Alice wrote a story this week about a party she’d been to a few months ago, in which she included a line about being the last to leave because mummy was late from work. Although I know this wasn’t true and when challenged she readily admitted she’d bent the facts (don’t all the best writers?), I still felt more than a twinge of guilt that she might think that of me. This, combined with a conversation later in the week Nick and I had about how grumpy I used to get on Sundays at the thought of work on Monday, made me think about the whole working mother debate; something I don’t tend to analyse a great deal as it’s not like I have the choice of whether to work or not.
A lot of things about this subject rile me, not least the way the press sit in judgement on mothers, working or not, and the apparent effect this decision has on their offspring. What about working fathers? Why do they have any less impact on their child’s upbringing? And don’t even get me started on the way schools seem to expect parents to have time in their day to pop into school for various activities – does it not occur to them that most of these parents have jobs that don’t give time off for coffee mornings or reading sessions half way through the school day?
Ok, rant over; the only view I really have to offer is my own personal one, which is that I feel the balance I have in my working life is the best it’s ever been, with or without children. I now work five school-hour days a week and spend the time after school with my girls. Sometimes the work part of my day is the best bit, other times it’s the worst. Where Sundays used to depress me, these days I love them as much as Saturdays and value the time I get to spend with my family.
So am I doing the right thing for my daughters? I guess we’ll only find out in the long run, but for now they seem very happy, secure and confident. As am I, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. If there’s one thing I do believe about how your actions affect your kids, it’s that they will pick up on and more often than not mirror your disposition. As far as I’m concerned, content parents make for content children, and that’s going to be the case whether you work in the home, out of it or not at all.