The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - Miriam Whit­ting­ton

ONCE my week­ends were about in­dul­gence. Now my week­ends are about oth­ers. Mostly, fer­ry­ing them about and cheer­ing from the side­lines. You see, I’m a housewife, a stay-ath­ome mum. And I love it.

I have two sons, both at school full time, as well as a bread­win­ner hus­band. It’s a dis­tant me­mory but at some stage way back, I was a so­lic­i­tor. Now I’m an al­pha mum, ac­tively in­volved in the par­ent­ing of my kids. Some may sug­gest too in­volved — us­ing the term ‘‘heli­copter par­ent’’ as a la­bel of de­ri­sion. But per­haps their con­de­scen­sion says more about them than par­ents like me?

My kids are grow­ing up. Time flies and I want to savour ev­ery pre­cious moment as it hap­pens. I have no goals for them as adults, this is not my mo­ti­va­tion. Rather, I feel a great sense of hap­pi­ness watch­ing on. It’s as sim­ple as that.

Was my ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion a waste of money? Not at all. I use my pro­fes­sional skills to ad­vo­cate on be­half of my chil­dren, to be in­volved in their ac­tiv­i­ties and, hopefully, im­prove the way things are done. This ben­e­fits my kids but of­ten other chil­dren as well. Un­fair­ness, in­jus­tice: I can’t sit back. What really presses my but­tons are par­ents loudly achiev­ing through their chil­dren. Maybe it’s too close to home.

Have I lost my iden­tity? No. I’m still my own self. Right now I choose to have a lot to do with my kids. I’m not wor­ried about what I’ll do when they leave home. I know I’ll be fine.

It was im­por­tant for my mum that I be­came a ca­reer woman. Her mi­grant fa­ther had ar­ranged a mar­riage for her. She re­jected this and opted to be­come a teacher, sup­port­ing her­self through col­lege sell­ing make-up in a cos­met­ics de­part­ment.

She was paid less than my dad when they first stepped into class­rooms to start work. She was ex­pected to give up work al­to­gether on hav­ing chil­dren. This Mum did. Sort of. Through­out her life she chased re­lief teach­ing and short-term con­tracts. But she didn’t crash through any glass ceil­ings. She strug­gled with this. Mum felt a fail­ure in the eyes of fem­i­nism.

Had she failed her daugh­ters? No way! Both my sis­ter and I fol­lowed in her foot­steps as moth­ers. She was our role model. And for that mat­ter so was Dad. To­gether they showed us how to op­er­ate as part of a fam­ily.

I cook. I clean. I’m for­ever at the su­per­mar­ket. I wash the linen. But I do not iron. My hus­band does that. My sons do their own laun­dry. I’ve been ac­tive in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of some com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions. But I am still a housewife. I won­der if I’ve let Mum down?

My par­ents died in a car crash. Killed by a lit­tle old lady on her way to a lawn bowls tour­na­ment. It was the day I changed my sur­name to that of my hus­band. We had been mar­ried for 10 years and now had one baby with an­other on the way.

So, would I be a dis­ap­point­ment? I’m not a part­ner of a law firm or prime min­is­ter. ‘‘No,’’ my par­ents would say, ‘‘look at what hap­pened to us. We’re glad you’re there for the boys.’’

Yes. I’m a housewife but I’m also a fem­i­nist. I be­lieve in equal­ity of worth and free­dom of choice. Surely this is what the point was? I chose to stay home. I value this con­tri­bu­tion to our fam­ily and our com­mu­nity. This is also what works best for my fam­ily. Other fam­i­lies do things dif­fer­ently, and that’s fine. It’s true I have no ‘‘me time’’ on the week­ends, but with five child-free hours ev­ery week day I have time to stroll along the beach with my dog, and pon­der.

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