Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Children of the credit crunch

Today was son number two's farewell concert at his nursery - not that he's leaving or anything, it's just what they call it - and I got to musing over how many of the ex-pat Japanese mums that populate our little corner of North London seem to have come here with the express purpose of procreating. Every one of them has at least one or two toddlers and most have a baby strapped in a sling to their chest too.

(I will not digress here into how annoying it is that despite their many children they all, to a woman, remain tiny slips of things).

I came to the conclusion that it was their response to being stranded on a foreign island with no career to distract them. Which got me to thinking that this might explain the recession baby boom which is predicted as more and more women fall foul of redundancy and find themselves stuck at home with nothing better to do than make babies.

I will admit that my twins were born slightly out of this motivation. As number two was growing up I was expected to try to actually turn my half hearted career as a writer into something lucrative and serious. What a terrifying prospect, better get preggers immediately and avoid all that pressure, methinks, or thought.

Cue nine months of a bloating belly as my work gradually dried up in response to falling advertising revenues in the titles I worked for. I lost two regular columns just before I popped and I was so glad I had the babies to distract me from watching the faltering embers of my career turn ash grey and cold. If I hadn't been about to give birth I would have been in fits of panic about the grim turn of events, but as it was I was too busy working out how to walk with a bump the size of a whale strapped to my torso, so it barely registered.

It really is no surprise that tough economic times see us retreating into the family as a way to escape the harsh realities of the job market. When times are good and you can pick up well paid part time work that combines passably well with spending some time with the children, the life of a working mum is very attractive. A bit of you time to earn some cash, combined with just enough time with your children to enjoy them, but not so much that they start to annoy you. Perfect.

But when times are tough and we are all expected to work twice as hard to earn half as much, it's a relief to me to be able to hide behind the piles of nappies, bottles and splatters of puree, rather than have to beat my way to that elusive commission against the younger, fitter, footloose and childfree writers who are my competition.

That said when I idly suggested that perhaps we should have another, just to continue to delay my return to the workforce you understand, my husband turned ghostly white and said a most emphatic 'No'. It's a good job I finally got published again today or I think my marriage might have been in jeopardy.


  1. When your youngest is about to start school, that's when I feel the excuse is running out. Sigh. Daughter starts kindergarten in August.

  2. Congrats on getting published!
    Before I had children I wanted to stay at home for as long as possible, now I realise being a SAHM is no picnic, being a WAHM must be even harder!!

  3. Great article! SAHM is definitely not easy - it is so difficult to find a balance that works for everyone and is financially viable too (I imagine even more so with four). Keep on writing as you have a great style.

  4. Congratulations on your return to publishing - how exciting! And as you say, rather gratifying to dip back into the work arena long enough to earn a few pennies (...and appreciate the children afresh!)

    Regarding your article, a friend of mine who works in the City commented soon after the financial crash that there was a sudden stampede of women racing to the in-house doctors to have pregnancies confirmed. Apparently one woman had only done the deed the night before but refused to leave the surgery until she'd seen a positive pregnancy test! In these womens' cases, pregnancy represented job security ( and fat maternity payouts). I felt a bit sick when I heard that - it just seemed too coldy calculating for my taste. But perhaps that's what the City does to you...