When my children were young, I had to work; I had no choice. Actually, that’s not really true. I could have stayed home and accepted welfare. I was a single parent with four children, three sons and a daughter. When my husband left, the boys were 9,8, and 3 and my daughter was 7. Child maintenance payments were small and sporadic at best, and finally stopped altogether.
I had observed other mothers on welfare and it was not an appealing lifestyle. They hardly had enough to get by on, and seemed bitter, angry and completely focused on their problems. They didn’t enjoy the freedom from working outside the home. They felt confined, with only little people for companionship, all day, every day.
Yet many were afraid to venture back into the job market. They felt they lacked the education or the skills to succeed in the competitive world of work. As time passed, living on welfare became a way of life and they no longer even checked the “Help Wanted” column in the local paper.
I was fortunate to have a good job when I became a single parent. I was an elementary school teacher. The oldest three children attended the school where I taught. The only pressing problem I had was finding a new baby-sitter. My husband took off with the old one. To say the least, it was very inconsiderate. You’d have thought one of them could have found me a replacement before they withdrew. ( It is far enough in the past now, that I can make feeble attempts at dark humour about the situation.)
I was also fortunate to have had wonderful parents. My mother was a retired nurse, so she took the children home when they were sick, and nursed them back to health. My dad took care of maintenance jobs around the house and he was always leaving giant jars of peanut butter and other necessities in the fridge. I don’t know how I could have managed without them.
Because of my experience, there was one piece of advice which I tried to hammer into my daughter: get a good education and a job which will pay enough to support a family. In this day and age, when nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, you may very well have to.
She listened. Since her long-term relationship recently ended, she is supporting herself and her dependants nicely on the comfortable salary she earns from the job she’s held almost twenty years. Although she chose to raise puppies and kittens instead of children, the principle is the same.
Working mothers should raise working daughters. In these days of equality of the sexes, relationships that come and go, feminism, one-parent families, and dads who prefer to work at home, it often becomes the woman’s responsibility to go out into the world and earn a salary sufficient to maintain herself and her dependents however many and whatever kind they may be.
Do working mothers raise working daughters? It is certainly to be hoped so. And, the way things seem to be going, it will be that way for a long time to come.