For God's sake, mum, get a job

It's great to have a working mother, these teenagers say. Report by Katie Sampson
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Indy Lifestyle Online
When I was in my pre-teens my working mum took some time off from her job to look after the children because she felt it was the thing "one ought to do". After a few years everyone had become so frustrated by the lack of stimulation her non-working life had to offer, that hints turned into orders to "get a job!". She returned to work, admittedly to a job with sociable working hours, and the knock-on effect of her job- satisfaction improved our relationship immeasurably.

Following the recent Panorama report, working mothers all over the country have suffered pangs of collective guilt. But, as my experience and as these interviews show, maybe they don't need to worry.

Andrew Iwasyszyn, 17

I have never thought my mum's being at work was a disadvantage. I like having the place to myself occasionally. In fact I'm glad she works, though she does it because she has to. The most significant factor is that I have to be a bit of a parent to my younger brother before my Mum gets home. I also have to do housework, which I think is good training for university. Mum clearly enjoys working, although there are occasions when she comes back home tired. Homework-wise it is my dad who helps me, my mum gave up long before GCSEs.

Anna Barras, 17

My mum went back to full time work six months after I was born. I had nannies until I was five or six and then Swedish au pairs, who changed every year; the majority were nice although it differed. Mum's working hours are sometimes anti-social but she's always made time to help me with the subjects she can, likewise my father. The au-pairs would also help when they could.

I think a kid always wants her Mum at home, always being picked up by the au-pair is a bit depressing. I was often on my own. If I had my own children I wouldn't have so many au-pairs. But mum would have been insufferable if she had been at home because she likes to do a lot and isn't very good at sitting around. She also had to work for financial reasons.

Jonathan Treadway, 17

It's a bit strange to attack mums, I had always thought that it was kind of accepted that mums and dads go to work. Having a working mum hasn't affected me as strongly as it might have. My mum went back to work when I went to primary school, when I no longer needed her so much. She always encourages us to do well, she went out of her way to help me - one of the reasons that Mum works is so that we can have better holidays. I see my Mum as a housewife who works, she's always at home if I need her. I've got the feeling that by the time I am ready to get married I could be a househusband or at least share equally in the children's upbringing.

Megan O'Shea, 18

After the Panorama programme Mum asked me if her working had affected me adversely. I told her that I didn't see it as anything other

than positive. It is a very big incentive

for me to do well, she's a good role model being able to combine family and working life. She's also more of a rounded person. I think feminism should be about women being free to make the choice between staying at home or going to work. My Dad works from home so in a way there's a bit of a role reversal. Also Mum made the effort to finish work early two days a week in order to pick us up from school.

Kit McHenry, 17

When I was at primary school we had an au-pair who would look after us until my mum got back at around 8.30pm. If anything, the fact that my Mum didn't get back until later actually helped me academically because it meant that neither of us were tempted to distract me from working. If she had been there I would have wanted to chat with her, whereas I was quite happy when the au-pair was in the background looking after my sister. We had quite a few au-pairs including one nightmare who was very harsh, but she only lasted two weeks. I might think less of my mum if she didn't work, she's an academic and a very good role model to me. It's very important for her to have two lives, I like to see her having a life outside of the family. If she didn't I think the repercussions would be felt by the whole family.

Priya Agrawal, 17

The Panorama programme made me think for the first time about how would it be if my mum wasn't working. I think that it's made me more organised

because I have to look after my brothers and sisters, it's stopped me from being lazy. Mum always makes a point of having dinner together as a family. If she didn't I don't think that I would see her at all during the week. She works as a broadcaster in a science unit, and her job has helped me academically, it's helped me decide to go to medical school. We talk about medicine and science a lot. My mum helps educationally whilst my Dad helps out with activities.

Having an extended family helped when I was younger - we'd spend the week with my grandparents. Later on I went to a childminder which was good because I was always surrounded by children.

Craig Allison, 17

My mum is a single mother, my parents divorced in 1984. In some ways it is a disadvantage: by night time Mum can get a bit harassed, the type of day she has had definitely affects the family.

On one hand she is more stressed by working, on the other more fulfilled. When my parents divorced Mum started her own business which is now very successful and I am enormously proud of her for doing so well on her own.

Catherine Rea, 17

For the last five years my Mum has been working from home. Previously she could organise her own hours, now she can't leave her work at the office, if there are deadlines she has to disappear for hours. She works with my Dad. I think like many mothers my mum was worried by the Panorama revelations and felt a bit guilty. But I feel that I have had the best of both worlds which is inspirational.

It's great having your mum with you some of the time and disappearing to another part of the house at others.

Milena Kostic, 17

My mum has worked since I was five. My father is a priest and we couldn't survive on his income alone. Mum went to work to help with the school fees and my being here has improved my chances academically. She has to travel two hours a day to get to and from her job. She doesn't really enjoy it because she would rather teach which is what she trained to do in Serbia. I am extremely grateful to my Mum, she's the best Mum in the world, I only wish she had a job she enjoyed.

Robert Anyon, 16

My mum is a widow and a single-parent so not only is it compulsory that she works but it is also better for her. But she has made sure that she sees quite a lot of us and also picks our au-pairs very carefully making sure that they are both clever and helpful. I do think boys need someone at home and it is probably better if it's a family member.

Sophie Pumphrey, 17

Mum took seven years off when I was born, then decided that she wanted to be a lawyer and when I was ten she went to bar school. Initially it was a difficult period for me because I missed

her a lot. I was very very proud

of her though.

Because she had been around from when I was born, I didn't begrudge her going to work. I think I had a very good sense of having a "home" mum, but it didn't seem strange that she decided to go and work. I've heard that if you take time off to look after your children it can set you back two years in your career. I don't remember my Dad being particularly influential in my schooling. To me it seems a meagre kind of life only to stay at home to look after children.

The teenagers interviewed are pupils at Godolphin and Latymer School, Hammersmith, London; Kent College, Canterbury; St Edward's School, Oxford and Oxford High School

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