Friday, October 13, 2006

Please step forward the real 21st Century Mums.

The Observer ran an article in its magazine about 21st Century Mums. They picked out 8 categories of mother who they claimed represented motherhood in the 21st century. They were:

The career mother
The surrogate mother
The older mother
The lesbian mothers
The single mother by choice
The teenage mother
The adoptive mother
The eco mother

The article pointed out that these ever so modern mothers demonstrated how far we have moved on from the "married stay-at-home mother of our parents' era".

How far indeed! But their assumption that this list illustrates how we've moved in the right direction is one I question. There is a mother missing from their list of 21st century representatives: the Mum who decides to sacrifice the smooth escalation of her career and associated financial gain because she believes the first years of her child's life are the most important and the ones when the child needs their mother around.

We looked into nurseries when Hayley was on maternity leave and even sent Oliver to one for a few short (and too often unhappy) trial visits. But after researching the subject - and particularly after reading Stephen Biddulph's book "Raising Babies" - I concluded that there was no substitute for Hayley's time and attention as far as Oliver was concerned, no matter how financially unpalatable that looked at the time.

I'd say the majority of mothers we've come across in the first year of Oliver's life have expressed the wish to stay at home with their child on either a full- or part-time basis. Many of them have managed to do so and couldn't be happier about their decision.

Work-life balance is talked about a lot. But it seems to me that people are now doing more than talking about it as being important, they are actually doing something about it, even if it means sacrifices. So my message to The Observer is to wake up to the real 21st century trend in mothering: valuing it as highly as any paid job, giving it the respect it deserves and our children the start in life they deserve.