I think one of the great travesties of the feminist movement is to make women feel that staying at home and bringing their children up is somehow an easy option, not as worthy as other women that work. The best way I can argue otherwise is with a true story – so bear with me.
In know a woman who decided to stop working when she got pregnant and become a full time mother. It wasn’t a hard decision – she earned minimum wage so childcare costs would have been more than anything she could have earned anyway and the family could manage on one wage. She stayed at home all day with her two children and I think she must have been lonely. It can’t have been easy watching cartoons all day and playing childish games in between the cleaning and the ironing. Perhaps because she was bored the eldest learned to speak relatively early, it must have given her someone to have a chat with. I know she loved to sit and talk to the little girl (we’ll call her Hannah), but something was wrong. Hannah wasn’t pronouncing her words properly, but her Mum had time to sit and teach her how to do it right – so she did.
Hannah was clever and learned all her letters and numbers before she started school and really enjoyed nursery but her Mum still thought something wasn’t right with Hannah’s hearing. Doctors told her she was just worrying over nothing and she couldn’t argue. A friend told her they were doing random hearing tests at nursery, so she insisted Hannah was tested. The tests showed that Hannah was significantly deaf in both her ears; they tested the youngest daughter too and found the same.
At the hospital the doctors said that both children had been deaf since they were born because of nerve damage which couldn’t be put right. It hadn’t been noticed before because they could both speak perfectly but they shouldn’t have been able to hear words. Everyone was devastated that both girls would find life so much harder and there would be so much the children would miss out on but wanted everything to be as ‘normal’ as possible’. Hannah started school just afterwards, before they could give her some hearing aids. The other children in the playground whispered and ran away from her and the teacher made her sit at the back of the classroom so she couldn’t hear.
Every day Hannah went home to her Mum and cried, because she hated school and she had no friends. To cheer her up they would play games and read stories and even go horse-riding. It wasn’t long before Hannah got a special teacher to help her at school and hearing aids so she could hear. The class even did a special lesson on what was wrong with her ears and how they could help her, so everyone wanted to play with her.
After that things were better for a while, Hannah caught up in school with her Mum and special teacher to help. The only problem was that Hannah found it difficult to write and struggled in PE because of her clumsiness. Children were teasing her because she put her clothes on back to front after PE and spilled her dinner all down herself and she was nearly 8. Again she went home crying. This time her mum sewed different coloured buttons on a shirt and coloured the holes to match the right button, they had races to see how fast she could get dressed right and Hannah felt better.
This time the doctors said Hannah had dyspraxia, so her brain didn’t process information about planning and executing movements properly. There was no funding for the physiotherapy that would have helped but the whole family played ball games and connect 4 and did lots of things to help. When it came to playing netball at school, Hannah still couldn’t catch a ball well but she practiced throwing a ball against the wall and catching it until she could do it every time. Then she asked her parents for a netball hoop so she could try scoring goals. After lots of practice she got on the school team as goal shooter and really enjoyed it.
How do I know this story? Hannah is me and I’m lucky to have a Mum that stayed at home. The examples I chose are just a few amongst the many I could use. I know that my circumstances are different because I am deaf but it made such a difference to go home to my Mum after school, whether I needed help or not. I remember everything in the story after I got my hearing aids. I remember being terrified of both the hoover and the toilet because I’d never hear the noise so loud before. I remember the games we played, the stories we read and the cakes we baked. The arguments about how I just had to work harder if I wanted something and it would pay off eventually.
I am now at university studying to be a vet, Mum says that’s all down to me and not her but I don’t think I could have been here were it not for all the help she gave me. Some of it was direct, some of it involved hours of arguing on my behalf to get the support I needed and also making me realize that I could do better if I practices and found other ways of doing things. I honestly don’t think anyone could do that and another full-time job as well. My sister is also at university and hopes to be a doctor one day.
I guess the next question is where do I stand on working mothers? I think I understand how hard it is to be a stay at home mum and I know that you have to really enjoy it to stick at it, not to mention have the financial support necessary. I’m sure there are people that are wonderful mothers and have careers but what bothers me is that being a mum seems to be viewed as the lesser option compared to working and some women and children suffer for that. I love the career I have chosen for myself and I’m not sure I can give that up to raise children, but I wouldn’t have children unless I thought I could give them what I had. That is a problem for an older, wiser me to solve one day, but I’m sure that like lots of other women I will make the right choice for my family if I choose to have one.