I see, then, that Her Majesty the Queen, a constitutional monarch who’s not supposed to have any power and who attained her position simply through being born into the royal family, has topped the BBC Woman’s Hour Power List. On the same list are politicians, CEOs of companies, academics, writers. Woman’s Hour have spent a long time considering the issue and broadcasting their deliberations and I have had to switch off the radio every time I have heard it discussed on that otherwise marvellous radio programme.
I mean, obviously, I’m happy that there are a few powerful women about, and that women have made some strides forward in recent years. I’m grateful that women in the UK are largely free to try and make lives of their own in comparison with some countries whether half the population doesn’t enjoy anywhere near the same degree of personal liberty or choice.
We have a long way to go though. And I suspect that few of the women on the list would have been able to attain their powerful position without a) making the tough decision, not faced by most of their male counterparts, to forego having children and a family life OR b) having flexible, decent childcare and family support. I wonder whether these women would have attained their position on the Power List without the support of their mums.
At last week’s school quiz, the quizmaster had surveyed some of our sixth formers for a Family Fortunes type round, and one of the questions the kids were asked was “Who is the most powerful woman in Britain?” Interestingly HMQ topped that list too, and Theresa May and JK Rowling were also on there but “My Mum,” came second only to the Queen on the sixth formers’ list. I was vicariously delighted by this recognition.
I had a busy day yesterday, although it was not atypical:
Tuesday 12th February 2013
6.25 Up. Go downstairs to make sure the Boywonder sees me for breakfast. Set out breakfast things for everybody. Eat breakfast, empty dishwasher, clear away breakfast things. Feed dog. Wash mud catcher mats and dog blankets.
7.30 Change into gym clothes.
8.20-10 approx At gym. 50 minute run, 6 minute walk, weights, 10 mins rowing. Whilst on treadmill, mull ideas for current and future blog posts and writing projects.
10.15 Drop in replacement key which I have had cut at mother’s warden-assisted accommodation. Quick chat re mother (who has first stages of dementia) with warden and her husband.
10.30 Waitrose to pick up things for supper and contribution to Miss DD’s Food Tech class
11.00- 12.30 Walk dog another 5 Km. While at park discuss Tweep’s missing dog with several members of dogwalker network
12.45 Make pancake batter, poach smoked haddock for Shrove Tuesday Supper. Have lunch of soup and bagel.
1.30 Finally go upstairs for hot shower
2.45 Cup of tea. Check emails, Twitter, start this blog post. Tweet recipe for pancakes.
3.00 Receive irritating news about Boywonder and his piano lessons from substitute piano teacher. Deal with this, sending emails and texts to teacher, Boywonder and husband
4.15 Whilst in middle of this latest crisis, drive to pick up Miss DD from school play rehearsal so that she will be home in time to go to ballet.
4.45 Arrive at school. While parked outside and waiting for Miss DD, have increasingly fraught text conversation with the Boywonder
5.15 Drive home with Miss DD
5.40 Start preparing haddock and spinach pancake filling
6.10 Drive Miss DD to ballet
6.20 Start making pancakes
7.00 Pick up Miss DD from ballet
7.45 Serve supper in time for husband to come in from work, eat pancake and go off to band at 8.00
8.10 Wash up pots and pans. Tidy up kitchen so husband not faced with it to do on his return from band. Make sure ham and mushrooms for Miss DD’s FT class are clearly marked in fridge and that reminder post it on kitchen table.
8.30-10.50 Quiz night. Finally, a chance to relax a bit.
11.10 Cup of tea. Empty rubbish in Miss DD’s schoolbag all over landing by her bedroom door, having read note re her organisation from History teacher.
11.20 Animated discussion with husband re corrective sanctions for Boywonder
12.35 Bed and sleep, finally
Wednesday 13th February 2013
6.20 Awake and up to put on first load (of about six) of Wednesday washing. Give Boywonder yet another repeat of lecture on not giving up when going gets tough and how one must work hard to achieve anything worthwhile in life. Repeat words to Miss DD as a warning.
Now, I’m not reporting this to have a moan, just as a fact. And there are hundreds of thousands, millions, of other women (and, increasingly, men) up and down the country for whom this is normality. You will notice that in this normal day, I have helped at least six people as well as myself and any future generations of my family by trying to stay fit and active, up-to-date and involved.
To be a parent has to be one of the toughest jobs in the world. That’s not just something people say because they feel they should. It really is. Not only is there the daily grind of routine chores that can be quite mind-numbing but also the balance of strict discipline and warm reassurance and comfort necessary to shape and support the next generation of adults. Ones time usually belongs to someone else.
So next time you speak to a stay-at-home parent, please don’t ask them in that patronising voice what they do all day. It is very unlikely to be painting their nails or watching TV. They will spend their day wielding power in a less high-profile way than the women on Woman’s Hour’s Power List.