Harriet Walker: On the neuralgic subject of yummy mummies, Cherie Blair has a point


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The Independent Online

If there's a group more likely to take offence at the drop of a hat than religious fanatics and vapourish moral crusaders, it's the mums. And quite right, too, seeing as they're normally the ones being ignored, judged, patronised or passed over.

So when Cherie Blair spoke about working mothers this week, she must have known she would wake the kraken. "One of the things that worries me," she opined, foot in mouth and spade in hand, "is you see young women who say 'why do I need to bother? Why can't I just marry a rich husband and retire?'" She then expressed her disbelief at women who would want to rely on their husbands and rear children at home. I'm not a mum, but if Cherie can't see why it would be more appealing never to have to work again and spend all your time with a tiny person who adores you, then she must be some sort of robot.

That being a stay-at-home mum has become the stuff of fantasy and aspiration is no great surprise. Those who practise it properly (by properly, I mean with the right brand of buggy-jeeps and perfectly highlighted swishing ponytails) have rich husbands who can afford to keep them. Everybody wants to be rich, and they want to be glamorous, too.

Jogging round the park with said buggy-jeep, a personal trainer and a Labrador is glamorous. Saying goodbye to your children, setting off in the rain and sitting at a desk simultaneously missing them and worrying you're not doing your job well enough is not.

But I take Cherie's side when push comes to shove. What happens if the rich husband leaves, or falls off a ladder? Careers give women choices. Jobs give us voices and independence. When the rest of your life is in turmoil, work keeps you anchored. It may feel like you're tethered to some faceless corporation, but better that than being tethered to a lifestyle rapidly becoming outdated, or to a demographic so easily disenfranchised.

Give up work and you give up your place in a world that respects things only of monetary value. You don't have to see yourself as a careerist first and mother second, but the rest of the world will and it'll take you more seriously for it. It's depressing but it's true, and it's what we should be teaching our daughters.

Twitter: @harrywalker1