I call myself a feminist and yet here I am a stay-at-home mum. Hardly rebelling against the patriarchal system, am I? There was a time when I thought that I had it all – I was successful in my career and I was ambitious. I was scornful of the woman who chose to go part-time and the women who chose to give-up work to stay with their children. I know, I was quite possibly an idiot back then, ambition can do that to you. I chased promotion after promotion until one day whilst on maternity leave with our second child I had a realisation – I realised that I couldn’t face going back. I couldn’t face the drudgery of work anymore with its endless spinning of plates and juggling of balls. For the first time I was finding being at home with my children more fulfilling than being at work. I didn’t dare admit this to anyone because I had been very vocal in my beliefs that a woman should have it all! I was too embarrassd to admit that maybe I had been wrong so I kept a tight lid on my feelings and convinced myself that it was just nerves about returning back to work.
I reasoned that I shouldn’t be wanting to walk away from my career. My mother in the 1980s had fought for her right to work full-time whilst also raising me and my brother. She had fought to escape that kitchen and here I was wanting to return to the kitchen. Even worse I was daydreaming about domestic bliss, about having the time to bake with my children. To me the domestic life represented freedom. A life where I wouldn’t be forced to juggle anymore. But then was I wasting my education? Maybe, but then I reasoned that this was my choice to make. It was only thanks to Mr C and a new job that I found myself with a choice. I am very fortunate that I was able to choose this life.
When I was working long hours and running from work to childminder I might have had my rose-tinted glasses on and I may have assumed that staying-at-home was the easy option. It really isn’t. It can be tiring, mundane, frustrating and boring. On the other hand it can be rewarding, exciting, thrilling and amazing. It just depends on what side of bed your children got out of bed that morning 😉 . However, I will say that there is something that troubles me about being a stay-at-home-mum and that is the pressure to be the perfect stay-at-home mum. Looking at Instagram I am often bombarded with images of domestic heaven, perfectly made homes that have been styled to look homely yet sophisticated, no Lego covering the floor and no crisps scattering the surfaces. Mums whipping up healthy, clean food that there little immaculate darlings eat. Not a sniff of fish fingers or chips. The mums themselves all look amazing with perfect nails, hair and smiles, they all have a big smiles on their face. No sign of frown lines and I should know, I have studied those photos looking for the tiniest crack in their superficial domestic bliss. I find myself disturbed because I wonder if they are aware that they are perpetuating the tired old myth of the perfect housewife. Do they have dinner on the table for when their husband gets home? I have left a career because I couldn’t have it all and now I find myself bombarded with perfect images of housewives. Housewives that wouldn’t look amiss in the 1950s. Don’t get me wrong. I briefly tried to be the domestic goddess and I try to keep a lovely, clean house but the Instagram level of perfection is exhausting. I am lucky if I have a perfect house for 10 minutes everyday before it is trashed again by two rampaging children. In the end I gave up in my quest for perfection because I wanted to enjoy my life. I can’t have the perfect house, I have two messy children. I can’t be the perfect cook, my children hate vegetables and I can’t be the perfect wife. Am I failing?
No, because although my house might not be the cleanest and my children might refuse to eat spiralised vegetables my children are happy and now I have time for them. I might just be a stay-at-home-mum but I’m not chained t0 the kitchen. I am liberated. I am in the kitchen because I want to be and it’s not clean food that I am making (well it might be sometimes), I am mostly baking glorious, calorific, gut-bursting cakes. So whilst us feminists have reclaimed the vision of a stay-at-home mum there is still some work to do and we should not feel the pressure to conform to the media’s ideals of the perfect housewife. I might be a stay-at-home mum but there is no way that I will be returning to the 1950s and I am not going to let my Instagram feed tell me otherwise. Domesticity isn’t glamorous and I won’t pretend it is. Mr C won’t be arriving home to find me waiting for him with a cocktail. What I will say about being a stay-at-home mum is that it is an important job and an undervalued job. We might not have status but this doesn’t mean that we should feel confined. In the words of Nadyia Hussein (who won Great British Bake Off and in the process became an unlikely spokesperson for all feminists )
“I am never going to put boundaries on myself ever again.
I’m never going to say I can’t do it.
I’m never going to say ‘maybe’
I’m never going to say I don’t think I can.
I can and I will.”
I am the one in control and I am the one who chooses if I stay in the kitchen.
Perfect housewife I am not.
I’m me – mother, wife and writer.