Cookstown woman says stay-at-home mums suffer prejudice

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A COOKSTOWN mum-of-two says she feels prejudice from other mothers because of her decision to give up work and stay at home to look after her children.

Pamela Marten, who lives near Cookstown, was one of 4,000 respondents to Asda’s Mumdex survey which looked at the pressures facing mother’s today.

The former dental nurse gave up full-time employment to look after her two children, 14 year-old Brandon-Lee and 10 month-old Peter, and says since doing so she has faced criticism from other mothers.

The 35 year-old, who is married to horticultural worker Warren, says the stigma attached to “just being a mum” has not been helped by the current government’s emphasis on work.

“You do get the feeling that there is a stigma to being ‘just a mum’ and I think that’s definitely something my generation is facing for the first time,” said Pamela.

“While sometimes this feeling comes from other mums it isn’t helped by the attitude of the current government which seems intent on forcing everyone out to work, regardless of their circumstances. I think it’s fantastic that there are incentives for working mums but it does contribute to an element of ‘judgement’ against mothers who choose to bring their kids up themselves.”

Pamela does the vast majority of the housework including cooking and cleaning and Warren helps out when he can but as she is at home full time, she still thinks of it as her responsibility.

“I do have a certain standard of cleanliness and tidiness which I set for myself and I take pride in keeping the house up to date. Warren does other tasks around the house which I don’t enjoy or have the experience for.”

Pamela feels there is a lot of pressure from the media to have the ‘ideal home’.

She says: “I do like to keep a nice house but I just don’t buy into that unrealistic ideal. A home is for living in at the end of the day – we’re never going to get into the pages of Elle Decor but our home is comfortable, clean and welcoming.”

“The last three years have been something of a wake-up call for many people and there is definitely a move back to simpler times, which I would welcome. It’s interesting to see so many books and TV programmes recently on the Amish community in America – I think it signifies a real interest in a simpler way of life.”

“I’ve definitely learned how to plan and budget and while we might not have pots of cash we live a fairly simple and happy life.”

Last week Asda launched the results of its third ‘Mumdex’ report where a panel of over 4,000 Asda Mums of varying ages and backgrounds revealed a downward trend in NI Mums’ optimism over the last six months as the economic conditions continue to bite.

The research revealed that women’s roles are dramatically evolving, and increasing equality means that mums are challenging traditional stereotypes.

Asda Mums are increasingly becoming both the bread winners and the bread makers in their families, with 9 out of 10 Asda Mums, who are in a relationship, contributing to the household income, and a quarter earning over half of the income.

Whilst in Northern Ireland 80% of mums, in a relationship, manage all or most of the household budget.

As well as increased financial responsibilities, Asda Mums still take on the majority of domestic tasks, with 7 out of 10 feeling responsible for cooking and cleaning the house and 8 out of 10 feeling responsible for washing and ironing.

The research also revealed that there has been a corresponding increase in pressures for NI mums with half believing the expectation for them to ‘have it all’ has meant more challenges than ever before. More NI mums (78%) than the UK average (73%) feel pressure to have a clean and tidy home and more NI mums feel pressure to be slim than the UK average.

The survey also revealed concern that these trends look set continue and that pressures may get worse for the next generation of women. 72% would like less media focus on celebrities and body image; 66% would like more employers who offer flexible working and 54% would like better role models for young women.