's choice is often done at the expense of people who have chosen differently (I'm using 'choice' with caution here as I know there are a whole host of factors at play - it is not always a case of simply choosing whether or not to work). Sometimes, I don't think we consider what we are really saying when we self-justify our own circumstances. Perhaps we fear being judged (and found lacking) - I'm pretty sure I have defensively blurted out bullcrap about work being the righteous option because deep down I've felt insecure alongside mums who are parenting full-time. (In truth, I don't believe either is a better option - how many hours you work, if any, doesn't determine your Parent Brilliance Ranking).
 
Below are just a handful of things I have heard and read, from both working mums and mums who do not work, all of which carry judgment for the alternative.
 
From mums who work: 
 
"By going out to work, I'm teaching my child the value of working hard."
What are you saying, exactly, about mums who don't go out to work? That they are bringing their kids up to have no work ethic? What absolute cockwaffle!

"Well, I'm sure we'd all love to stay at home!"
What happens if that isn't the case? [Even if money was no object, I for one would still choose to work. Is 'I work because I want to' not justification enough? Should I now be feeling even worse? Oh dear. Awkward.] It's also pretty condescending to suggest being at home is the easier option.
 
From mums who do not work:
 
"Why have kids at all if you were just going to palm them off onto somebody else?"
Ah yes, because I'm sure palming the little buggers off is the sole aim of working-motherhood. What about financial pressures, the desire to work, both? What about children who benefit from time spent in a childcare setting? Most children go to nursery or a child-minder at some point - is it only neglectful if you are at work when they are 'palmed off?'
 
"My children are more important to me than having a career - I'm making the most of their early years."
We all have to weigh up what's important to us, that much is true. But does this mean that working mums have deemed their children unimportant by going out to work?

What happened to The Sisterhood, The Motherhood, the 'we're all in it together, whatever the weather' hood? It isn't necessary to pledge allegiance to one camp, is it? Is it terribly controversial that I have mum friends who don't work alongside mum friends who work full-time? Am I in some kind of limbo camp, the camp of the part-time worker - not fully committed to parenthood, sometimes 'palming my children off to others', but not being an impressively dedicated 'Career Mum' either? Does working part-time make me just a bit crap at everything?
 
I like to think not. I like to think that nobody is crap here. Nobody's decision is better. Or more righteous. They are just different. Different needs, different wants, different families.
 
I'm not sure what the point of this post was, really. It certainly wasn't to set the cat among the pigeons and kick off a debate (it's a prickly subject matter, though, so I will hide under my bed for an hour after posting). Perhaps I just wanted to remind myself that the Sisterhood of Motherhood is a real thing. I've seen it. I am lucky enough to have brought together a whole host of mums on my blog and social media pages - I have spoken to mums who work up to fifty hours a week and mums who won't work again until their children are at secondary school. Work (or lack thereof) is not the common ground bringing everyone together and is quite often completely irrelevant. 

The real common ground is that we are all mums. 
All just trying to do our best.
Let's remember that, ey.

The Unmumsy Mum
Couldn't find anybody to palm him off onto that day ;-)


73 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this I read your post earlier this week and some of the comments and it made my blood boil we are all in different circumstance and unfortunately every one is so keen to jump down someone else's throat over their choices whatever happened to building each other up rather than posting scathing comments and my choice is better than yours posts, let's all start supporting each other this motherhood lack is fucking hard enough without being told you're crap by every other mother you don't know!

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  2. Hear, hear. I am fortunate that the option of part-time work is available to me, and it is something I like and enjoy doing, and most important, the money is required *for the children* and their little trifles, such as, oh... food, clothes, that stuff. Unnecessary stuff that ''we never had in my day''. Choice often, sadly, has little to do with whether parents (not just mums) work full time / part time / not at all / almost constantly. Wouldn't it be wonderful if it did? There are those who technically could be fine with working less... but it would massively impact their career a decade from now and then what? No pension? Bet the grown kids wouldn't love having to financially underwrite dear old mum and dad, would they? Either way, do what you think is best and don't give snide comments a second thought!

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  3. I have 3 children, I worked full time with the first 2 and When the 3rd little cherub arrived I did "choose" to stay home and play mum. I was lucky that my husband supported this choice. All 3 have grown up the same, with the same morals, guidance and love from me as their mum, maybe the youngest received more attention, but in balance he probably received more of my stress and frustration too! We are not just women, or mums, we are individuals with the right to choose pur path :-)

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  4. The 'we'd all love to stay at home' is often a defence. I've found the one thing that's out of bounds as a m is saying you like your job!! You have to 'blame' the mortgage or something. Why? Never heard a dad being asked "if you sold the car and your wide worked extra shifts, could you stay at home (head tilt)?"

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    1. Totally agree with this! I LIKE going to work. Sure I need to as well but even if we didn't need the money I would still work. It keeps me sane.

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    2. Jacob's Mummy4 January 2016 at 21:01

      Exactly! Me too :-)

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    3. Me too, work keeps me sane. Each to their own!

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  5. Well said! 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

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  6. Couldnt agree more. Look at the teacher who has 2 young kids but comes to school to educate my children everyday. Look at the stay at home mum up the road who is a pivotal part of our community because she has that bit of extra time to spare. Look at the part-time worker like me, whose children get the benefit of all that extra time with grannies while mum works. I've seen mums guilt-tripped into staying home, and guilt-tripped into going back to work. I've judged other people's choices - but only because I havent been in a good place myself. We're all making compromises in some way - no-one has it perfectly perfect. So, yeah give advice and give the benefit of your experience to other mums wondering what's best but remember its what's best for their family set up that matters.

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  7. Doesn't matter what we do/say, there's always someone who's going to judge. As a single parent (working part time) I was TOLD I HAD to be in full time employment by the time my child was 12. This resulted in him having his own door key at 12, a very young age. Luckily he was a very sensible child. Did I feel guilty, of course, do I feel bad now, NO, because now, at 18, he has a full time college course, two part time jobs and a list of volunteer projects as long as your arm. His CV reads like a novel, he has a volunteer of the year award and a brilliant work ethic. To all the mums who said I was wrong...look at us now!!

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  8. Happy New Year!! Being a Mum we all do tough work everyday, simple. We can't walk in anyone else's Mummy shoes than our own... I read this this morning in a similar vein. Back to school tomorrow aaaarrrggghh, I'll be remembering 'good for her/not for me/go mummies!!!! (I don't normally post so no accounts hence anonymous)

    http://cupofjo.com/2015/03/motherhood-mantra/

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    1. I love your comment 'we can't walk in anyone else's Mummy shoes than our own'. That sums up so much.

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  9. I work shifts so Palm my daughter off for overnight stays with her grandparents and feel endless amounts of guilt about it. As a single parent, without working I wouldn't be able to take her on holiday or buy us both nice things. She understands this and actually enjoys her stays with her grandparents. Still feel like a terrible mum though... But who doesn't!!

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  10. Amen! I've been saying the same thing for ages! We should be building each other up, not tearing each other down! We're all winging it and just doing our best. Whether we work or not is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that we are true to ourselves and do what makes us and our children happy!
    Sian, Mum of 2 gorgeous boys (4 year old and 16 weeks) and Childminder. I couldn't face going back into the City as a PA but wholeheartedly support my friends who go back to work. Lord knows they are hard enough on themselves without anyone else 'judging' them! They are all amazing women doing it for all different reasons.

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  11. Couldn't agree more!! I'm a stay at home mum and I have days where I envy people who get to/have to go to work but then I have days where I remember how lucky I am. I don't feel I have to justify my reasons to anyone, it is by no means an easier option. Some days it's bloody hard work being at home... And I've worked in retail at Christmas lol.

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  12. Great article, well done. I suspect a lot of judgment hurling and self-righteous protestations are designed to deflect people's own anxieties about their own parenting. We're all blindly going about being mums. Believing it would be instinctive and fascinating whereas in reality it's dull, monotonous, frustrating and icky with glimpses of such blinding love that we forget the other stuff. We convince ourselves that because we were clever enough to work out how to do it (being a mum) without resorting to putting vodka on our cornflakes everyday and scooping our brains out with a cornflake cake encrusted wooden spoon that any alternative method of motherhood is wrong. I recall hearing that the only test of how successful your parenting was is the toxicity of adult you produce at the end of it. The least socially toxic, the more successful you were. Whatever method takes you there shouldn't be subject of debate or ridicule. Let's just share eachother's cock ups, revelations, silly stories and short cuts to help each other refrain from resorting to brain scooping or alcohol based milk substitutes.
    Love your blog. It's the business. It does exactly what we all need

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    1. Brilliant Rebecca.😂😂

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  13. Great article, well done. I suspect a lot of judgment hurling and self-righteous protestations are designed to deflect people's own anxieties about their own parenting. We're all blindly going about being mums. Believing it would be instinctive and fascinating whereas in reality it's dull, monotonous, frustrating and icky with glimpses of such blinding love that we forget the other stuff. We convince ourselves that because we were clever enough to work out how to do it (being a mum) without resorting to putting vodka on our cornflakes everyday and scooping our brains out with a cornflake cake encrusted wooden spoon that any alternative method of motherhood is wrong. I recall hearing that the only test of how successful your parenting was is the toxicity of adult you produce at the end of it. The least socially toxic, the more successful you were. Whatever method takes you there shouldn't be subject of debate or ridicule. Let's just share eachother's cock ups, revelations, silly stories and short cuts to help each other refrain from resorting to brain scooping or alcohol based milk substitutes.
    Love your blog. It's the business. It does exactly what we all need. X

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  14. Couldn't agree more!! I'm a stay at home mum and I have days where I envy people who get to/have to go to work but then I have days where I remember how crazy/lucky I am. I don't feel I have to justify my reasons to anyone, it is by no means an easier option. Neither 'choice' is. Some days it's bloody hard work being at home... And I've worked in retail at Christmas!!

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  15. This post is perfect timing for me, I return to work ...part time... as of next week after my maternity leave. It's hard enough having to leave your child without having other mums judging you for doing so. But God forbid...I'm actually looking forward to it, kind of. Adult conversation, doing something that isn't baby related, and the possibility of drinking a full cup of tea without it going cold/having to bang it in the microwave. Women in general need to stop being so critical of each other and the choices other people make, and just live and let live!!!

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  16. What I struggle with, is why it's anyone else's business.
    It's your life and your family, in whatever form.
    You do what suits YOU and your family.
    Working full time, part - time or not at all are all perfectly acceptable options, according to your circumstances.
    It's not a p!ssing contest. We're all doing the best we can.

    Keep up it ladies (and gents)

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  17. Hooray!!! Thank god someone who speaks sense and doesn't make me feel guilty for loving my job and choosing to work full time! Thank you xx

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  18. I don't really understand why working mums have to qualify their comments with "of course, I feel guilty" either. As well as working full time I also have several hobbies that take me out of the home in the evening. I do this for my own sanity (I'm lucky to have a supportive husband); my kids get a rounded happy mum as a result. I don't feel guilty about it either as I would be a wretched individual otherwise!

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  19. Fling that cat among the pigeons !
    Very well said. We should be the best parents we can and support each other . If you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all! X

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  20. My sentiments exactly. I guess it's something as women that we do to ourselves even before children; wanting to have it all, then bitching about our lot, and worse, comparing ourselves to others. As mums we all share a commonality in that we have produced amazing life, let's congratulate each other on that - it's a big enough miracle as it is.

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  21. Great post! Everyone has different circumstances and views...just do whatever works for you and your family. It shouldn't bother anyone else as its not their bloody business!

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  22. I'm a single mum of two and work full-time. I love my job and wouldn't change it. My oldest child is at school and my toddler at my parents. Everyone is happy and I can afford to pay my mortgage and afford a holiday and some treats etc. I agree that us mums should be kinder to each other and less self righteous and judgemental

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  23. So are you feeling empowered yet? Come on ladies, you must stop fighting one another and remember that the real enemy is MEN!

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    1. Since when are men the enemy? I have a loving and very supportive man who is a great dad. My own father is one in a million. My male friends are diamonds who love and respect their partners and kids. Man-hating is an unwanted and unneeded generalisation that's just as bad as mum-bashing!

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    2. This comment is just as bad as mum-bashing! I have an amazing man at my side who is a fantastic father. My dad is one in a million and raised me to feel valued and loved and all my male friends are diamonds who respect and support their partners and love their kids. Sure, there are some bad apples, but a sweeping generalisation comment like this is unnecessary and unwanted. I personally love the original post as I'm all for sisterhood, but it's not a matter of one or the other. You can love and support your fellow sisters and mums and ALSO love and support our men. They have a rough ride of it too and are also doing their best at parenting, not just mums.

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  24. Thanks for remembering that for some of us working or not after having children, is not a choice. I wanted to go back and couldn't because of my child's health needs; it's tough my real friends try to understand but they don't really and tendto focus on how to 'fix' the situation ("what about this or that"...) and my 'mummy' friend (singular) is a stay at home by choice and any conversation about getting back to work is just fraught with a lack of understanding for one another's view point (that's right I don't understand her opinion on this either, there's no judgement there I simply cannot relate, it doesn't affect our ability to be friends though).
    Anyway my point was that it gets so frustrating being left out of the conversation when it comes to this issue, people assume there was an option.

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  25. Well said! We make our decisions based on what is best for us and our families at the time. We should support each other, not judge

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  26. As a stay at home father who's wife works 40+ hours a week with two small kids (both under 4) I have come up against a few prejudices especially when my wife worked across in America ( the rest of us went along for the ride ). Everyone has to do whats best for their own family, something that is different for everyone. We all aim for the same thing, doing the best for our children, and really at the end of the day what else really matters.

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  27. I worked full time with eldest, stayed at home full time with the youngest for the first few years and now work part time so I can say I have been there and done it all. No situation made me feel any less or more happy, less or more fulfilled , less or more stressed or guilt ridden, it just was what it was at that point in my life. I got criticism at each point so you can't win. The choices we make concerning our kids are always going to be judged, like you pointed out a lot comes from others' fears and insecurities about their own choices/situations. Make the most of your situation whether it's through your own choice or not, the common factor here is that the kids will be up and off before you know it so don't waste your time and energy worrying about what others think of you. You're all doing a great job.

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  28. I have no choice but to work and I read once about someone intimating that of you can't afford not to work, you shouldn't have kids... seriously??! Wtf?? Judgy mudgy mummies get lost!! We all do the best we can to balance what we want and what we need. All mums rock!!

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  29. This post made me feel better, thank you. I had no idea how much being a mum would be an emotional battle. I expected new emotions surrounding the life change and the new baby but what had never occurred to me that other mums, friends and family would also be firing at me! Your post has reminded me to ignore it all and carry on with what I'm doing.... The best I can! Thank you!

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  30. I have no parents, in laws who are worse than useless and a child with epilepsy and learning difficulties (plus 3 other younger children). I'd love to work (I think!) but what I'd really like is the option but as I have no support and a child that is sent home from school at the drop of a hat I don't think I'm very employable. I do lots of volunteer work but still feel inferior to all the mummy bloggers who seem to manage it all (albeit with full time nannies and supportive families). Maybe people should just keep their opinions to themselves and realise that not everyone makes a "choice" one way or the other.

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  31. I've been in the fortunate position that I can stay home with my son, but I never thought I would before getting pregnant. By the time I left on maternity leave, I realised my job was unfulfilling, going nowhere and doing my hours as planned wouldn't even cover childcare costs.
    I have loved every minute of starting at home with him (even when I'm at my wits end and could cry) but I'm constantly beset with doubts as I hear about the awesome things my working mum friend's kids are doing at the childminders.
    We don't need to start on other mum's choices when we're already so good at questioning our own!

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  32. Exactly. I don't care what people think anymore but when my little man was a baby and I had to go back work. Personally for money to pay the bills but also to have some adult conversation other than my husband. Foe me it works but also hard. I have found many have judged me and avoid someone due to their negative comments. Used to send my anxiety through the roof thinking was I parenting right. Now he's 4 and at school I don't care and feel proud of my son. Do what u want for your kids and don't care what anyone else thinks. Long as you love them more than life itself what else matters. (Currently ending our pj day before back to school tuesday. Eaten alot of chocolate today, #dontcare #becauseitschristmas)

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  33. Great post, I find I am my worse critic. Never able to give fully to my job or my kids. There is enough guilt in being a mum without others jumping on board!

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  34. Another annoying one is when you say you're a SAHM and a working mum says "oh but I do all that and have a full time job too" umm, no, you do SAHM stuff when you are at home, and work stuff when you are at work, unless you can be in two places at once. These mums who do everything also seem to forget that if parents are at work and kids are in day care, there is no one home to mess up the house :D

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  35. I love this. I'm also part of the part time crew, but I have mummy friends who are either end of the spectrum. Sticking together is the only way to get through motherhood. Because it's bloody hard. We should be supportive not judgey. Yet another lush post xx

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  36. I think being at home with a toddler and trying to occupy and enrich them is exhausting. I'm just not built for it. I work hard to make weekends the most exciting days of the week for my daughter out of guilt that I find the days I go to work and don't look after her MUCH easier!

    I confess to judging SAHMs who's kids go to school most of the day though, as I know one who spends that time on candy crush and moaning about daytime to on Facebook.

    I think as long as you give what you do your best, as much as you can, you're doing great!

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  37. I had a first daughter when I was well on the way up the career ladder and took a year on maternity leave -I was a single parent and I HAD to go back to work because I couldn't afford to live otherwise. I had my second child in what I thought was a loving, stable marriage -I was wrong. For a year, I've been the sole provider for not just one child but for two children, again with no choice but to return to work. Luckily, I have a good career. But whatever you do -being a Mummy means you are fair game for shooting at. But does anyone give men the same grief? Nope.

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  38. I will only say , as my kids are all grown up now, that if it's possible to be available for helping on school trips, play days etc etc , you will never regret those times and memories.

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  39. I have twin boys and went back to work full time at 3 months old as I was offered a better job closer to home out of the blue. In the end it wasn't for me and I have gone back part time at 4.5 months old somewhere else. I would love to stay at home. However financial restraints don't allow, and I think its healthy children socialise and interact with people other than mummy. I love my babies more than anything, but I need to work for my own sanity.

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  40. My mum worked full time with two kids. Im as a single full time working mum of three, 2 of school age of not. I need to work to be able to live and provide for my children. I agree it shows them that you need to work hard in life to get what you want. (Keeps me sane) but on the other hand if people choose not to work that is the choice they make no one should be able to judge you for your decision. Age 28 looking 90 haha

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  41. Wow I have made the 'I want to be at home with my kids in the early years' before and never thought of how it might make a working mum feel at all. I do know that I can often feel like I have THE most boring life being a full time mum though compared to the mums with 'proper jobs' that are all exciting and dynamic!- My words and no one else's �� Thank you for the insight xx

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  42. Love this. I never really know what to say about the whole work or stay at home debacle - whatever you say always feels like judgement somehow of someone. But yes, it is so important to remember we are all mums, an doing the best we can with what we have! Work or no work!

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  43. Literally just woke from a nightmare of not returning to work as I am due with my first. Thanks for my sanity check!

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  44. Very well put as ever. I know it's only a minority who do so, but the sometimes overt, sometimes passive-aggressive judgements that you see occasionally on social media bug the hell out of me.

    In many ways, it can be even worse for the small but growing number of stay-at-home dads, where there is so often an automatic assumption that they are somehow lesser men for not being the main breadwinner.

    In both cases, it's not as if there is one right solution that is right for everyone. Such snap judgements are ridiculous, and really say more about the person making them than the person on the receiving end of them.

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  45. I've been reflecting on this a lot this week, since reading a blog post that said "I was obviously always going to go back to work as I'm just too educated to stay at home", and also some disgusting comments on various social media aimed at working parents. The fact is that you can be a bright, ambitious, driven person who is invested in their career, and also (for whatever reason) end up as a stay at home parent for a bit. Just as you can be a working parent and love the heck out of your kids, and live your life trying to do right by them. I fully agree - enough is enough of all this judgmental nonsense, because actually it's all flipping hard and what we need is a bit of a laugh and some agreement that when your toddler drops their nap it is THE WORST THING. So to any parent skimming this comment - you're brilliant and your kids are lucky to have you.

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  46. Great article although I long for the day that one talks more about parenthood rather than motherhood and people are passively aggressively criticising the decisions of the family as a whole rather than the woman alone - that would be progress, right?!

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  47. I couldn't agree more and have written many a blog post on this subject. I think you hit the nail on the head by saying - when we champion our choice, we are sort of damning someone else's (or words to that effect!). Why can we not all just get on with the choice we have made and let others do the same? It does annoy me how us women feel the need to justify what we do though. I wonder if men feel the same way? I think that's part of the reason people slate others, because they want to feel better about the choice they have made. Sad.

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  48. Right on Sista! I'm getting so fed up of seeing judgy posts on FB. Breastfeeding vs bottle, working vs not, how you should discipline your child in the park. Just today I read someone blasting a mum that had left her kids in the car. Ok, not the best idea, but why feel the need to post it on FB and invite criticism from a local mums FB group? To what end does this serve? I'd rather see my FB feed filled with positivity & support, surely that's how we can help our sisters be better happier Mommas? As far as I know there's no trophy being handed out at the end for being the best parent, we're all just stumbling our way through the best we can - well I know I am, with the help of A LOT of coffee! X

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    1. This is why I've come off Facebook...so much negativity I would second and third guess everything I wrote as a status in case I offended anyone or someone could read it wrong when it came to my kids it's gone ridiculous x

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  49. It is tough. It seems both choices are hard. I am a SAHM at the moment and I know this is a blessing because not everyone has this luxury. Saying that, I know there will be a time when we can't afford for me to be at home so I will need to be a working mum. Judging others for their choices when your own is transitional is not helpful to you or your peers.

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  50. Great post... I often think that women would be ruling the world.... If we weren't so damn bitchy about each other! Why can't we just be supportive of each other?!

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  51. Unfortunately I fear this will be an ongoing debate for years to come. We put PRESSURE on each other to be perfect and want to prove something. You're right about wanting it to stop but there are lots of self righteous (and scared of not being perfect) women out there.

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  52. Grown-up response = I have noticed that judgements usually say more about the Judge rather than the Judged.
    My natural response = I go to work for 2 days a week so I can have a wee in peace and enjoy a hot drink (yep, living the dream here). That's an opinion, so you can take it or leave it, and it should not bother me or you which of these you choose. Mum of 2 werewo..sorry boys.

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  53. A brilliant blog. I couldn't agree more with you. When people judge or preach it doesn't help anyone. I have friends who have made different choices and we all have our battles, regrets, guilt and question the decisions we have made. There is no right or wrong only what works for you/your family/finances... And what works now, might not in a year or so... best not to judge as you never know where life will take you.

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  54. Thank you. Everyone is entitled to live their life the way they want to or as best fits.I would love to work but my youngest son has special needs. I don't have any family to support or help us and I would be working to pay for child care if I could find a job where I could have time off at the drop of a hat for maybe a month or so when my child is ill because someone has sent their child to school ill, or within a day of being sick. My son takes longer to recover and affected more severely than others. I have 2 other children at home. My best option is to stay at home. We would be far better off financially if I could work and I feel guilty about this. My husband works but I would love to help out.

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  55. I can't help thinking that a lot of the time these types of comments just reflect our own conflicts and uncertainty about the decisions we make as mums. For some it may be a straightforward decision, but I think many mums second-guess their choices and try to reinforce the decision to work or not to work by comparing themselves with others.

    I work 4 days a week and often get comments like 'don't you miss your son?', 'aren't you completely exhausted?', 'and how does X find nursery?' which I think are usually intended to be sympathetic (I don't always hear them that way!), but I also get comments where people seem to assume I am judging them for not working, which I most definitely am not.

    There are pros and cons to both and it's natural to keep weighing them up, but so often it seems to end in guilt either way! I kind of find it preferable to think the difficulty is how these comments are received, and not how they are intended, and that the Sisterhood is alive and well. (Of course some people are just meanies.)

    Different strokes for different folks!

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  56. I've only just now come across this wonderful blog, and I see I'm the third stay-at-home dad to comment. We of the brethren understand the dilemma that awaits the working mum who gives up her job - or we ought to, if we're doing things right. My wife and I emigrated to this Caribbean island in 1978 when our son was two, and both of us worked. I strongly believed - I still do - that one parent should stay at home if circumstances allow. We argued bitterly about that, and in the end I gave up my job and became a housefather ("parent of first resort", I called it) for our boy from age six to age eleven.

    To my delighted amazement, it was a fabulous job - far and away the best I've ever had. I wrote a brief blog-post about it - which anybody can find by Googling "On being a housefather". The position changed the dynamics in our house forever: he is still much closer to me than to his mother. In the days when we contemplated divorce it was accepted without question that he would go with me. (It never actually came to that, but children drive most parents to consider it at one time or another, don't they?)

    Now he and his children are coming to visit us in February. We grandparents are both retired now, so there's always a fair division of labour these days. That's a blessing.

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  57. Just read your extract from your new book. Can't wait for it to come out. It should be put in every bloody Bounty bag, its funny but could make such a difference to people, along with chocolate and a bottle of wine. Ho gives a toss about sample breast pads, wipes and microscopic pots of bum cream. Good luck and thank you.

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  58. Hi, I've just discovered your blog, really enjoy your writing. I work because I have to, not because I want to. I'd give anything to stop working, I have ill health and would love to put all my energy into looking after my children. Please check out my blog www.disabilityandthesinglemum thanks

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  59. Thank you for your article on stay at home Mums v working Mums, it is so refreshing to read this and I couldn't agree more. I just don't understand why women can't support each other rather than slating each other for making different choices.

    I have been a stay at home Mum and a working Mum and I know that both options are hard (and rewarding) in their own ways. I am sure that if we all respected each others choices and supported each other then life would be much easier for us all, and we might actually start to make some changes that make it easier for Mums to get the balance right (eg more part time, flexi working jobs). My boss when I had my first child made it so hard for me to go part time as she hadn't been able to when she had her children twenty years before and she didn't think women should 'have it all'. After my second child I had a two years career break. When I looked to go back to work again I was told (again by a woman) that people of my level (eg mid level or above) shouldn't work part time as its not appropriate. I have had to go back to work as a lower level because of this.

    Everyone's situation is different and women should be able to choice what they do based on what is best for them and their families. It is not up to the rest of us to judge, we should support.

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  60. I could kiss you right now. I had twins 3 months ago - my first (and, at the moment, most definitely my last) - and I struggle daily with my inner thoughts of 'what have I done?' and 'when will I get my life back?'. The guilt I feel for thinking these thoughts is tremendous and I bloody love my babies, but that's just how I feel sometimes and talking about it really does help. You truly are a breath of fresh air. Please don't ever stop writing.

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  61. Thank you very much for this article. I am currently pregnant (20 weeks now) and my employer is waiting for my decision - do I take only the regular 5 months after giving birth off or do I want to stay home longer? It is a hard choice to make and I am still uncertain.
    You wrote:"It is hard enough to know whether you are doing 'the right thing' (and to not feel guilty about it) at the best of times, and, when it comes to working, it seems you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't."
    That's pretty much how I feel right now. There are several issues involved when trying to make this decision:
    1. This will be my first baby and I have no idea if I will enjoy being a stay at home mom or not. How do I tell? I can't exactly try it out for a month and then change my mind. My employer needs to know soon to plan for a replacement and I need to plan ahead as well (like find a day care or nanny).
    2. I don't have any part-time option with my employer in the UK, so it is either all or nothing.
    3. If I take only 5 months off I have a guarantee for going back to my current job in London and I like my job here. If I take a year off I have a guarantee of getting a job with this employer, but it would probably be in Berlin (headquarters). I don't want to move to Berlin right now for a number of reasons. There is of course a chance that I could continue working in London, but no guarantee. If I take more than a year off, I might not have a job to go back to (though I could of course try to find something else).
    4. Financially it would be a bit tighter if I take time off work, but my husband has a good job and we would be able to do it. Fortunately I have a great husband and he will support whatever decision I make. But my job pays pretty well and it would be more than enough to pay for a good day care (nursery) or a nanny with money left over for trips, savings, extras that we would not be able to afford otherwise.
    I will definitely take the 5 months offered by my employer since I will get a percentage of my salary during that time and I want to have some time with the baby, breastfeed it, etc. But should I take more time off or not?
    I am sure many of you ladies had to make a similar decision and it seems to me that Unmumsy is right - there is no right or wrong choice and I certainly agree that nobody should be judged by the decision they ended up making. I certainly wouldn't know any better.

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  62. Great post. I'm a bit late to the party, but what's wrong with just stating
    "I work full time because we need the money."
    "I stay at home because we don't need the money."
    "I work part-time because we need a bit of extra money."
    "I work because I prefer what I do there to cleaning up drool and stepping on Lego all day."
    Any follow up to these statements such as "I think it gives my kids a good work ethic" is just regurgitated high-horse psycho babble and it's this crap that really winds me up. Mum's, please drop the annoying self-justification (you are better and stronger than that). Seek out the people that shrug and say "fair enough" when you tell them of your circumstances/choices and you'll have found your tribe.

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  63. Feminism is about a choice.... A woman should be able to choose her choice. We should, as women look out for each other and applaud ourselves that today we can decide whoever or whatever we want to be.

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  64. I guess I'm in a minority here but, as much as I love your blog, I'm not with you on this one. I think a lot of the problem is that we hear criticism of our own choices when someone gives their reasons for their choices. I look after my two year old (do I HAVE to call myself a sahm??) There are many reasons and benefits to this. But I'm not offended by a working mother saying she wants to show the value of women being more career focused. Or to have more money, resources, sanity, whatever. It's true. There are advantages and disadvantages to every choice. We should accept this and stop hearing everything as a criticism of ours.

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    1. Thanks Rose - a very good point! I think, when I wrote this post, I had very sadly witnessed blatant criticism of others' choices (there was no question of hearing it as criticism, it was criticism, as in: 'You shouldn't work so many hours it's not fair on your kids' or 'What do you do all day at home? I can't imagine that luxury' etc. We all justify our own choices, that's natural and so we should, but when I wrote this I had seen some very catty online dialogue which was less justification of a decision and more judgment of another's decision. Amen to there being advantages and disadvantages to every choice xx

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