Sunday, January 24, 2010

Supermum? Part 2


Last weekend I read 'Only in New York.  How I took Manhattan with the Kids' by Caroline Overington (2006).  Overington is an Australian journalist who relocated to New York for three years to work as a correspondent for The Australian newspaper.  She moved there with her two year old twins and her husband.  They arrive three months after 9/11 so it is interesting from that point of view.  I quite enjoyed it.  Easy reading.

However, I found the review to sell the book on the back cover very irritating.

"Funny, perceptive and inspirational, this is the adventure of a lifetime, proving that the modern woman can have it all:  a high-flying career, a wonderful family life and New York".


OK,  this is the sort of stuff that just makes me want to scream.  You can't have it ALL!  Because the truth about this book is that Overington's husband doesn't work and so he looks after their twins.   She's quite upfront about that.  He sacrifices his career for three years so she can pursue hers.

The reality is that the sales pitch on the book is a lie.  Someone, somewhere has to give up something when kids are involved in the equation.  The mother can have it all, only if she has a lot of support.  Perhaps it is a husband who will stay at home.  Or a grandma who is willing to do a lot of baby sitting.  Or a day-care centre.  Or a nanny.  And dare I say it, maybe the kids have to give up something when their mum is out having it all.

Let me be clear though.  I'm not against mothers working.  What I'm frustrated about is that we live in a society that tells mothers that they should be able to have it all.  So if you (like me) are not able to do it all, then you feel like a failure.  Or if you're trying to juggle working and mothering and finding it exhausting, then you feel like a failure.  Because, after all, we're supposed to be modern women who can have it all.  Obviously if you're not achieving all this, then you must be some kind of old-fashioned, out-of-touch woman.

Last week, I was having a bad day, complaining to a friend about what a low achiever I am.  And she said "You know what Jenny, if you get your kids to school each day, wash their clothes and get dinner on the table, then you are doing a great job.  No-one would expect any more from you".  And in my heart, I know she's right.  But, gee, do I find it hard to fight the high value our society places on mums being more than 'just a mum'.

Thus my buttons were truly pressed by the supermum tennis player and the 'she can have it all' modern woman.

2 comments:

Pip said...

Well said Jenny!
It is a cultural thing. Something that is so pervasive that we see it now as the norm and how it 'should be'. My personal issue is that even Christian organisations/conferences promote it - often listing the woman's achievements first and then almost as an afterthought that the woman is a wife and mother.

Jo said...

I agree Jenny. One of my mum's greatest regrets was that she worked full-time when we were growing up, when she probably didn't absolutely need to.
I actually spent more time talking to my mum each day when I went away to boarding school in Year 10 because she would ring me when she got to work each day, lol!