J has two children and a full time job. J is, on the whole, happy, fulfilled, and wouldn't dream of giving up either children or career.
How likely is this scenario?
Well, according to some people, including actress Emma Thompson in an interview for Good Housekeeping, and Lorraine Candy in the Daily Mail, it is highly unlikely for about 50% of the population of developed countries, and highly likely for the other half. Does it depend on how fulfilling the job is, how well-paid, how good an access to childcare A has, and A's other living conditions? You'd think these things would make a difference - working in a factory 10 hours a day to support three kids single handedly while living in a tiny flat may make for a slightly less satisfying life than an interesting writing or teaching job, a partner who also earns, two kids and a house.
But no, it's a lot simpler. If you're a man, you can have a career and a family. If you're a woman, you can't.
A woman, no matter what she says cannot have it all, according to these clear-minded people. A man, on the other hand, can. Or at least, a man should work: that's his life, even if he's a father. But a woman has to put husband and children first. If she fails to do that, she will pay, not because society will blame her, but because she will find it too hard and will be fundamentally unfulfilled. Probably, she'll end up popping pills or hitting the gin to help cope with the stress and the dissatisfaction.
Why? Well, the stress thing I get. Yes, it's hard to work and look after the children and do all the housework and cooking. So I don't reckon a single mother particularly likes it when people refer to her as ' having it all'. Doing it all more like. The rest of us? The married ones, or the ones with partners who take equal responsibility for bringing up their kids? Who said we had to do it all? Is your husband fundamentally incapable of pushing a hoover around, cooking pasta, putting clothes on a child? Or are you so damn good at those things that you don't want anyone else to do them? Or is his job so much more important than yours that he has to work long hours while you do everything at home?
He gets paid more, you say? Why is that, then? Is he more clever than you, a better worker? Or was he just clocking in more hours in the office while you took time off to have a baby? So maybe now he can take a bit of time off so you get the chance to put your career back on tracks while he takes the kids to school in the morning.
No? You say you don't want to do that? You prefer to spend more time with your children and don't have a career you care about that much? Well that's great. That's your choice, and I'm glad you have it. A couple of things though. Just because you want to make that choice doesn't mean you can criticise other women who don't. If you really feel that young children must be looked after by a parent then have a go at the fathers. Us mothers have taken plenty enough shit already. Also, have you considered whether the father of your children has that choice? Just because he's a man doesn't have to mean he loves his work. Just because he's a man doesn't have to mean he'd not like to spend more time with his kids. But if you stay at home while he has to earn, he probably can't.
Sure, a woman should have certain privileges when it comes to making the choice of staying home with young children. After all, you carry them around in your womb for nine months - you might like a bit of time to get acquainted with them, make sure they're as comfortable outside as they were inside, finish the job you started. But there comes a point when you're no longer the only person who's suited to that job, and when your partner might feel he's just as qualified. Or when you might both feel a professional child-minder is just as qualified.
So yes, I have it all: I work and look after my kids. My husband has it all too - the exact same deal. We're happy. We don't think child care or housework is my responsibility rather than his, or that I have more of a right to be close to our children than he does. Our children? They're happy too. They get to spend time with both their parents after school - they don't have an omnipresent mother or an absent father. They spend time with a child-minder too, a couple of afternoons a week. They get on with her just fine and miss her during the holiday. They get to do things with her that they don't do with us. Because we're not omnipotent, or omniscient. We can't be every thing to our children all the time. And that doesn't really bother us.
Emma Thompson says that 'having it all' is a 'revolting concept' (I kid you not). Lorraine Candy reckons that choosing whether or not to have a career when you have kids is like deciding which wire to cut when you're dismantling a bomb. But no, it's not revolting, and it's not like dismantling a bomb. If your career fulfils you, there's no reason you can't have children and it. You just have to make sure your children's father pulls his weight, and find a child-minder you can trust. The only thing that makes it hard is people telling you that you can't and that you shouldn't want to do it. So, Emma, Lorraine: shut the fuck up, will you?
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