KILDARE PARENTING COLUMN: Guilt is heaped on mums, whether or not they work

Ruth Chambers is sick of reading studies that criticise the lifestyle choices of mums

Ruth Chambers

Reporter:

Ruth Chambers

Email:

ruth@itsjustaphase.ie

KILDARE PARENTING COLUMN: Guilt is heaped on mums, whether or not they work

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I came across an article online during the week that claimed that a study found that children of mothers who work outside the home are more likely to be obese.

The study said 29% of children with a mum who works full-time don’t eat breakfast regularly.

The study also said 19% of the children involved in the study spent more than three hours watching TV each day.

Fair enough, I’m not saying the above statistics are wrong, but boy did the article really p*ss me off.

Where was the mention of children belonging to fathers who work outside the home? You guessed it, those words weren’t to be found in said article.

I have been both a working mother and a stay-at-home mother and, as far as I can see, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

And one thing is for sure; mothers will be made feel crap for whatever they do due to the likes of studies and headlines.

Have my children suddenly turned svelte because I’m a stay-at-home mammy these days? Of course they haven’t!

Did my previous childminder fill them full of chocolate and fizzy drinks while they sat in front of her TV all day? Of course she didn’t.

However, I probably would have felt so guilty if I was a working mother reading the above mentioned article, because the world wants to make working mothers feel like that.

It’s total and utter bulldust, to borrow a phrase from the legendary Alf Stewart from Home and Away!

So this week I want to say well done to mothers. Not working mothers. Not stay-at-home mothers. Just mothers. Because, at the end of the day, you’re doing your best and doing what’s right for your family at this very moment in time.

There was times when I went out to work and the guilt I felt was horrendous. I felt terrible on the mornings when I had to drop one or other off my sick children off to another woman to look after.

I had zero choice, though. If I didn’t do it we would not have had a roof over our heads, food on the table or a car to drive.

Did it make me a bad mother back then? No. In fact I was doing the very best for my children. I was earning so they could have a home and nutritious meals, not sugar-filled ones as the article above would lead you to believe.

I also suffer with my mental health, and work was good for me then. I firmly believe my kids would have suffered if I was at home with them all the time when I was struggling with my anxiety.

The people who conduct these studies and write these headlines don’t seem to take a mother’s mental health in to consideration. Too much guilt is not good for anyone’s mental health, yet everywhere you go mothers are made to feel guilty from the get go.

If you bottle feed, you are made guilty for not breastfeeding and you’re made to feel that way before you even leave the maternity ward! It’s just not on.

What’s wrong with just respecting a woman’s decision or at least keeping your nose out of her business? What’s with all the opinions? It drives me insane.

As long a children are well looked-after, are loved, clothed and fed, then what the hell could the problem possibly be?

Does a mother need to head off to work in the mornings with the feeling of guilt in the pit of her stomach? No, she doesn’t. A working day is draining enough without that.

And a working mother’s day is long. Really long. They are up and out early. They work hard in the day job and then start their second job when they get home.

Cooking, maybe bathtime, bedtime, cleaning and a working mother is lucky to get a chance to even sit down of an evening.

Instead of saying it’s the kids that are neglected or more likely to be obese or whatever other stupid claim they come up with next, where are all the articles about the strain that’s on working mothers?

You don’t find them as easily as the ones that are designed to make mothers feel guilty, I can tell you.

Being a stay-at-home mother is not without guilt either. Sometimes I feel guilty for giving up a stable job and a career.

I feel guilty for currently not using the education my parents worked so hard to pay for. You see, it’s a no win situation.

Sometime society looks down its nose at stay-at-home mothers just as it does to mothers who go out to work. Stay-at-home mothers are often labelled “just stay-at-home mothers”. Like we are not doing an important job.

I’d love to invite one of these researchers to my house and leave them with the kids for the day. He or she would leg it back to their university office in no time and of that I’m quite certain.

If there’s any working mothers reading this, you should invite the researchers to your house too and let them see just how difficult it is having two hugely demanding roles.

Show the researchers your mortgage account and all your bills and ask them which is more important — going out to work and providing for your children or staying at home with them.

Rant over.

Until next week folks.

You can contact me on ruth@itsjustaphase.ie; Twitter - @_itsjustaphase_; Instagram - @itsjustaphaseblog, or you’ll find more of my musings at www.itsjustaphase.ie.