Thursday, 29 January 2009

Identities

I've spent the week having conversation about who we are and who we were with my friends. I've yet to meet one who is happy to say I'm a housewife/mum to so and so/lady who lunches etc without a wince and a sense of irony.

Somehow we all want to talk about what we were, what we did, and how we got here. It's as if as soon as you have children, and mostly spend your time looking after children, that becomes your identity. You're no longer daughter, but mother to the grandchildren. You're no longer Ms or Mr Artist/Professional/Quirky etc.

Maybe it is because nearly everyone defines themselves by their job. And when you don't have a paid job anymore, that definition goes. Of course I'm the first the admit I hated my job at times, adored it at others, but wouldn't have done anything else - though possibly in a different location.

I wouldn't even go as far as to say we're struggling with the concept that we look after children, primarily, because somewhere we all believe that its the right thing to do. Or we wouldn't be doing it. But the names for what we do are simply rubbish. Housewife is a real 1950's concept, and ok, may well define what we do (checking out bargains, preparing dinner, cleaning the home and so on) but its so old fashioned. And anyway what if you are not married, as many of us aren't in 2009?

There's homemaker - which if I'm honest I quite like, except it doesn't roll of the tongue and makes me feel like I would spend all my time plumping cushions, and making quilts. Not doing bloody washing, and cleaning, and fetching children.

Course most people say stay at home mum/dad nowadays - but even then that implies all you do is the childcare bit. Not the managing home/family/pets type scenario.

And are we proud of any of these titles? They don't give a clear identity; you don't get a grip of who someone might be/where they came from/how hard they worked to get where they are to be these.

So - what do us stay at home people do? Carry on giving people an hour lecture on who we are and what we do when they make the mistake of politely enquiring what we do for a living. Or give up, and just know inside we were once made for more. (N.b. and that isn't to say being parents doesn't mean you don't use your brain, but really you don't)

Makes you think siphoning some children off in to domestic studies makes sense after all. No point educating people to sit at home worrying about how to get jam off the sofa after all is there?

2 comments:

Steerforth said...

My wife gave up work to be a full-time mum when our first son was born. She was abandoned by her mother at the age of nine and wanted her own kids to have a more secure upbringing.

Most people accept her decision, but she still gets flak from some people who think that she should be back in full time work at the earliest opportunity. If she wanted to do this, I would respect her wishes, but at the moment she's happy trying to give two boys a decent start in life and I wish that there wasn't a stigma about doing this.

Surely Feminism was about giving women a choice; not making them wage slaves of the consumer society.

tattyhousehastings said...

It's crazy that anyone could ever feel they have the right to critique such a fundamental life choice such as looking after children, or working or not. But critique they do.
And absolutely feminism was about giving women a choice, I think we just forgot that in th early nineties with our rush to be 'superwomen'.