Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Price Tag of Life

I am not someone quick to anger. But very occasionally I do get cross, especially when I read quotes from people who pour scorn on being a stay at home mother.Yesterday, I read this article at The Daily Telegraph featuring novelist Joanna Trollope who suggests that stay at home mothers produce callous children. Here's what she says;

"I remember when my daughters were at boarding school and there was a girl at the school, and they were always telling me that she had this wonderful mother who was always at home, making home-made bread and willing to drop everything to play rounders....It was their big tease to me that she was this perfect mother...And recently I met this girl, now grown up, and there was this callousness about her. This idyll she had grown up in had detached her from society...My own belief, having worked absolutely all my life, is that it's healthy to work. It's extremely good for all our senses. So I would think that as a general rule - and I'm a novelist, not a psychotherapist, so I may be entirely wrong - but to be a working woman gives you a sense of balance in a great many areas of human relationships."

I am disappointed in Joanna. For someone who spends her life writing about families and relationships she clearly has some very judgemental opinions about what is the correct way to bring up children. And to suggest that stay at home mothers do not have an understanding about human relationships is, frankly, a preposterous statement.

Why do some people value stay at home mothers so little? As I get older, I am inclined to believe it is because many people view success (in whatever way you look at it) as being defined by how much money you earn. Everything seems to have a price tag these days. Sometimes even love.

Is that a preposterous statement? I don't think so.


  1. Whether a woman works or chooses to stay at home is irrelevant, I believe, to a child's upbringing.

    It's what a woman puts into a relationship with her children and what their children experience in the real world that creates the final product that you see.

  2. I reckon the lady is trying to justify herself, Jane. She feels guilty about sending her children to boarding school, presumably they picked up on that, and used the stay at home mum to make her feel bad.
    That's my amateur psychiatrist bit for the day!
    My bill is in the post.....

  3. G,

    I think you are spot on:)I know many women - some who work full -time, part time, from home or in the office and others like me who "stay at home" - I don't see any clear evidence to suggest that any one way is preferable over the other - it is, as you say, what a mother puts into her relationships which helps to define it. Most women have to muddle through for at least some period of their lives trying to balance family and finances and let their own personal desires take a back seat -it may indeed be beneficial for a mother's mental wellbeing to have a job - but that is assuming it is also a satisfying job - I am sure there are far more women stuck in underpaid, menial work that bores them rigid than the few who enjoy the career of their choice. Finding a job that fits in with a family is not easy - Joanna is one of the lucky few.

  4. You may indeed be correct, Martin. Either way, Joanna is doing a good job of alienating her readers!

    Ps - Don't make the bill big. I don't work and can't afford big fees:)

  5. I'm no psychotherapist either, but ... sweeping generalisations may indicate an individual's need to believe (or justify) something about their own behaviour. (I hope that isn't too much of a generalisation.) Maybe the author has some unresolved issues. It does indeed seem strange to forge a link between a person's callousness (which the mother may or may not have come across as) and a single aspect of that person's life. You certainly don't have to be a psychotherapist, a psychologist, a novelist, or even very intelligent at all, to work out that this a simplistic reduction of the human psyche.

  6. Yes,I agree Paul, that it is a sweeping, simplistic generalization and no doubt there are other factors at play of which we have no knowledge. Unfortunately, I have read a number of articles over the years maligning stay at home mothers - and have, in fact, experienced it directly. It just saddens me that such criticsm has come from one of leading women novellists.

  7. Yes, Joanna has really gone too far. It betrays such shallow and self-justifying thinking. It obviously says far more about her than about stay-at-home mums. Quite unbelievable. (And it wasn't some off-the-cuff remark, overheard by mistake, but something she actually bothered to sit down and write. Just unbelievable.)

  8. And if you think that's bad Mrs B just read these articles about V S Naipaul;

    The Hay Festival is certainly turning out some controversy this year.


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