My friend and writer Stephanie Calman texted me yesterday to say she was about to go on LBC in response to Nigella’s Telegraph comment about working mothers and – guess? The recession? The pay gap? The satisfaction of earning your own living? Of course not. It was guilt. What else could it be?
Working mother, guilty mother . . . goes together like a horse and carriage. (Did you know I teach poetry?)
To be fair, Nigella didn’t exactly say ‘guilt’ she said ‘all mothers have a huge sense of failure as they struggle to raise their children the right way’. But maybe it’s one of those things that women in public feel they have to say and it contributes to the pervasive myth that all working mothers feel guilty.
I think it’s rubbish. Feel guilty for paying the mortgage each month and making sure the children have a secure home? Given that wages have not risen with inflation, and we live in a world of short-term contracts and repulsive payday loan companies, and food banks are on the increase in the UK, I can’t imagine anything more corrosive to the parent/child relationship than endless nagging worry about keeping a roof over your child’s head.
I don’t blame Nigella or any other mother who uses the G word in connection with working. If she were to state openly that she loves her job, and she feels not one iota of guilt, she’s probably get a Samantha Brick level tsunami of ‘who does she think she is’. She has to say that she feels like a failure. There are unwritten rules about being a working woman with children in the public eye and that is one of them. Don’t appear to be
too confident up yourself.
It’s like being back in the playground.
I’m not in the public eye so I’m going to say I don’t feel guilty about working and I don’t feel like a failure as a mother. As Libby Purves said: ‘I would lay down my life for my children but I’m not going to do it every day.’