The BBC4 programme Women on working vs non-working mums left me with a mild feeling of depression.
What is equality? I was watching the BBC4 programme Women last night. In fact, I just caught the last half due to the usual bedtime shennanigans [long chat about whether if babies die in childbirth the mum has to die too…Not sure where that one came from]. The interviewer spoke to couples who all seemed to live in very leafy villages in the countryside and have no financial problems whatsoever [very nice decor and no Value products on display]. Some of the women had opted to stay at home and look after the kids. Others had chosen to work. I guess the programme was looking at the issue of choice and how women who were able to choose work or family felt about their decision. It certainly wasn’t a representative sample of mothers in general and kind of pandered to the argument that feminism has only helped the rich. Having a greater diversity might have produced something a bit more thought-provoking.
The women and their partners were asked if they felt their relationship was equal. After a pause [it seemed as if they had not considered the issue before], all of them seemed to say yes. Of course, everyone wants to consider themselves equal since equal is something we generally think of as being a good thing. No one would want to consider themselves dependent on anyone else, even if they would be up the creek without a paddle should their breadwinner leave them, unless they win a very good divorce settlement. The programme showed the women doing lots of chores. The men more or less said that the stay-at-home partner had the harder job – it is again hard to know whether this is what they say to their mates or whether they know it is what they are expected to say these days. They all stated that the stay at home job was the most rewarding too. I wonder how many would choose to swap places though…Most of the men whose partners stayed at home helped out a tiny bit, mainly to mow the lawn or take the bins out, the traditional role of the Man. One man was a stay-at-home partner, but his wife suggested he didn’t do the nitty gritty of the housework. She seemed definitely in charge. The programme did not show the men at their workplace, which is a shame. It would have been nice to see more of them in action than to hear what they had to say about themselves – I wonder, for instance, if they get a lot more out of their work than they let on.
Perhaps all the couples were very happy and what is happiness anyway? Am I happy rushing around all day doing too much? I wonder if it is easier to fall into traditional roles if you come from a more traditional background yourself. Are your expectations of what you end up doing ingrained from your own childhood? I know, for instance, that, having been brought up by a single parent, I could not accept the traditional role in any way, shape or form. It would feel completely wrong, no matter what my actual conscious thoughts about it were.
At the end of the day, I found the programme mildly depressing, but not so annoying that it actually provoked any major reaction since it was totally irrelevant to any aspect of my life. The constant harping on about choice in the media seems to ignore the fact that most people have none. Either they have to work to pay the bills or they can’t work because childcare is too expensive.
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