This morning I got up at 3.45am and drove to work. I worked until 1pm, drove to the childminder’s to collect my daughter and eventually arrived back at home at 2.15pm. In a fit of Mother Guilt I decided to try and cram a million and one activities into the afternoon, culminating in making homemade pizza with my 19 month old.
I’ve written about the Mother Guilt before. It tears at me every morning as I leave the house, knowing I won’t be the first person to say good morning to my baby. It tugs a little more as I put her to bed at night, wondering if I have done all I can to be a good mum to her that day.
The thing is, I work because I have to. If I didn’t do this job I would be doing another one. I’d either be working from home (as I was before), continuously trying to check emails as my toddler hanged off my leg, or I’d be working in a newsroom somewhere, juggling the childcare run, packing of nappy bag and all the rest that entails leaving a house with a small person.
When I say “I have to” work, it’s not just a statement based on financial reasons. Yes, we need the money. What family doesn’t at the moment? But I also enjoy my job. I want to make the most of every opportunity that I can, as well as making use of my degrees, training, work experience. I want to be an example to my daughter. I want to retain some of the me that existed before she arrived.
But there’s always that guilt.
So imagine how miffed I was to read that, apparently, if you decide to be a mother, you should also decide to give up work. That’s according to Gwyneth Paltrow anyway.
The Beautiful One gave an interview to Harper’s Bazaar recently, in which she shared words of wisdom for women and mothers across the globe. According to Gwynnie, we all have to cook a fulfilling meal for our husband when he gets home from work. And we have to give up work and any sort of career when we have a baby. (That’s if we want to be the very best mum, you understand.)
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing either way for being a stay at home mum, work at home mum, working mum or anything inbetween. As far as I’m concerned, whatever your choice is just that – yours.
I’m not going to sit here judging you if you go out to work and put your children in childcare, just as I’m not going to sit here judging you if you give up work to look after your children full time.
It’s nothing to do with me. I’m doing my best just to keep my own head above water and do as good a job as I can of being a mum. I’m doing what my own mum did before me, and her mum did before that. I’m doing the same as every mum I know. Trying my hardest.
I may not make my husband a homecooked meal every night. I’m either too knackered or working to try and earn money towards that sacred deposit on a house. So I’m sorry for not being as perfect and rich and wifely as you Gwyneth.
But I’m doing my best.
And if that isn’t good enough well, Gwyneth, you can just rod off.