Monday, 5 May 2008

SAHM or WAHM?


I came across Veronika Sophia Robinson's blog today. She is the editor of 'The Mother' magazine. It was extremely thought-provoking, on everything from the real origins of breast cancer increases, to the cause of teenage dysfunction and violence, to, in her latest entry, being a 'work at home' mum versus 'stay at home' mum.

This has been a question which occupies a lot of my thoughts since making the decision not to go back to my job or to look for another. Although I am a writer and yoga teacher, am I still a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM)? My day is structured around child-friendly and child-orientated activities, rather than my work, at present, so I would lean towards the SAHM side, particularly as I am not yet earning any visible money from my endeavours.

I've just finished reading a fascinating, if dated, book called 'Who Cares?: A new deal for mothers and their small children' by Penelope Leach. I picked it up at a book market at Embankment in London this weekend, and devoured it in a couple of days. Leach puts forward the argument that until the age of three, group scenario's of childcare are developmentally inappropriate and damaging. What a child needs is one-to-one attention from a mother or mother-substitute. Feminism has done a great job in many ways but unfortunately it hasn't helped women to mother better, because they are forced to choose between mothering and career, mothering and money, and to feel guilty either way. "I do think that loving and caring for a baby and child is too important to give less than the best that we can.', Leach says in an interview with Oliver James. She has also recently led a study showing that children cared for in nurseries, child-minders and grandparents had more problems such as aggression and withdrawal.

The way that it's become harder to leave J in the evenings lately, to the point where I've decided not to try and do so again until I feel he is ready; the way I feel guilty when I'm only giving him 'half' my attention because I'm trying to do something else that, when you come down to it, isn't really that vital; the way I find that the more whole-hearted and involved I am with him, the more I enjoy parenting rather than find it overwhelming and burdensome; the way he is developing, more and more, into a person in his own right, who fascinates me with his total focus and motivation; all these things intuitively confirm the facts that I am learning about. Attachment parenting seemed so 'extreme' when I first saw it and read about it, but I now find anything else rather unthinkable. What is disturbing to me, is how few people seem to know what is best for children, developmentally and emotionally, despite the numerous studies that have been carried out on the subject. Is there a cover-up going on here? After all, clearly it suits our economy to have mothers all going out to work, and many jobs provided for the out-sourcing of childcare. If mothers knew how daycare could affect their children, at least they could make an informed choice.

'Writer Mama' (see my previous blog) is great,and has given me a lot to work on systematically in terms of breaking into publishing, but it assumes that you are happy to leave the care of your very young child with someone else, and that you have natural breaks during the day from the responsibilities of childcare. This is not the case for me right now, and I have found this difficult at times, but the more I accept it, the more I can see motherhood as my career right now - perhaps as my main job, with other things as corollaries. Much as when I was working a 37 hour week, I saw my writing and yoga as hobbies outside of that (even when I hated my job: the fact was, the sheer amount of time I spent on it, pushed other things aside).

No doubt I will continually revise these views as I go along, but that's where I'm at right now. I feel passionate about the way the younger generation is cared for and becomes part of the larger world, and that this is more important and more essentially creative than any other endeavour. The beauty of it is, I can write about my passion (when I get time...)

1 comment:

bottomland said...

I really love this post. I've been primarily a SAHM for the last 3 years, even though I've worked part time for pay for most of that. My primary energy goes towards caring for my dd, and I'm really pleased with that. She's about to turn three, and I had also read and resonated with the observation that prior to three, young children really are too over-stimulated by a group experience.

By the way, I found you through the MDC writing forum. Hi!
Caren