Some women want or need to stay at home with their children. Some women want or need to work. Why can't we just leave them to it? asks Emma Bartley
This morning, Katie Hopkins sent an “interesting” tweet about stay-at-home mothers. “ Full-time mummy is another word for unemployed ,” she wrote, before presumably sprinting off to don heatproof goggles and watch as her phone exploded with angry replies.
The issue of whether mothers can, do or should work has been in the news lately, after the Daily Mail ran a front-page story on the decline of the stay-at-home mother. To my mind, this is all a bit manufactured: their story was that only one in ten women aged 16-64 now defines her full-time occupation as looking after family or home. That’s a trend you’d expect as social norms change and opportunities and education improve for women.
But that doesn’t make a very good media story. What makes a good story is that, as the Mail implied, mums are FORCED to work, when obviously the best thing for everyone is that we stay at home changing nappies and finger-painting.
Katie Hopkins knows this, which is why she wickedly took the opposite view onTwitter. I thought that Hopkins was brilliant on The Apprentice, where she carved out a new career for herself not working for boring old Amstrad but as a professional reality TV star. (She might also be on the radio a bit; I’ve been too busy working to follow this, an excuse that I think she would accept.)
I admire what she’s achieved. But I also hope that my generation of mothers has moved on. Last week I was asked by a TV show to talk about stay-at-home mums and whether the State or their ex-husbands should support them. After about two minutes of trying to get a rise out of me (“It’s been suggested that women should be paid to stay at home even after their kids are in school… what do you think about that?”) the researcher told me I wasn’t suitable because “we need people to take one side or another”.
The thing is, I realised afterwards, I am on a side. I’m on the side of women.
Some women want or need to stay at home with their children. Some women want or need to work. THAT IS ABSOLUTELY FINE.
I look around at my fellow women and I despair - not because they are working more or less than I do, but because we expend so much mental energy criticising each other. And indeed worrying that we’re being criticised, and trying to avoid it. Do the men do this? No, they do not - which is probably how they’ve managed to run the world since, oooh, the dawn of time.
So I’m calling time on this nonsense. If you actually like women - if you think we should have more opportunities and better lives - if you have a daughter and would like to see her grow up happy and fulfilled - then for goodness’ sake ignore people like Hopkins. Ignore the papers and the TV shows that try to wind you up. Stop commenting on other women’s choices and concentrate on enjoying your own.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s a sunny day and I’m taking my little girl to the park.