My new sense of guilt as a selfish working mother

February 24, 2009

FT.com / UK – My new sense of guilt as a selfish working mother

On Monday The Children’s Society published a report based on interviews with 35,000 people in Britain that concluded children such as mine may not be as happy as they should be.

The main risk for British children, it said, was that their selfish parents were too busy chasing their own success. The culture of individual fulfilment for adults was making the lot of children much less happy than a generation or two ago.

The report caused a storm in the British media last week – just as one would have expected. Social conservatives crowed in agreement: we should roll the clocks back to the 1950s, they said, when everyone lived in nuclear families and women baked cakes and everyone was happy. The social liberals, meanwhile, flew into a rage – female columnists protested that our children are happy (my old argument), and tried to rip the report apart, closing their ears to what they claimed was preachy nonsense.

I have no opinion in this matter, to any great degree for a variety of reasons. Oh, I do have opinions! I don’t have children, and I’d prefer to focus on my own life and that of my long suffering partner (who sent me this). I’m professionally dedicated to children, but not on my spare time. And most important to me, my colleagues are predominately female and I shudder at the thought of having to work in a male dominated workforce. I also think that women who are active professionals are making major impacts in the lives of their children because of their careers. I could go on and on. What I DO think is the problem is the intersection of the nuclear family and two parents working. If two parents are working, who stays with the children? Well, if we got rid of the problem of nuclear families, then the issue becomes a lot more diverse and complex. It is not natural to force families into this nuclear mode. It is unnatural for people to have to work 9-5 all at the same time. What IS natural is for people to work at something they love and find meaningful to the best of their ability. I can tell you that if I’d had kids I’d have fought to be the homemaker, and I’d be there with the other moms and dads… but ideally, our family would also be situated in a larger extended family structure where children were collectively nurtured and supported, and no child would have to depend on a single parent as caregiver. It takes a community to raise a child… no one or two people should feel guilty for having to do it alone. IMHO of course.

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