Research shows that mothers still take on the lion’s share of work around the home, so that alongside raising our children we can expect to keep the workspace running smoothly.
“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights” Gloria Steinem
I like the idea behind International Women’s Day, taking place annually and worldwide since the early 1900s, and falling on 8th March. It is a celebration of womankind, of our achievements and inspirations. On this day, some countries observe a national holiday, while others highlight the history of its women. High achievers are feted in the press; everyone from Oprah to Tracey Emin. But the International Women’s Day website is awash with adverts for companies such as BP, trumpeting their credentials in employing women, as if this was an opportunity for multinationals to indulge in some good old-fashioned back patting and visitors to the site – let’s face it, predominately women – are going to be swayed into choosing BP because they’re so damn feminist. So far, so patronising.
Furthermore, the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Make it Happen. The website clarifies this as: “Inspiring Change for greater awareness of women’s equality; for more women in senior leadership roles; for equal recognition of women in the arts; for growth of women-owned businesses; for increased financial independence of women; for more women in science, engineering and technology; and for fairer recognition of women in sport”. I can’t help but feel that it is our most vulnerable people in society – mothers parenting alone and without support; mothers on benefits; mothers with a disability or illness; all mothers who are being unfairly penalised by the cuts by a punitive government hell bent on demonising the poor – who need change. This is covered briefly in ‘greater awareness of women’s equality’ and also ‘increased financial independence of women’, but the focus is always on our female achievers. The ones hitting the headlines because of their sporting prowess or achievement in male-dominated careers.
It isn’t that these women aren’t important or even that they don’t have an important message for sisterhood generally. After all, without them to light the way, we might get discouraged and feel that our status as women is pre-destined. But I am interested in all the women achieving amazing things every day, out of the media spotlight. Every mother who, coping with an incurable illness, gets herself out of bed and makes breakfast for her kids and gets them safely to school on time. Every mother who, faced with a houseful of children and a job to get to, chooses not to lose her temper but finds a positive way to solve the problem. Mothers who face adversity every day – and adversity is all relative so whether it’s discovering that you and your children are likely to be evicted from your bedsit at the end of the month, or that your school-age child has been accused of bullying – and rise to the challenge. Those women are, for me, the real heroines of International Women’s Day.
Mothering is still considered lowly work in our money- and results-driven society. But mothers, in their hearts, know otherwise. It’s slow. The days are long but the years are short. Every choice we make, every time we extend our loving arms, every day we hold our children, comfort them, champion them, challenge and uplift them, we are creating the resilience, strength and love of the next generation. Can there be any more important work than that?
So, this International Women’s Day, stop to muse on all the things you are as a woman and as a mother. Celebrate all that you do to create a loving environment for your kids to grow up in. Rather than beat yourself up, as is our tendency, remember just how valuable your everyday ‘work’ is. Happy International Woman’s Day to all the mothers, visible and otherwise.