“Mother ” is not a Job Description

How do I describe myself? Writer, marketing assistant, poet, information assistant, short story writer, web copy writers, reviewer, website manager, blogger, web article writer, database manager, writing competition adjudicator, marketing researcher, mother? Does it matter? Look at the list again and pick the odd one out.

Shirley Dent’s “Writing mothers need our help” is right, and in her reading of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” as being about that feeling of isolation, being cut off from the world simply because you’ve had a baby. No one asks a man if he’s going to work part-time after hearing he’s going to be a father. I was accused of being “scarily efficient” because I wanted to get my newborn daughter into a sleeping routine so I could plan to write. Inconsistently snatching ten minutes here, half an hour there doesn’t work. Nurseries, schools and childminders still default to contacting mum if there’s a problem: after all she’s not doing real work therefore she can afford to be interrupted.

Actually, she can’t, because being interrupted and either having to book annual leave at very short notice, irritating colleagues in the process, or having to somehow find a way of making up the time taken out of a working day to deal with a minor problem completely screws up the household chores and writing plans. Not all mothers have access to a nearby, supportive network of friends and/or family who can make up the childcare gaps and that impacts on writing time. A sick child will always want to be with a parent (usually mum) but looking after one is never a fun way to spend your annual leave. And if you’d planned on using that annual time to write, it’s your writing that gets sacrificed. How you do combine a selfless activity (mothering) with a selfish one (writing) when everyone wants to write you off as solely a mother?

The odd one out, by the way, is mother: all the others are job descriptions.

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