What do you mean “Do I work?” I have two children and a husband!

Posted by Samantha on March 10, 2015 in Hope |
Family games night - unpaid....but worthwhile....

Family games night – unpaid and unglamorous….but worthwhile….

I’ve just read a BBC article which concludes with the sentiment that the Japanese government wants to “fully utilise its female workforce”.  This means they want to get women out of full time at-home employment (i.e. supporting children and husbands and running a home – which is still called being a housewife in Japan) and into full-time out-of-the-home employment.

I don’t know about Japan, but I know here in the UK, on top of work supporting children, step children, husbands, partners (and often exes), parents, family members, friends and neighbours, not to mention running households, many women without full time paid jobs (who are therefore apparently not being “fully utilised”) are also a vital part of our society doing work on a voluntary and unpaid basis in schools, churches, charities and communities up and down the country.

Are we now also to be unappreciated for this as well as unpaid?

Creating school notice boards....more unpaid work undertaken by mothers....

Creating school notice boards….more unpaid work undertaken by mothers….

I also, thanks to the miracle of the internet, manage to run a small business from home as well as doing occasional (under)paid work in schools and children’s centres when I can. There are increasing numbers of women like me who supplement their family’s income with this type of child-friendly working arrangement.

I have the greatest admiration for women who manage to juggle their unpaid life commitments with a full-time paid career.  I could not do it.

Contrary to what many in governments seem to think, children remain a lot of work beyond the age of three.  For the sake of my health and my sanity, I simply cannot afford to work full time outside the home, no matter how much I might like the extra money, or how much the government might like the effect on the economic statistics of the country.

I love the attitude apparently voiced by many young female Japanese students in response to this push to get women to comply with such a narrow definition of a workforce: “The government wants me to give birth, raise a child properly and work full time? Are they trying to kill me?”

I find any discourse about female employment that refuses to recognise my commitment to my family and community as worthwhile, quite simply offensive.  More fundamentally, I find the refusal to recognise my work as EMPLOYMENT profoundly sexist.

I will always remember my mother pulling me up short one day when (in the arrogance of my early 20s) I was telling her off for “not having done anything with her life”.  She pointed out to me that she had made a choice to raise me and my siblings as a full time mother, that she would do it again, and that she would not tolerate my unappreciative, feminist-sounding, but profoundly anti-woman and motherhood sentiments.  What a lesson she taught me.

The true point of feminism must be to recognise the fundamental equality – despite differences – of the sexes.

It seems to me that we are coming dangerously close to denying any value to the types of work that women have traditionally undertaken – raising children, making a house a home, connecting with family and friends, showing mercy and compassion to those who need help.

I for one refuse to bow to this pressure to believe that only full time paid employment outside the home counts as “work”.

What I do with my time – most of the time – may be unpaid, but it is unquestionably of immense worth.

It is high time those running the country recognised this too.

1 Comment

  • Kate says:

    Here here! Thank you Samantha for this well voiced, passionate plea for respect for the life that I lead. I don’t even know what to describe myself as – the term ‘stay at home Mum’ is in itself misleading – because I don’t just sit at home and look after two children. I also do the cleaning, cooking, shopping, taxiing, husband care, gardening, social planning, school fundraising committee to name but a few other jobs too. Dropping the term ‘housewife’ was definitely a home goal, as the replacement is deeply inadequate.

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