Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Mummies Mummies Mummies: food for thought

I stumbled into a 'Mums and Bumps' group yesterday morning. Lots of lovely mummies, or soon to be, sitting around old wooden tables, eating chocolate cake and chatting.

And there I was, alone, reading Fat Is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach (for research purposes). It was uncanny. The page I happened to be on went like this:

"For a mother, everyone else's needs come first. Mothers are the unpaid managers of small, essential, complex and demanding organizations... For her keep, the mother works an estimated ten hours a day (eighteen, if she has a second job outside the home) making sure that the food is purchased and prepared, the children's clothes, toys and books are in place, and that the father's effects are at the ready. She makes the house habitable, clean and comfy; she does the social secretarial work of arranging for the family to spend time with relatives and friends..."

I looked around at this group and wondered if the 'bumps' were ready, and how the already mummies were coping with it all. And their jobs, what were their jobs? Ah, back to the book...

"In a capitalist society everyone is defined by their job. A higher status is given to businessmen, academics and professionals than to production and service workers. Women's work in the home falls into the service and production category. Although often described as menial, deemed creative, dismissed as easy, or revered as god-given, women's work is seen as existing outside the production process and therefore devalued."

Susie goes on to say that "women are seen as different to normal people (who are men), they are seen as 'other'". I look back at the women around me, who have reserved an area of the deli for their Tuesday morning group. They don't look the 'other' to me; they look like they're having fun. Orbach's book is old, now, so maybe lots of this is out of date, and let's hope it continues to become more and more so by the day. These women are attractive, powerful, full of energy and chat. They are not victims, but friends, professionals, people who are also mothers.

I am not a mother. I have one who struggled with the issues Orbach mentions, as many have. I hope that it's easier for mothers, nowadays, to be everything they want to be.