The Vagenda

The Fairytale of the Stay-at-Home Mum



It’s been a while since I sat down a read a good fairytale. It’s my own fault, really, what with working and the fact that the last book I read my niece involved a bear eating a rabbit in a fit of rage (the rabbit stole his hat, you see, so the moral of the story is if you steal things, someone will eat you).

Anyway, yes, fairytales; it’s been ages, so I was delighted to see one in the Daily Mail this week. It’s pretty special. I am hoping it will become a series, a sort of Grimm’s Fairy Tales for the foolish, but we’ll have to wait and see.

In a land called “terrible modern day Britain”, Helena is being raised by a feminist single mother, who encourages her to believe that she can work, and do whatever job she wants. She tells Helena to have ambition! Helena works hard and one day gets a job at a shiny castle (a women’s magazine, but same-same). She then meets a handsome prince and has two mini-humans with him. Then one day, handsome prince declares: “I earn enough money for you not to work!” and Helena realises she hates her job, and quits to becomes a stay-at-home parent.

Helena wishes all the women could be like her – in fact, she suspects they are secretly jealous of her job-free existence. Plus her friend Sarah says you can always spot the children whose mothers (not fathers, just mothers) work, because they are miserable little buggers “wound up like coiled springs”. This is true, Helena ponders, because now that she is a stay-at-home parent, her kids never argue anymore, having morphed into wonderful beings of pure sunlight. The handsome prince is happier too, because he gets more of her time. In fact, she now has the energy to tutor her children, who get into the best private schools in the land. Huzzah! Flags are erected, a marching band starts up, crowds line the streets, her mate Sarah smiles and nods because she has all the parenting facts. Others follow suit – why indeed would women choose to parent in different ways, when their children will be miserable unless they stay at home? Women wave their arms in the air, burn their computers and raise their children to the sky, like the beginning of the Lion King. A drunken man hums Circle of Life. Everything is as it should be.

But it isn’t enough, Helena thinks, looking around at the wonderful scene. Others should parent like me, but where can I find a power big enough to spread this exciting news? Enter the Daily Mail in the form of a scary wizard, offering a shiny golden apple.

“I shall spread the word,” DM tells Helena. “For it is part of my role in this story – I want a world where women stay at home to look after their children, are made to feel guilty if they don’t breastfeed, are celebrated for regaining their pre-pregnancy figure in two weeks, and always flash just a hint of sideboob. Who’s with me?”

The crowd hoists DM onto their shoulders, for they have heard of the power of the mythical sidebar of shame. Helena retells her story – which, in fairness, probably started out as a reasonable opinion piece on the choice to stay at home – to DM, who turns it into click-bait fodder for the unsuspecting villagers, then returns to taunting people on benefits.

The End

Disclaimer: I have no opinion, positive or otherwise, on how you raise your children. Stay home, work, raise them in a commune – whatever floats your boat. But probably avoid telling people their way of parenting is shit compared to yours.


9 thoughts on “The Fairytale of the Stay-at-Home Mum

  1. Don’t read the Daily Mail. Just. Don’t. Read. It.
    Everyone knows that Paul Dacre is an agent of evil, placed upon the earth to sow hatred and intolerance until every single member of the human race has embarked on a killing spree ending only when the last remaining person throws themselves off a high building in despair and self-loathing.
    Getting het up every time one of his she-minions writes some fatuous shit is a complete waste of energy. Besides, every time someone reads the DM, a puppy dies.

  2. I stayed home for 2 years and fully intended to go back in to work when I had found something I liked and was ready. Conversely I was judged by a friend who returned to work when her child was 3 months old (which was her choice and that’s absolutely none of my business). But she chose to make my career her business in order to justify her decisions. Not that her decision even needed justification in the first place…

    Articles like the DM one only serve to pit women against each other.

  3. Birthing my ‘kids’ (yes those little goats I have trotting around) fortunately did not turn me into a quivering wreck of insecurity that seeks out how to mother, even to the point of reading the Daily Mail. Like the ‘sidebar of shame’ I also missed this article, because frankly parents (unlike many journalists that could spin an off the cuff comment into a whole article?) have big (mainly financial) issues to chase and eat time.

    Parent and live how you wish, if you wish to dress as Barbie (we really should listen to Jodie Kid more often) and stay at home whilst modelling yourself on a stepford wife…go for it. Powersuits? Long hours in childcare? Niqabs? Likewise. I just wish we could accept each other, yes even in the throws of hormonal passion, and pull together on things that matter:

    1. Childcare, up 19% in one year? £1300 a month nursery fees? That’s, with travel costs, pretty much the UK average wage for one child. Two children? You work HOW?

    2. This government time and time again hitting women. Look where the job cuts are. Look at your wage compared to a man. Look at the tax breaks for employers…unless you’re a working mum employing a nanny. Then you should be punished!

    3. How we’re spoken to by men on twitter/ social media/ WORK is soul destroying. The Daily Mail ain’t going to dent you if you can let that roll of your back. I’m sure the Daily Mail wasn’t present at my last interview trying to find out if I had children or whistling out the window, nor do they honestly have a hand in the fact that at this rate my daughter will feel less of a person if she doesn’t wax her pubic hair. Regardless of other achievements she’ll probably be pressured into worrying she looks pre-pubescent as she’s ready to give birth herself.

    In summary let’s sod the Daily Mail and really start entering the debate at the level that matters. My parenting, like my attempts at dieting or writing thoughtfully, often is shit. So is that of others (including my husband), let’s accept it and laugh a bit when it’s pointed out and stop holding ourselves up to ideals or chasing perfection. I’d love to have the perfect job that fit round school hours and it’s frankly pretty shit coming home to tired stressed children mon-fri, but the fact these jobs don’t exist is the bigger issue, not our individual choices.

    Cognitive dissonance, either expectation or reality needs to change.

  4. Isn’t this under the humorous surface yet another article criticising a mum and telling mums how to behave? Written of course by the only people with sense who dictate for us with procreating wombs? So as a good mummy I should avoid comment, unless they read the daily mail and then I’m allowed to say their reading matter is shite?

    I like vagenda, but this is a tad patronising isn’t it?

  5. Funny isn’t it how I always envied those of my friends who’d come home to a nice quiet home after school, where as my teacher parents where always there as they’d end their day around the same time as we did and then pick up work again in the evening after we had gone to bed.
    I longed for the independence and the opportunity to just wind down after school without their constant “What did you do? How was your day? What did you learn? Who did you play with?”, but yes obviously they should have been there even more, because one mold fits all families and there is ONE way to do it right :-/

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