My Letter to the Guardian – Thousands of Shares and Striking a Chord

I was of course over the moon when my letter to the Guardian was published this week.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/sep/22/jo-brand-tribute-to-stay-at-home-mums-put-a-smile-on-my-face?CMP=share_btn_fb

What has been surprising is that the letter was in the top 10 most popular on Guardian life and style for two days and, today, a friend told me that it has over 4,000 shares. EDIT – NOW 8,000. EDIT – NOW 10,000.

Well, does that mean that what I have written has struck a chord, or that people, like me, really really like Jo Brand?

It’s also interesting isn’t it that the Guardian assumed that Jo was praising only those mothers who mother full-time. It is also interesting that in their headline they used the phrase ‘stay at home mums’, one which I avoid and didn’t use. As a colleague in campaigning said, we are all nuanced in our views, and I was careful to use her exact phrase in my letter. It just goes to show that people take what they like from what they read, identifying with some or disagreeing with others.

I was overjoyed to see Jo praise all women who slog their guts out raising their families – and, to me, that was a clear recognition that all mothers who get on with bringing up their families, and who work hard to do it, are worthy of admiration (Amen to that). It was a recognition that mothers work hard – whether it be in employment to bring in money to support their family, or whether it be slogging it out while down with the kids at home doing the stuff of nurture and daily care. My mother had three children and worked hard when she was at home full-time and then still when she went into employment full-time.

Jo did not qualify her statement in any way: to refer only to those mothers in employment; or only to those staying at home; or only those who do X, Y and Z. And that is what I loved. Those of us at home finally saw a high profile statement that did not immediately divorce our investment in motherhood (to quote Drew Barrymore) from ‘doing the right thing’ or being part of a ‘hardworking family’. And that is a refreshing change. We mothers work hard, and as a feminist who admires those of us who do it despite pressure, financial hardship, in the midst of career or job, or while taking time out of the workforce, it was a great interview to read.

It is wonderful that the debate is taking place – people have obviously been sharing it – in the run up to the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences.

Either way, here is the letter in full:

“As a mother of young children at home and a feminist who supports the rights of the many women who either work tirelessly at home to raise their families or who would love to do so if finances could stretch, I was delighted to read Jo Brand’s interview (Q&A, Weekend, 19 September). When asked which living person she most admired and why, she answered: “All women who slog their guts out every day, quietly getting on with bringing up their families.” That was a refreshing change from the current script, trotted out by politicians and commentators, that the only women worth admiring are those who combine parenthood with employment or career – those women who are “doing the right thing” and who, somehow, are deemed to have a monopoly on the attribute “hard-working”.

This usual script is an insult to those women who see value in caring for their families at home, and who are struggling financially to do it in a political and economic system that penalises the household income by biased tax and allowances, fails to recognise the financial sacrifice of losing an income to care for children ourselves, and places the notion of “economic contribution” as a higher priority than the nurture, care and love of our children.

Thank you, Jo. You put a smile on the face of a woman who, at times, feels like persona non grata in the age of capitalist individualism.
Vanessa Olorenshaw
Author of The Politics of Mothering, Sevenoaks, Kent”

1544799712_a0fc2f9497_b

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/10390868@N07/1544799712″>EX1 424, Sweetbriar Lane, Heavitree, Exeter</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

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