Yummy Mummy

I have something to declare: I hate the phrase ‘yummy-mummy’.

It is one of those tags which brings to mind the middle-class Mum still carrying a disposable income which is willingly spent at Jo Jo Maman and various over-priced courses for toddlers which all centre around singing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ and the seemingly never ending verses of ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’.

While pregnant and working, I ignited the ire of a co-worker when window shopping for prams and considering a three-wheeler.

“So you can join all the other idiot Mums in Crouch End sat in Costa drinking coffee instead of going outside or back to work?”

It was more littered with profanities than that and went on for about 10 minutes, such was his anger at the ‘yummy mummies’ of Crouch End, where you can’t walk down the street without having to dodge said offensive 3-wheelers. (His view, not mine). But it highlights the stereotype that the phrase ‘yummy-mummy’ brings to mind. They probably read The Times, shop in Selfridges and have a live-in nanny.

My problem is not with middle-class parents, with the more affluent of my neighbours or a wish to buy over-priced clothing when I can get hand-me-downs. I have a problem with the term ‘yummy-mummy’ in itself, (as I do with calling steamed milk a ‘babyccino’) but moreover I have a problem with the assumption that every mother sat having a coffee in the middle of the week day is a ‘Yummy Mummy’ and therefore made the decision to not return to work but instead go drink coffee with other ‘yummy mummies’.

Firstly, it insinuates that there is something wrong with a woman who chooses to stay at home to bring up her children instead of placing them in childcare and returning to work regardless of any extenuating circumstances (eg the cost of childcare). I know many Stay-At-Home Dads. Do you think they are judged the same should they stop off for a coffee in the day? I thought that feminism had come far enough to allow women to make their own choices about their lives without judgment.

Then, I read articles like this in The Guardian:

“If you’re sitting in a coffee shop on a Wednesday morning, it’s probably because you didn’t have to scurry back to work the moment your enhanced-rate maternity pay ended; you are unlikely to be struggling along on a median household income.”

Here lies the crux of my problem with the ‘Yummy-Mummy’. You see a woman sitting in a coffee shop and you make that judgement. What you don’t see is the woman who cannot afford to return to work because the cost of childcare is so debilitating. You don’t see that she has put aside £3 each week for one coffee out, one afternoon to talk to other adults in 10-second spurts while shoving miniature breadsticks into her child’s hands to desperately drag the coffee break out as long as possible.

When you see that woman sitting in the coffee shop, pushing the expensive pram, taking a few minutes of the day to be an adult, have a serious discussion or simply take a breath, you do not see that it may be the last £3 they have or that the coffee was actually free thanks to advantage card points.

Okay, so some mothers might have the advantages to be able to choose to not return to work and it not adversely affect their household income but so flaming what? They are not the only mothers who choose to give their kids organic food, healthy snacks and teach them a foreign language. Don’t tag all stay-at-home-mums with the same title.

I guess most of my fury comes from the fact that thanks to all these silly articles, people are making wrong assumptions about who I am and my background. I do not resent not having the income to return to work, I’ve never had any money so this is just normal. I would rather have had 9 wonderful years in a career I loved that didn’t pay than umpteen years in a mediocre job that felt like actual work.

People are sometimes surprised when they hear how little we had as kids; my Mum drives me around the bend but by heck did she work hard to keep us kids out of care, that is real strength. I hear stories about what it takes to get put into care and I think had social services ever looked at our household then it would have been a real threat.

We had three meals a day solely because of free school meals and gifts from people at church. My school uniform was allocated each September for free and most of my other clothes were either made or handed down from various family-friends. We didn’t have central heating; we could see our breath and had ice on the inside of the window during winter. There was one 3-bar heater at the bottom of the stairs and it was used sparingly. My feet are not in the best shape because after a certain point, shoes were to grow into. My Mum was often faced with the difficult choice of paying a bill or providing a meal; and she did it all on her own but for support from my grandparents and other caring people.

I am not writing this for any sympathy, we were on the most part, quite happy growing up. We are, on the most part, well rounded adults and a world apart from where we started.

I am writing this because when people look at me, see a Mum drinking coffee in the heart of middle-class North London, with a loving marriage and gentle little boy they don’t see the journey it took to get there. They don’t see the poverty or the work put in to make a marriage, they weren’t there the day we did the sums and realised that I couldn’t afford to return to my career. Nor do they see the work I put in to affording that one cup of coffee or what sacrifices I make for that time.

They only see another Yummy-Mummy, a woman who gave up her career and therefore any feminist values, to be a housewife. Someone who can afford to not work. And for all of this I proudly declare that I am not a Yummy Mummy, nor will I ever be.

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5 thoughts on “Yummy Mummy

  1. I love this post! Your upbringing sounds similar to mine. I did return to work but solely because I was given notice of redundancy with an enhanced pay out plus the fact that my husband works in hospitality so his two days a week off are weekdays.

    I can’t actually afford to return to work but now my husband has just had a promotion and pay rise, I may well be able to soon.

    We scrimp by and get frequent help from my wonderful family for groceries or my husband’s commute to work and our house is almost entirely kitted out from people getting rid of old furniture or Gumtree. My son’s clothes are 95% hand me downs from my Aunt, who was able to afford designer clothes of excellent quality and bought so much that they still look brand new, 2 years later on my son. My clothes (and those of my husband’s) are birthday and Christmas gifts and my occasional treat of a Costa coffee or a glass of wine is only bought once bills are paid, nappies and food purchased etc.

  2. I agree! Beautiful post. I find the general aggression towards strollers in Crouch End quite weird…I am constantly apologising to sour-faced stressheads for the existence of me and my small child who needs to be transported. How do people get so bitter towards cute babies? And you are v right about the coffee….that is literally the only thing I ever buy for myself. And yes in recent months I’ve had to cut down on it! And also, all those people who whinge and whine about strollers in coffee shops should think how their favourite cafe would survive without mothers coming in during those surely otherwise quite slow daytime hours.

  3. Hooray! A brilliant post and one I whole heartedly agree with. I tried to make working work, but frankly it didn’t on practical, financial or health levels. I have a very low-income now but still sit in coffee shops as it is a treat that I scrimp on other areas to get, and also is a change of scenery for my daughter. In my other aspects we go without (not soley for Costa I should point out) and live very low-budget. Having the occasional £2.40 treat is both spirit lifting and esteem boosting. I don’t go and get drunk so this is my going mad! My daughter also has complicated feeding problems, and part of her therapy is to try eating in social situations; not that anyone knows this when they sit there and probably judge us with our third-hand 3 wheeler eating sharing a panini! x

  4. I am starting to get the feeling you can’t win when you’re a Mum. Go to work, you’re a bad Mum, stay at home and you are a Yummy Mummy. Your choices are forever being judged on face value. It is nice to know I’m not on my own.

  5. Great post. I worked really hard in my career to finally realise my dream of living in Muswell Hill (renting – buying is an impossible dream, sadly). A few short months later, I found myself pregnant by a partner who promptly upped and left. I am now a single parent struggling daily to make ends meet, which sometimes feels utterly bizarre given my lovely surroundings. And yes, I sit in coffee shops with other mums and treat myself to the occasional small cup of tea. It turns out that I am not able to return full time to a career I loved as I cannot afford it – again, utterly bizarre – so I will continue to sit in coffee shops during the day and continue to be wrongly judged by others.

    From a scummy mummy 🙂 xx

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