Alice in Texas

Not writing here anymore- see top post for details of my new blogs.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

women and work


Snippet of conversation overheard in a public place yesterday:

"What does my mother know? She never worked in her life!"


Here is the truth. Stay-home mums (and/or dads, of course) don't get paid a salary. They don't get sacked if they are remiss or negligent. And there really are stay-home mothers who do not work. There are even "homeschooling" parents who do not work, barely lift a finger round the house and totally neglect their children. Take it from me, these people do exist.

The thing is, the young lady I overheard almost certainly did not mean this:

"What does my mother know? She was a completely irresponsible and neglectful parent who never bothered taking care of us kids or the house or anything to do with our lives!"

Almost certainly, she just thought running a household, having babies and bringing up children did not constitute "work".

I have to say that, having spent quite a few years earning money followed by more years at home with kids, the latter is vastly, infinitely harder work as far as I'm concerned.

That is, if you actually attempt all the jobs you are truly responsible for.

I say "attempt" because there are a great number of home-based parents for whom getting everything done, as you would in paid work, is basically impossible. For many, the most that can be done is simply to work incredibly hard and get the most done that you can do.

One of the characteristics of a brilliantly talented person is that they do amazing things while making them look effortless. If you think your mother "did not work", but your house was warm, welcoming and cared for, and if your childhood was happy and relaxed in general, and if you are in no doubt that your parents loved and cared for you (one good measure of that is- did they do considerate things for you based on a detailed knowledge of your preferences?), then I have some news:

All that stuff doesn't come out of the sky and just land there on all of your heads. It has to be created, maintained and looked after. Someone did it. Doing things is work.

How easy do most people find that kind of work?

On the other hand, some people manage to achieve almost nothing while making it look like they are dragging a truck up Mount Everest. But I think they mostly work in offices.

Anyway, we need to update our definition of work. It can be invisible to its own beneficiaries. It can be fulfilling, wanted and enjoyable, and it isn't measured by the monetary outcome. I don't know what it is measured by though, except perhaps one's conscience.


At 10:00 PM, Anonymous epiphany said...

From a stay at home mom of two girls...thank you for your kind words. I needed to hear them.

At 10:08 PM, Anonymous J H RICKETSON said...

Alice -

Thanks for your insightful commentary. Puts me in mind of my experiences conducting exit interviews for a large insurance company back east in the '60s. Many of them involved dewy-eyed young ladies from clerical staff. Invariably, the phrase "I'm going to get married and quit work." cropped up in the conversation. My unvoiced rejoinder was "Lots of luck, child. You haven't even begun to experience WORK."



At 1:13 PM, Anonymous Katie said...

Years ago I heard a smart person say that you only notice "housework" if it is NOT done properly, (or at all). How perfectly said!


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