I am having one of my periodic bouts of self-doubt about my place in the world. (Show me the person who doesn’t.) This one was prompted by the classic mistake of reading the online profile of an old friend, who is outstandingly successful in every one of his several fields. I know he’s not exaggerating, either – sigh – because there is a media trail to prove his claims.
Pleasure on his behalf was quickly followed by a wave of critical introspection. I’ll spare you the running dialogue in my head, which became tedious even to me. The gist of it is to question the worth of a woman, for whom all the initial advantages provided by hard-working and loving parents have been compounded by marrying into a privileged position in society, choosing to become a non-earner at home with her arms in the sink or the washing machine.
This is a question older than feminism. The pros and cons of being a full-time wife and mother swirled around my head while I compared myself to those who manage to be simultaneously successful parents, volunteers, entrepreneurs and money-earners. At last I gave into the temptation to ask my younger son for his opinion. He is on half-term this week, and has been sitting at the kitchen table drawing and chatting while I stacked the dishwasher and washed the cutlery at the sink.
‘Do you think it would be better if I went out to work?’ I asked. ‘I could earn some money for us all.’
‘No!’ came the decisive answer. ‘I like you being here all the time. I need you here for cuddles!’
You might enjoy some other takes on this topic in Instant Sunshine and Falling down a wormhole in the kitchen: music as time-travel,
while there is a longer article on the subject in You know that dreaded question at parties? I have an answer…