Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
I’m proud to be a school gate mum
I can take an insult just as well as the next person. Honestly I can. But this one I received in an email really got my goat and deserves a public outing.
“They [this column] read as ‘school gate mum’”, my critic wrote, and I’m taking this as an insult because the tone of the rest of the email was highly critical.
I’m not sure why she holds school gate mums in such contempt. A couple of possibilities: she imagines that they conform to the anachronistic stereotype of a 1950s-type middle class housewife whose life is spent changing nappies, fluttering around the house with a feather duster and cooking dinner for hubby, or that they are vain airheads who spend their time at the school gate gossiping about girly things like diets, waxing and celebs, or that despite all the hard work put in by feminists in the 1960s and 1970s, they have betrayed women by making themselves dependent on men and choosing motherhood over far more important things, like a job.
Are there really people – today in the 21st century – who still believe that the minute a woman gives birth, her brain dies, and that the mothers who stand at the school gate have fallen several rungs down the evolutionary ladder and are intellectually incapable of intelligent thought or conversation?
formidable brains Well, the mothers at my children’s school gate have a formidable set of brains. Among them are educational psychologists, teachers, social workers, a highly acclaimed literary novelist (until recently), a statistics analyst, actors, entrepreneurs, a BBC radio journalist, an Observer journalist, a puppeteer, charity workers, volunteers, a roads assessor for the Highways Agency, a GP, a medical secretary, accountants and a whole raft of women in higher education.
I’ve been a school gate mum for 12 years, and, yes, there have been days when the conversation revolves around trivia (surely even feminists must have their moments of levity, though).
My set of school gate mums, however, have also discussed subjects as serious as the state education system, the state versus private education issue and Brighton and Hove’s controversial school admissions “lottery” system because many, including me, have had to go through the appeal process. We talk about the mums with cancer, families breaking up, MMR and whether it’s safe or not, children with serious illnesses, green issues, money troubles, parenting issues. We ask each other for advice on how to get back into work, how to set up a new business, how to juggle family and work. They are not just “soundbite” conversations that skim the surface of a subject either – we can sometimes stretch our brains to speak about an important subject for the entire 20-30 minutes we stand there waiting for our children to emerge, and then even continue it outside the playground.
Today’s school gate mums are the direct result of feminism and feminists should be proud of these highly educated women, the vast majority of whom have had careers before and after having babies, because they exercised their power of choice. Their choices, whether it’s to be a full-time or part-time mother, to work or not to work, should be respected.
As a woman who enjoyed a 14-year career followed by 12 years spent as a full-time mother to three children before returning to work for part two of my career, I’m proud to be a school gate mum.