Most mornings I trudge resentfully to work. Today, however, I skipped merrily through the August sunshine, eager to reach my desk, get my head down and perform my duties as a useful economic unit labouring away for The Man.  Whence this joy? It’s not simply because my kids were being annoying, making the office seem a welcome break (let’s face it, that would be most days anyhow). It’s because I’d just read this, a piece that’s enough to make any sane woman think OFFICE! WOO-HOO! YEAH!

The piece I’ve uncovered (via @Scriptrix and @LynnCSchreiber) tells the story of a woman whose whole family turn up at her office to “liberate” her from the tyranny of work and celebrate the start of her new life as an “ever-present loving homemaker”. I don’t know if it is a spoof; I suspect it isn’t. Either way, it reminds me of the reasons why I became a feminist in the first place. (more…)

Today I tweeted two photographs of domestic items. Said items were 1) a potato, and 2) an apron. These are not great photographs, nor were these particularly interesting items. However, they amused me, as each struck me as an especially extreme example of its genre (assuming potatoes and aprons can be said to have genres). They were common items, and yet they were symbolic of something bigger than themselves: the peculiarly obstinate headfuck that is motherhood and domesticity.

1. The Potato of Slummy Mummy Hell

I found this right at the back of a kitchen cupboard, behind some tins of 3rd and Bird pasta shapes. (more…)

As a mother who is also in paid full-time employment, I’m really grateful to women such as Ann Romney, who have the empathy and generosity of spirit to appreciate “lower-value” women such as myself. In particular, the following comment of hers has made me feel a whole lot better about who I am:

I love the fact that there are women out there who don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids. Thank goodness that we value those people too. And sometimes life isn’t easy for any of us.

Too right. I’m going to pin this quote above my desk, right next to the picture of those babies who I’m assuming must be mine.

Look, I’m busy. It’s work, work, work with me. So sometimes I forget the following things:

  • I “don’t have a choice” about going to work. I mean, I don’t – we need the money. But hey, sometimes I even enjoy it and get a sense of achievement! And that’s just selfish, isn’t it?
  • I “still have to raise the kids”. Sometimes I assume that since I have a partner, child-reading isn’t all my responsibility. That’s what paid work does to you. It’s like I’m turning into a man or something. It’s always good to get a reality-check.
  • I ought to be paranoid that stay-at-home mums might not appreciate me. I need to be reminded that people like Ann “value” me. I mean, normally I just assume stay-at-home mums are fellow human beings with varied viewpoints. I think I’m mixing with the wrong sort; they just don’t patronize me enough.
  • I need count my blessings. “Life”, says Ann, “isn’t easy for any of us.” How true. How true, and how profound.

Of course, some liberal fuckwits are being mean and making a big deal about the “I love the fact…” element  of Ann’s comment. And okay, it does sound weird coming from a multi-millionaire who doesn’t have to work and could probably pay for me and thousands of others not to without even noticing the difference (how about it Ann? Okay, ignore the others, what about just me?). But the thing is, it’s just a turn of phrase. She just meant “I think it’s nice”, or rather, not “nice”, but she loves the fact we do it all the same. That we step up to the plate. Basically, she loves us or something.

I love the fact that some people have the time to make judgements about the lives of others, particularly as said others don’t have the time to make the judgements themselves because they’re too busy working. Basically, I love the fact that Ann Romney doesn’t have to work.*

* As in do paid work. Because remember, Ann, staying at home looking after children is working too. For a moment there it sounded like you’d forgotten it.

Kirstie and I have loads in common. Like being fond of crafting. And um… being fond of crafting. Basically, when it comes to making pretty items which, if they have any use at all, are probably still no better than the versions you could get in Poundland, both me and Kirstie are totally in there.

Of course, people should really be calling Kirstie after me. Because I was into crafting way before she was. It’s a passion that’s been with me since I had endless sessions of occupational therapy in a psychiatric unit, back when she was still twatting about cashing in on the property boom. So don’t talk to me about crafts, Kirstie. Been there, done that, got the tie-dyed t-shirt.

There are some areas where I feel Kirstie still misses the point. Like silk painting – she doesn’t do enough to promote that as an art form. And paying due homage to the feminist revival of traditional crafts as opposed to jumping in with the most reactionary, idiotic interpretation of their use and function – she’s a bit crap at that, too. Still, she’s the one with the TV series and book deal and I’m the one with the suitcase full of silk cushion covers I can’t get rid of, so who’s the real winner here? (me, obviously)

Today Kirstie’s in the Daily Mail (yeah, another day spent bravely boosting the most evil paper on Earth’s online traffic – I’ll flagellate myself later). The piece is naturally misogynist and exploitative, but it’s also vaguely entertaining insofar as you start to feel even the Mail – even the Mail! – can’t comprehend Kirstie’s particular brand of sexism. First she thinks women have forgotten traditional roles due to paid work, which they presumably never did before the 1960s;  then she thinks modern women need to learn to do all household tasks, even “masculine ones”, in order to be “the man that can”; then she also likes to embrace “traditional roles”, meaning there are things which, as a woman, she doesn’t ever do (household finance stuff basically – it’s all a bit “thinky”); then she says you could do these “traditional roles” the other way round if you really wanted (“it is not a male, female thing”). So basically, Kirstie, we can all split household labour any old way we like, but we have to pretend we’re doing it in a sexist way because that’s all quite quaint and appealing, a little bit “Mad Men”, as it were. Fantastic.

Anyhow, I don’t know why I’ve ended up ranting about this. The main point of this piece was to ask:

Would anyone fancy a silk-painted cushion cover?

Orders in the comments box, please.

* If you from the US, Kirstie Allsopp is Martha Stewart without the having-been-in-prison bit. Hence even more annoying than the latter.

Way-hey! It’s Mommy Wars time! Or Mummy Wars, as I ought to call it in UK English, only it doesn’t sound as hardcore. But, hey, whatever. Nothing we love more than a good ol’ Mommy/Mummy scrap.

To summarise: Obama adviser Hilary Rosen suggests Ann Romney isn’t an all-round expert on women’s concerns as she’s “never worked a day in her life”. Ann Romney points out that raising kids is pretty hard work, actually. And that, plus lots of media shit-stirring, is pretty much it.

So, who do we agree with? Ann Romney because we should be valuing the unpaid work millions of women do? Or Hilary Rosen as she’s not involved in a presidential campaign that, if successful, would completely fuck women over?

What with having had little people emerge from my vagina, I am an expert on this kind of thing, so here’s my point-by-point guide to help you out.

  1. Looking after kids is hard. Doing paid work is hard. They are both hard because they involve doing stuff for people when you don’t necessarily want to do it.
  2. The relative hardness of paid work vs stay-at-home parenting is variable. Factors for variation include: i) whether you have, or could potentially have, a job with good pay and conditions; ii) whether you have, or could potentially have, a nanny or home help; iii) whether your kids are, or could potentially be, being complete and utter nightmares. Factors i and ii depend a lot on money; Factor iii, in my experience, varies from millisecond to millisecond, and you’ll never, ever work out what it really depends on.
  3. Going on and on about how hard looking after kids can be is nice and all, but it’s not really “appreciation” in any real sense. Normalizing the fact that someone’s having a crappy time is certainly the easy option, but making said time less crappy (changing parental leave laws, challenging gender stereotypes, questioning why those outside the home have more power and influence) would be a whole lot better.
  4. Getting totally carried away and telling someone who’s in the middle of cleaning up toddler vomit that hey, she’s the “CEO of the home” and doing a great job of “project managing” this family “business” is not showing appreciation. It’s being a patronizing bastard.
  5. Women like Ann Romney do not speak for the whole of womankind. Mitt Romney ought to get a focus group or something. Or just talk to some other women (but careful, Mitt. There are literally BILLIONS of us out there, and yeah, I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but believe me, it isn’t).
  6. If raising kids is so fucking hard on women (and yes, it is) perhaps it would be a good idea to let pregnant women make their own choices about whether to have said kids. And yeah, I know it was cheeky of me to slip that one in. But I’m like that.

Right, that’s it. I think I’ve said it, but I’ll leave it to the First Lady for a summing up:

Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.

@MichelleObama

Uh, thanks and all, Michelle, but I for one am a right lazy sod. But hey, I appreciate the sentiments.

We’ve all done it, girls. You pop out ‘just for some window shopping’ and before you know it, there you are, sneaking in by the back door, smuggling slats, curtain rails and mattresses up the stairs in the hope that hubby won’t notice. “Buy anything? Me?”, you shout down. “Nah, didn’t see anything I liked”, you boldly chirp, all the while trying to work out where to hide the bedposts and when would be a good time for the “crikey, look what I’ve found” Big Reveal. Well, today that was me. And I am ashamed, although, as ever, I have my excuses.

To put it in context, my partner and I have had the same futon since our student days over a decade ago. And it was second-hand and broken when we got it. Hence last Christmas my dad generously gave us some Ikea vouchers with which to purchase a nice bouncy new double. And that’s just what I’ve done (with the addition of some funky but somewhat superfluous posts).

Of course, given our current financial situation I should have thought “fuck the bed” and used up all the vouchers on our weekly shop. I mean, I wouldn’t mind living off Dime cake and pickled herring for a few months. But the bed was on special offer and it was being discontinued and it was a FOUR POSTER so I had to have it. D’you see? I HAD TO HAVE IT.

The expense doesn’t bother me that much, or rather, it was covered by the vouchers, so Not Real Money, or so I tell myself. I guess the thing that bothers me now is what the fuck am I doing with a four poster bed in my house? To put it bluntly: my house is a tip. A complete and utter tip. I wasn’t “good at” housework before I had kids, and now I’m even worse. So what on earth is one to make of a gorgeous white princess bed set in the middle of this utter squalour?

I am aware that there is a certain status attached to living in a pigsty. “Only boring women have tidy houses”, or so the fridge magnet says. A friend from school, now a proud mother of four, once posted a poem as her Facebook status, the details of which I’ve forgotten, but the essence of which was “who cares about a bit of dust when you’ve got love and cuddles and childish laughter filling your home”. And quite right, too. Only I’m not talking about a bit of dust. I mean, I wouldn’t call in Kim and Aggie just yet, but the fact is, our house is not nice. And I’m running round in circles, not to improve it, but just to slow down the decline.

I could, I suppose, do more. Once I’ve finished work, put the kids to bed and done the “basic” kitchen tidy and put on a wash, I could have a daily focus: hoovering for Monday, hob and oven cleaning for Tuesday, upholstery cleaning for Wednesday etc etc. Years ago, before I had kids, I did actually go through a phase of being like that. Funnily enough, it was when I was giving up smoking. It certainly helped, but I still look back on that time of domestic madness and shudder. I just couldn’t bear going through that again. I don’t want to lie on my death bed and think “well, that bit behind the sofa’s still looking pristine”. But by the same token, I don’t want to lie on my death bed and think “blimey, these sheets could do with a wash” (I accept that I’ll probably be thinking neither of these things, but you never know. I’m not a religious type so will no doubt be running through all sorts of random rubbish to avoid thinking of my imminent non-being-ness).

Well, anyhow, perhaps the best you could say is that the four-poster’s a means of bringing a peculiar kind of balance. A haven of luxury in the midst of chaos. And failing that, it’ll probably be quite good for shagging on. Once I’ve found a way of revealing to my partner that it’s actually there.*

* As you may have worked out, some of this is a fib. Partner was with me when I bought it and it’s actually being delivered tomorrow. But the part about it being a four-poster is true. So ner.

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