A woman’s work is never done

It was International Women’s Day this week, which gives us the opportunity to stand back from the mountain, look up and say ‘Bloody hellfire, there’s still a fuck of a long way to go.’ So that’s fun. Equal pay, anyone? No? Thought not. Maybe next year…

And some of the distance is, I think, illustrated by the apparently not ironic notonthehighstreet.com catalogue I received in today’s mail. (Yes, a virtual store is sending out a print catalogue, which kind of screwed with my head a bit. But anyway). It seems that it’s Mother’s Day coming up in the UK, so the mother-focused displays are up in all the shops, with the same old unimaginative tat as is found every year. Getting in on the act, notonthehighstreet has put together a selection of appropriate gifts.

Now, admittedly I’m not a mother and the only gift I stand a chance of receiving is a dead rodent. Although, considering the options on display in the catalogue, a dead rodent is actually pretty up there in terms of acceptable gifts. Still, had I been transplanted here from another planet and were I attempting to figure out what being a mother means, this is what I’d have gleaned from the catalogue:

  • She’s mostly in the kitchen, wearing a personalised apron and making cookies for the kids, using her retro scales to weigh out ingredients.
  • She does a lot of tidying up, but mostly that’s organising the kids’ stuff in their personalised bags, boxes and pencil cases.
  • She is identified predominantly by means of her familial relationships: jewellery or photo frames are excellent gifts, but only if they incorporate the names of the children or the date of her wedding.
  • For frivolity, it’s fine to tease her about drinking wine or eating chocolate, which are her only non-family related activities.
  • The role will gradually transition into that of grandmother, which provides the opportunity for a whole new load of personalised aprons.

This seems to me to be peddling a fantasy. It isn’t any of the mothers I know, all of whom have more to them and of whom I am in awe for taking on a role I couldn’t do, while doing everything else as well. And it is all of that, their jobs, their sports, their outside the home activities that make them the great role models they are for their sons and daughters. Why is that less important than home made cookies?

7 thoughts on “A woman’s work is never done

  1. I agree that it’s peddling a fantasy, a kind of cuteness that’s far from reality and which makes women, mothers or not, feel as if their own lives don’t match up. I like a bit of baking myself, but it’s a miniscule part of my life’s rich tapestry.

  2. I think you know how I’d feel if I received any of the gifts you described above. It is a fantasy that allows men, children and even us mothers to believe that even though we often get the crap end of the bargain because we don’t have an appendage between our legs, its ok because we got this cute t-shirt, or apron, or monogrammed elephant dung and therefore we are appreciated. (Not that you touched a nerve in me or anything…)

  3. Hi all – Ok, good to know that my outsider’s perspective isn’t off base. It’s all this rubbish that stereotypes a role, preserves it in aspic and then presents it back as the norm that I really, really hate. It is insidious.

  4. Oh well said. I’m a mum and I like me a bit of Cath Kidston, but cute aprons, retro scales and cup cakes? No thanks!

  5. Thanks for this, seriously. All I want out of Mother’s Day is a few more hours of uniterrupted sleep behind a LOCKED DOOR. Is that wrong? Can you then write a post about women who act like their husbands are fucking magicians worthy of weeks of praise for taking on one parenting task solo? Triangle punches all around.

  6. Paige – I say for next year, we start a blog in which people can list what they’d actually like for Mother’s Day. And then we can see who’s selling personalised sleep.

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