Archives: The curse of the working parent

This is one of series of columns I wrote for IOL Lifestyle, back in September 2011. That Grade 2 son is now in Grade 5, but the issue remains the same. The original is here.

My Grade 2 son is sick today.

Nothing serious, just a streaming cold and a very,very, very, very,
very, very sore throat (his words) that mean he can’t go to school
today. He was home yesterday too.

For him, it means he gets to hang around the house, playing XBox games
and entering competitons on a kiddies television website (we are
shortly going to have both a Nintendo DS and an iPod delivered to the
door because he has entered 13 times – “13 times, Mommy!!!”).

For his parents, however, this has meant much tense negotation and
juggling of the spaces where the self-employed and the corporate
worlds do and no not have some give in them.

We’ve made a plan, but creeping dread is upon me: my work schedule
tomorrow has no give in it at all, and what if he is still too damp to
go to school? At this point, we have no idea what we will do about
that. Probably I will push down the guilt and worry and agree with my
husband that we should send him to school anyway. And try to silence
that voice in my head that demands to know what I would do if I was a
stay-at-home mom.

Which leads me to think about a column we carried on the Lifestyle
site this last weekend, by the Daily Mail’s Sandra Parsons, who is
amazed that women complain about the problems of having it all. She
reckons we should all just keep our mouths shut and get on with it.

“…Let’s not kid ourselves that women’s lives really are worse now
than they were in the Seventies. It’s simply not true,” she writes.

“We’re no longer dependent on men for a roof over our heads, our
income or our identity. We’re well-educated – and if we want a career
there’s nothing to stop us.

“Equally, if we don’t want a career but would rather be homemakers and
full-time mothers, there’s no reason not to do that, either.”

Of course, she doesn’t mention all the women in the developing world
for whom the choices she takes for granted are but a distant dream.

But for those of us who to have those choices, my question is what
price(s) are we paying? What prices are all the people who support us

I get particularly irritated with women’s magazines who interview
high-flying women with children who always pay tribute to their
support network – and the ins and outs of that support network and who
does what when are never interrogated. Is there a domestic worker
taking a taxi home at night because Mommy had to work late? Is there a
yawning granny in front of the television because of that date night
that is required to keep a marriage alive? Is there a child being sent
to school sick because the support network ran out?

We are never served well by lying to each other about our parenting
issues – so use the comment form below to tell us how childcare and
work really play out for you… and I mean this: tell the truth!