Back when I was single, or at least when I didn’t have a career as most people define it or a family as I now define it, I was curious about the kind of women that balanced everything. I’d read stories of women making mince pies at eleven at night and be perplexed (as much with the why bother as the how). Having worked forty hour weeks with eight hours a week on top of that commuting and running a home and feeding my family and doing laundry for my family and for the most part being an ok daughter, sister and friend for the last year I now find myself wondering what I did before. Because hanging laundry to dry before bed is just normal and a bath has become a luxurious treat. Making a batch of pasta sauce late at night or setting the alarm early to get a batch of laundry done before work is just how you make it work.

What I think is important however, is that in my day to day life I don’t bang on about it. This week my boss made a comment in front of a women I’ve worked with on a daily basis with (but not in the same office) for nine months and she said she hadn’t realised I had kids. Today I read a tweet by Dan Martin quoting Katie Hopkins at today’s Comment Conference (aka #eienterprise) as saying "I do have children but I don't talk about it because it's not relevant to my business."

I don’t watch The Apprentice because, well, I don’t know how to work our TV but on the basis of a single comment, I was warming to Katie Hopkins. Now, in my job having (step)kids is actually relevant because a significant target audience of the visitor attraction I’m the marketing manager for is families and as a thirty something, a twenty something and two under four foot somethings, my household constitutes exactly that. When it comes to creating and marketing events and activities, I have insights that would be foolish to ignore. But aside from casual conversations with the staff I consider to be friends as well as colleagues, I generally avoid talking about the kids. Just as I don’t mention the fiancé to every sales rep putting on the charm!

It’s a bit of a bugbear of mine how quickly women seem to define themselves by their offspring. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to have a child one day and I’m sure I’ll be utterly tedious about it but as soon as I’m back in a work environment I’ll surely switch off. Tonight we read Professor Pufendorf’s Secret Potions yet again (if you ever need to buy a book for 2-6 yr olds buy this!) and I had a conversation about Thunderbird 2 and refused to get drawn into an argument between the kids (and later expressed how I felt rather guilty over this to the fiancé) but tomorrow I’ll get dressed and think about the marketing budget and the onsite publicity for our next event and respond to emails. At no point will the fact the baby monitor will crackle and disturb my sleep tonight and that I’ll get weetabix (mini, with chocolate chips, and milk on the side) crumbs stuck to my socks and itching on the inside of my boots actually change how I go about my day.

I mean, you’d never catch a man doing it would you? Sure, of course surveys demonstrate that women do more in the home regardless of whether they work but I get the feeling that that is martyrdom in some working women. I knew the fiancé back when he was with his wife and idle chat on messenger was punctuated by stacking the dishwasher and other such activity. His ex may have done more childcare but he did a fair whack of housework. In our relationship today we’re pretty equal.

Take tonight. I got in first and opened the mail, reading through some legal papers for our new house and began dinner. The fiancé got in with the boys and we had a brief catch up before he took them for their bath. I popped out to the corner shop for bread and picked up a food magazine. I got back in time for their bedtime story then finished dinner (simultaneously reading the magazine) while the fiancé read the legal papers. We ate and then planned the menu (from the magazine) for Easter weekend which we’re hosting and signed the papers. He is now working on a new work plan while I write my column. I’ll probably cook tomorrow night while he makes the shopping list for Easter and empties the dishwasher. I could take it all on myself but what would that achieve beyond being able to join in the lazy bloke chats that women are so fond of?

Somewhere along the line women got it wrong. Katie Hopkins has ruffled feathers with her views that female-specific business support 'stifles economic growth' but I think she makes a good point. When you get women focusing on inspiring other women, I tend to see what they’re doing as highlighting inadequacy. After all, the women who just get on with it and are successful don’t need encouraging and inspiring by some female orientated nurturefest.  


From a personal perspective, I am inspired by anyone achieving what I’d like to achieve. As such while there are women I admire professionally (such as my boss and my elder stepbrother’s girlfriend), I also admire and take advice from lots of men. To be frank, if I’m competing in a man’s world (which I don’t actually think it is) then surely I’m better off looking to men than trying to carve out a uniquely female path to their status?   For me, evidence that Hopkins has a point comes in the affront of various groups (take the word ‘mum’ and merge with a word like ‘entrepreneur’ to create a fluffy sounding support group where they joke about caffeine consumption and talk about support and fighting) at her audacity.   

 I’d do more to fight Hopkins’ cause but you know, the kitchen needs cleaning and I’ve reports to write tomorrow. Much as I could do some research and befriend some women that could sponsor my spiritual growth and all that, I’ve a job and a family to take care of. I’ll keep my research to industry trends and market analysis for now.
4/22/2011 01:35:07 am

When they're your own kids, when they're there full time and when your biolgy ties you to them when you're in the office you might think differently. Yes, you need to switch it off and be in "work mode" but you may find time and more babies that are from your own uterus make that harder.

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Kathryn
4/22/2011 02:52:27 am

I think it'd be so hard that I don't want to do it! I'm currently putting plans in motion that will mean I won't be based in an office if/when I have a baby.

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Jan
5/19/2011 03:08:42 pm

Agree with Elizabeth. But I do know guys who go on and on about their kids and women who don't really talk about their kids unless they were asked (or when with other mums). The experience of having children sort of become something they have in common with other parents and therefore something to talk about.

Although, I would hate to become one of those women that no longer have anything in common with others besides children...

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