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Roshni B.. (For justice and dignity)     04 February 2011

Working women are now yearning to become housewives!!

Apparently, women are yearning to stay at home. That's guilt talking

A report suggests most women see a rich husband as better than a career. But happiness doesn't lie there


The way to smash the glass ceiling, I was once told, is to smash the myth that women can have it all. There is a whole generation of women who were raised to believe that it is possible to have a stellar career, a wonderful marriage, an amazing s*x life, several well-balanced children and still have time to see your girlfriends and get your hair done. I run a business, have three children and a husband and put dozens of women each year into senior and well-paid jobs and know this to be total rubbish.

The eminent LSE sociologist Catherine Hakim recently published a paper that appears to suggest that, as a result, feminism is dead and most women now want to marry a rich husband and stay at home. This, in turn, has spawned acres of print, with Grazia magazine asking their readers to choose between ambition and "man-bition", and other papers describing the stay-at-home wife as the "ultimate luxury" for a successful man.

I see over and over the stress women put themselves through trying to juggle a career and a family, or even a career and a personal life of any descripttion. Brenda, who founded her own company, built it up and sold it, and then started another one, recently had her first child at the age of 38. She tells me she is getting very little sleep and is exhausted. Is this because her daughter wakes in the night? No. It is because Brenda gets her child up, takes her to nursery, works until 5pm before collecting her, does tea, bath and bed and then, when the little one is asleep, returns to the computer and does the work she didn't get to in the day.

By the weekend, when her husband is around, she is exhausted and not much fun to be with. Why doesn't she give up work? Because she earns more money than her husband. Then why doesn't he give up? Because she wants to look after her daughter herself. In her exhausted state, I can quite see why she might have responded to the survey by saying that if she could marry a rich man and not work, she would.

Meanwhile, men, on the whole, seem to have no problem getting married, having children and then getting on with their career without constantly becoming uptight about not spending enough time at home. However much women might believe we are a liberated and equal s*x, we are just not programmed to deliver children and then abandon their rearing to others. But that is what we have to do unless we can find that amazing job which provides all the intellectual and professional fulfilment we need, let alone financial reward, between the hours of 9am and 4pm. Oh, and not on days when little Alice is a bit poorly and the nursery won't take her. The truth is that most working mothers don't really see themselves as part of an equal opportunity household, with both parents sharing the burden of parenthood, and that is unlikely to change.

Somehow, a mother is always going to feel that she should be parenting more than she does. Sarah is a very senior banker in central London whose 11-year-old son has recently been allowed to walk to his school unescorted. On the first day, she told him to text her when he got there. Nothing arrived. It turned out he had texted his father, thinking one parent as good as another. She was climbing the walls with worry. If it had been the other way round, would a father have given it a second thought?

It is the belief, mainly held by women, (and Nick Clegg, who thinks that such views are "Edwardian" and so has proposed that fathers have equal rights to parental leave) that mothers are more important, which causes stress in every working mother and leads them to want to give up work and stay at home full time. Or at least to tick the box in a questionnaire that says that they think that is what they want.

So we shouldn't be surprised by the results of the survey – they misrepresent reality. Both in my work and in my social life, I come across many women married to wealthy men, very few of whom really want to devote themselves wholly to their children and their husband's sock drawer. For every woman that the Daily Mail can find to trill about how fulfilling it is to do the laundry and put out their husband's slippers, I can point to three who, while financially able to stop working, continue to do so. I asked several of them why. Carla's husband earns more than enough for her (his second wife) to stay at home, but she knows what the UK's divorce statistics are and says: "You should never rely on men."

Emily, a consultant married to an older and wealthier man, told me she wanted a say in how the money in the house was spent and felt more credibly able to do so if she was bringing some of it in. Jane, who did try not working for six months, after marrying at the age of 23, said that she finally got frustrated and started her own business. Finally, Amanda, who has had a long and successful medical career, and could, if she wanted to, stay at home, has just opened her own general practice in north Oxford, excited at having been able to design from scratch a medical facility and provide a service she believes is sorely needed. Why, she said, would she stay at home when there was the opportunity to do this?

And will these wives, yearning to stay at home, have the same ambitions for their daughters? If so then, with tuition fees going through the roof, why bother to send them to university?

Hakim has a theory for this. She has long sought to designate women in developed economies into categories and use this to predict their response rate to labour market policies. She has previously identified "home-centred" women as ones who prefer not to work and who gain qualifications, apparently, for their "intellectual dowry". (What would you prefer, darling? Extensive postgraduate qualifications in microbiology? Shall I get myself called to the Bar?) This seems to be as unlikely a concept for a sane, rational and intelligent woman as having marriage to a wealthy man as an over-riding ambition. Interestingly, in that earlier work, Hakim estimated that women who would prefer to stay at home if they could only accounted for 20% of her sample.

So, is feminism really dead? I don't think so. This survey actually represents a cry of pain. While there will always be women who give it all up to raise their children, and I respect their choice, it may well be much less fulfilling than it sounds and a terrible waste of resources into the bargain. The key is to stop feeling you have to achieve perfection in every sphere of your life, which inevitably leaves you feeling increasingly stressed. Lose that guilt, sister, and you could be on your way to career success – maybe even starting your own business. Which might then mean that you could afford to marry anyone and pay for someone to arrange their sock drawer. This, surely, would be the ultimate luxury.


 1 Replies

Ambika (NA)     05 February 2011

Very very good article ! 

1 Like

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