I have been ruminating this week on the nature of commitment. I read the usual article about women not being as committed to work as men and I thought to myself ‘what is this commitment thing that they keep going on about? I’m not entirely sure how I’m lacking it, but it must be a good thing the way they go on about it. Maybe I’d better try and go out and find some.’ However, as I was looking for Commitment I was told by several people, among them the writer of the article, that I was on a doomed mission because I am not allowed to have Commitment. Not in the Biblical sense of the word. This is because I have an impediment that prevents me from having full communion with Commitment: I admit it. I am a working mother.
Apparently the morning assault course of getting everyone up, dressed, fed, toothed, etc, running to school/nursery etc and just about catching the train on time; the endless hours spent reorganising childcare because there is an all-day training session on the day I usually work from home [why do they always seem to be scheduled for that particular day?]; the nights and weekends spent catching up on all the unseen work I can’t get done in normal office hours because there is no such thing any more as normal office hours [the work that is strangely never acknowledged because it is well known that I leave on time and am not as “committed” as my superior male colleagues] is not proof of “commitment”, but of laziness, of a half-hearted approach to work and perhaps life in general, of a lack of ambition and drive, of – let’s face it – failure on every level.
I was very interested in a piece of research which came out a few months ago. It stated that single women are the most likely to work unpaid overtime [after all, it’s good preparation for working full-time on part-time wages when they have children]. Working mums, on the other hand, are the “least productive” set of workers. This research was based entirely on hours spent in the office and the working mothers were more likely to work part-time [and be paid part-time].
I would like to conduct an experiment one day. Get together, say, five working mothers, five single women, five men with wives [who either don’t work or work part-time] and a control group of mice of an unspecified sex. I would then put them in an office with a set task, but no particular deadline. I am possibly jumping the gun here, but my hypothesis would be that the working mothers would get their heads down and get the work done by 3pm in time to pick up the kids, the single women would get it done by the end of the day and head home and the men with wives would get it done by the end of the day but spend the next few hours in the pub congratulating themselves on working late and “networking”/talking about football or cricket [and possibly rating the bosom size of the single women in the process – yes, dear reader, I have been there and I don’t think I came out well in the bosom size stakes]. The mice would, of course, question the whole process of working for someone else and burn the office down.
I know, I know, this is a bit unfair on the men and there are many who want to get home to see their kids, but in my time I have seen a fair few fathers heading down the pub after work and virtually no mothers. I have also had the odd man telling me how his wife is “no fun” any more. Perhaps, I have suggested, they are maybe a tad too tired, a tad overcommitted to serving the interests of others with no apparent recognition. Perhaps the burden could be shared a little bit more evenly, I venture gently?