This week has been hard work. Peanut’s not been well with a revolting viral infection, he’s been grumpy, clingy, tearful, the poor thing. On Monday, I had a meltdown, he was refusing all foods, only asking for bottles, was refusing his medicine and was generally being not-very-well and cross. When he turned his nose up at his one failsafe food, I lost it and threw the bowl in the sink. Cue spaghetti up the walls, all over the clean dishes and made a mess of the kitchen I’d spent an hour cleaning the day before. I then poured a large glass of wine, gulped some down and stood in the kitchen sobbing. Peanut looked at me from his high chair, eyes red-rimmed with his flu-y thing and watched me.
I’d like to say he did something extraordinary, but the poor boy was too worn out, I asked him if he’d like a bath, after about half an hour he was tucked up in bed and I hung the rest of the washing out, and took myself off to bed too.
Today, Thursday, he’s still not back at nursery, we’ve seen the GP twice (yesterday and today) as yesterday she was worried he might need to go to hospital if he was getting no better. Hubs and I have had a bit of a blue, I’m sick of children’s TV, well, TV in general, but Peanut has the attention span of a gnat and won’t settle to do anything. He also needed to be kept quiet, so the electronic baby-sitter went on. I’ve learnt that people who make children’s TV obviously DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN. Why else would they talk to them like they’re frickin idiots? Children are little people, I hate it when Peanut gets talked to in a baby-voice in real life about puppy-dogs, and pussy-cats, and bunny-wunnies, so you can imagine my ire as we watched program after program that showed children that if you make shitty choices, someone will wave a magic wand and make life all better for you. This is a whole other blog post (rant) though, and one from when I’ve got some distance from Iggle Piggle. In case you’re wondering, Peanut ejects DVDs, so putting one on is always problematical…
This blog post is about something I’ve noticed before, and will notice again and really saw lots of examples of today at the shops. The variety of people walking round with pre-school children.
There were stay-at-home mums, working mums like me, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, everyone. But I’d like you to concentrate on two distinct groups, the stay-at-homes and the working mums. Two groups who seem to be at logger-heads with each other, and for the life of me, I truly don’t know why. I am aware that some of the points I am about to raise here are highly controversial, but they’re my views as I’m typing this. If you think I’m wrong, please tell me, nicely, and give me reasons why so you can educate me, please do not bitch at me.
Women going out to work was a bad thing. Let’s start with a biggie shall we? Our society, the one that we naturally fall to according to sociologists and anthropologists falls into women staying at home, together, looking after children, together, and raising children, together. A community. Men toddled off and occasionally brought home a fish or deer, but the majority of food was sourced by women, foraging around and chatting together. Men needed to be quiet to hunt, the differences in brain activity between men and women show that us girlies can do different things, can carry on a conversation and still keep half an eye out for little Johnny sticking a screwdriver into a socket. It’s also why men have boys-looks for things, they’re not designed to lift things up and look under them. Hang their car keys on the horizon, they’d find them then.
For thousands of years this was normal. There were no conversations about equality, we simply did what our bodies were designed to do. I am a feminist, I do believe in equal rights for everyone, not just people with boobs, however, when women went out to work, two incomes started to come into people’s homes. When you have a little bit more money in circulation, the prices of things slowly start to creep up. Like houses for example. Men used to be given a house with some jobs, as employers recognised that to keep a stable, sensible workforce, you need to take into consideration wives and children. The house I grew up in was built originally to house a family, the father of which worked at the local dairy. Two up, two down, it was a classic example of an early 1900s terraced, workers house.
I’m not going to quote dates at you, and some of this is fair sweeping generalisations to make my point, but somewhere in the C19, women began to go out the home to work, in droves. Going out to work wasn’t unusual; in country communities, women used to go to work in the fields, but usually with children in tow. Schooling was erratic, not compulsory and if children were needed on the farms, they’d go help in the fields as well. But I’m talking about as society progressed and education spread, women began to get a little discontented with their lot in life. Some began to want more and fought for the right to vote (ladies, we thank and salute you), to want to work in traditional male dominated careers, (the GP we saw this week is a woman), to generally try to even-out the now highlighted gender gap. However, us women would also be expected to carry on maintaining the house and doing the majority of the child raising, as that is what we did, we do, and what we will continue to do. The Lady of the house would often have help, wet nurses, nannies, governesses, a bevy maids, from scullery to pantry to housemaids, sometimes with housekeepers, butlers and valets thrown in too. In lower circles, most families would have help some aspect of the housework, be it washing, cooking or cleaning. When having a servant was no longer the done thing, my women in my grandmother’s generation would continue help neighbours up and down the street when it came to jam-making and bottling and canning foods.
My point is here, we didn’t try to do it on our own.
I see no difference in stay-at-home mums or working mums. I see no difference in people who ask family and friends to look after their children, or people who pay for others to look after their children. Society has forced us to have two incomes, because it is now virtually impossible to survive on one, this is not to rail against those who rely on welfare assistance either, I’m talking about my generation, my situation. In Melbourne, it is estimated the median cost of houses will reach $1m in the next 4-6 years. That’s the middle of the road, 3 bedroom, not always near a train line or good road links, normal family home. Like the one we’re renting now. Hubs and I earn pretty good wages for what we do, but there is no way we can afford to buy anything, other than a box for the three of us (four if you count Chief Brody) to live in. To even get onto the property ladder, we’d need to think about where we’d want to live, it would almost certainly be even further out the city than we are now, and would we want to live in a one or two bedroomed flat, over an hour away from where we work?
But let’s leave the house issue aside, just being a parent is bloody hard work. I was talking to a girl in the office on Tuesday, I said that I love Peanut, but having him really stuffed up my life. I can’t just get up and whizz out the house to work. I can’t just run off to the gym, or to the supermarket. I was hanging a load of washing out today, the back door slammed shut. If it was just me, I’d have sat out the back on my hammock, called Hubs and said ‘Ha ha, aren’t I silly, I’ll see you when you get home.’ Instead I shit myself and hoped another door was unlocked, or I would have had to call the fire brigade or someone to get me in, as Peanut was asleep in his room. Thankfully, another door was unlocked, he’s still asleep, my heart-rate returned to normal. There is always someone else to think about, to worry about. To make sure that when we do leave the house, we both have food and drink, he has a change of clothes, toys and books and also nappies. I spend most of my time at home preparing to leave again, so that when we do need to go, we can grab things and go. Each morning I leave with my handbag, a bag which has my lunch, book and other ‘stuff’, his bag, him, a cup of tea in a keep-cup, if I’m really lucky I’ve brought work home with me to do as well. I then have to make sure the cat doesn’t get out, so no more snooze button for me, no more, I’ll buy something while I’m out, or I’ll just stay and finish this. I’ve got an alert in my diary to tell me to start packing up, so that if I am caught up in something, I don’t miss my train home.
I also can’t not do a load of clothes washing each day, because I can’t be bothered. As the next day, there’ll be another load that needs doing, and towels, and bedding. When you’re a parent, you don’t get a day off. I can’t remember the last time I had two nights continuous sleep. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t check my shoulders when I got in the car to check for snot, dribble, vomit or food. As much as I love him, I do wonder where my life went to at times.
If you work inside the home, or outside the home, if your parents, or someone you pay help look after your children on a regular basis through the week, does it really matter? Why is there so much bitching and in-fighting, when all we’re doing, all anyone with children is doing, is simply the best they can? I know a lot of people do not understand how I can work full-time, but due to the GFC, we’ve got no option. We couldn’t wait for our savings and investments to be restored, to go with our original plan, my body wouldn’t hang on that long.
Until you’ve walked in my shoes, or I in yours, we each have no idea what we need to do to get through each day. On Monday, I barely hung on to my sanity, but it’s now Thursday and my boy is getting better. I am aware I put pressure on myself by trying to do too much, but society also puts it onto me by requiring me to go out and work so that we can afford a house to live in and food to eat. However, for those women who have chosen to stay at home and raise their children, I do not think any less of you. So please don’t think any less of me. Please don’t think that when I drop my son off every weekday morning that it gets any easier. I’m just doing the best I can. The same as you.