UK Advice Columnist Tells First-Time Mom To Decline Job Offer Because Her ‘Baby Is A Job’

1950s woman reading magazineI have always had an affinity for vintage etiquette books, particularly the ones from places like Seventeen that tell girls how to lose at tennis and ensure a second date without, you know, actually asking for one. But while I treasure those 1950s time capsules as precious slut-shaming artifacts, I don’t expect to find equally archaic sentiments in contemporary advice columns — for contemporary mothers. But this didactic 1950s housewife advice from The Independent is straight out of 2013.

Columnist and author, Virginia Ironside, who is described in her bio as “an agony aunt,” writes the weekly Dilemmas column for The Independent. This week, she received the following question from a soon-to-be first-time mother:

Dear Virginia,

I’m about to have my first baby, but I’ve just been head-hunted by a firm that wants me to start work as soon as possible. Friends say I should wait and see how I feel before I commit to a new job but my husband has said he’s keen to look after the baby and become a house-husband  – he works freelance and he’s going through a time when he doesn’t have very much work. Can you or any of your readers offer advice on what I should do? I’m  at a loss and can’t make  a decision.

Yours sincerely,

Jill

This question is a parental doozy not just because of the standard and buzzy “work life balance” angle, but also because Jill has never done parenthood before. While the UK definitely has better maternity leave than we do, there’s no telling how Jill will feel or what she will choose once her baby gets here. Virginia accounts for this, but only up to a certain point. Buried deep within a long, condescending, and sexist tirade, Virginia acknowledges, “You simply can’t predict how you’ll feel.” But only after espousing this gender essentialist nonsense:

It would be madness to accept this job. At birth, your baby will have been living inside you for nine months and will be incredibly upset and disturbed to leave the comfort of your cosy womb to be delivered into a bewildering outside world. The least you can do is be around for six months, with all your familiar smell, sound, body temperature and everything, gradually to ease him or her into a brand new life. The father? Though it might have heard his voice, your baby’s never even met him, let alone lived inside his body. Remember that research has shown that at birth, a mother usually says: “Hello!” to the baby, while a father introduces himself with the words: “Hello! I’m your dad!”

Anyway, having a baby is a job. You’ve already been headhunted – by your child.

Despite the admirable metaphor usage there, describing motherhood as “a job” is charged with all kinds of patronizing sentiments, particularly when discussing the lack of flexible work policy /maternity leave/paternity leave/childcare available to some families. Virginia tells Jill, “You clearly have no idea about what a huge responsibility it is to bring a baby into the world” given that she even considered leaving the home. But first, she takes even more sexist slams at dads for their INNATE inability to adequately care for children. Just check out this one kid’s speech: 

A househusband recently spoke of his experiences with his baby daughter. What he found, to his distress, was that the child was incredibly backward in her speech as she grew older. That was because fathers don’t automatically spout the kind of maternal drivel that is so important in a child’s learning development. “Oh, how are you, what lovely little toes you have, look at this picture there’s a cow, moo moo, you can say moo too, moo moo, yes, aren’t you a clever one, yes aren’t you a clever one, you are, you are”  – on an on ad infinitum. Men are a lot more reticent.

And speaking of “maternal drivel,” Virginia rounds out her finger wagging, guilt-inducing, “You clearly have no idea” how to parent with some classic, well you know, whatever suits you and your family. Hive-five, girlfriend!

But whatever you feel, you’re clearly an incredibly talented person and would find no problem in getting a good – or at least goodish – job, even if you opted out of the market for a few years.

That’s right, ladies. Aspire to those “goodish” jobs after you give birth. Sheryl Sandberg would be proud.

(photo: Mark 2400)

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    • That_Darn_Kat

      Wow, what a way to throw women back and belittle dads, at the same time. I will say, yes, my husband and I have different ways we interact with our kids, but neither is better than the other. In 2-3 years, once I finish my education, I will become the breadwinner in the family, and my husband will become the stay at home parent while finishing his education. Dads can ABSOLUTELY take care of their babies from the get go. This woman’s advice left a bad taste in my mouth, and I hope the woman who asked the question realizes what BS the answer was and does what’s best for her family.

    • JD

      WOW. That advice columnist needs some advice to surround herself with better people in her life if that is her perception of men and women these days. My husband is an amazing father to our kids (#3 expected in the next few weeks) and is as responsible for them as I am.

      And to insinuate that it is disturbing to a baby to have to bond with someone other than the biological mother after birth? Just plain weird. When my kids were born I sure did say, “Hi! I’m your mommy!” Neither of them responded with an, “I know, dumbass. But who the hell is this guy in my personal space?” while suspiciously eyeing up my husband.

    • jsterling93

      My husband is much better at baby banter than I am. I tend to talk about the news with my infant while my husband does the cute baby chat thing. And let us not forget that in this market turning down a “great” job and hoping to find a “goodish” job down the road isn’t the way to build a career.

    • SDA

      Pathetic. While it is probably a good idea to wait and see how she feels (I know my outlook on a lot of things changed after meeting my daughter) – this is some of the crappiest advice ever. And very belittling to dads. Wowza!

    • C.J.

      So she just advised someone to not take what sounds like a good paying job when the husband works freelance and sometimes doesn’t have a lot of work. That’s really smart. Dad’s are just as capable as mom’s, this is ridiculous.

      • Rachel Heston-Davis

        That’s exactly what I thought! If the mom wants the job enough to even consider taking it, wouldn’t you think the financial ramifications would sweeten the deal? But instead, that factor is ignored in favor of outdated and unproven opinions about dads being unloving idiots.

      • C.J.

        My mom turned down a job offer because she found out she was pregnant with my sister. It was a good paying job with benefits and a pension. She has always regretted it.

    • kay

      I’m a stay at home mom. My goodbye card from work had things written on it by coworkers about “enjoy your new job!” and whatnot. I was kinda weirded out and felt like it was 1950 by having it being called my new job, and I picked to do it.

      Also, my husband talks to the baby all the time. Granted, he will do things like narrate “don’t cry, I know you’re sad because you took a dump in your pants. I’d cry if I did that too.” or “the Denver Broncos are the worst team. We call them the donkeys. If you like them I won’t pay for college” But he also sings her little songs about how much she has to offer the world ( that one has the lyrics of “you’re smart! and you’re strong! and you’re cute! and you understand more than the cats!” ) and will snuggle her and tell her stories when she wakes up at 5 am and mommy needs more sleep.

      • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

        “don’t cry, I know you’re sad because you took a dump in your pants. I’d cry if I did that too.”

        I’ve said this to each of my kids, almost verbatim.

      • LiteBrite

        Hee hee. I once heard my husband teaching our son to talk by having him repeat: “The Bears suck. Say it. The Bears suck. When do they suck? They suck ALL THE TIME.”

        In all seriousness, I think my husband is a much better parent than I am most days. At the very least, he’s way more patient.

      • AugustW

        This obviously doesn’t apply to all guys (or all girls) but I’ve noticed with some of my male friends who are dads, that they are the more relaxed parent. I think women are often raised from infancy with the stresses of “must be the perfect mom”, and guys don’t really get that.

      • Amanda

        I spend a lot of time telling my daughter about how it’s ok to cry when (band i dislike) comes on the radio because no one really likes them anyway. :D

      • Oface79

        I want to hear the song about understanding more than the cats.

      • CrazyFor Kate

        My great-niece came home from daycare once with a Calgary Flames item (we’re Canucks people), and according to my niece-in-law, my nephew practically cried!

      • NotTakenNotAvailable

        Is your husband a Raiders or Chiefs fan? Either way, I can only shake my head in sadness at his lack of vision. :p

        Other than the standard-issue division rivalry, though, I think I’d get along with your husband. I don’t have kids and don’t plan to, but I sing little songs to my cat all the time, mostlly highlighting the fact that he’s the cutest little kitty in the whole entire world, and it’s a damn good thing because he’s only got one misfiring brain cell in his fuzzy little head. So, yay songs belittling cats!

    • Evelyn

      Good grief! I really hope the parents saw the column for the drivel it is, and not the beneficial kind of drivel us mothers apparently talk that men are unable to do because they are too busy being repressed by their stiff upper lips.

    • Rachel Sea

      No Virginia, the least you can do is make sure the child’s needs are met – which does not automatically require being a human mattress for 6 months. What a load of twaddle. Take the job, Jill, if you hate it, you can quit.

    • LiteBrite

      Yes, moms-to-be there is a Virgina and she doles out “advice.” If I wasn’t at work, I’d be searching for a huge eye-roll .gif here.

      • Guest

        Found one for you!

    • CW

      I would tell her to take the job because she can always quit to become a SAHM, but she cannot change her mind about passing up the position once she’s told them no. Absolutely being a full-time homemaker and mom can be a noble occupation, but it’s not something she needs to decide on now (unlike the paid position).

    • Rachel

      Remember that research has shown that at birth, a mother usually says: “Hello!” to the baby, while a father introduces himself with the words: “Hello! I’m your dad!”

      Major eye-roll. Doesn’t she sound like the well-read one. I bet she just churns through pages and pages of ‘research’ a week. Though, not quite enough to get that people who do research refer to ‘maternal drivel’ as ‘motherese,’ and that motherese is not a cross-cultural constant.

      I also had to snort at the scare tactic that a man is going to screw up the kid’s verbal skills. In the first place…I am not one to speak motherese & my son’s father is far more talkative than I. I see lots of dads chatting up their kids & teaching them words for all the kinds of meat products at the grocery store (and sometimes, I wish I could be that talkative). Even if men really were less likely to be able to talk to a kid…the kid will be fine.

      Some cultures talk to babies, some cultures talk ‘for’ their babies (they turn them around and talk for them like dolls), some cultures don’t even acknowledge babies as people who should be talked to until the baby says what they interpret to be words. And, kids in all of those cultures….end up talking fine.

      • Ptownsteveschick

        Omg the baby as a doll thing! I used to do that to my husband all the time!! I’d hold her up and be like “Mommy wants you to go get her some food. Oh also, I have something in my diaper I made just for you!”
        I hoped I wasn’t the only one using my kid as a doll lol.

      • Rachel

        Lol, me, too! It only makes sense–dolls are basically substitute babies, so why not act like your baby is a doll sometime?

      • AugustW

        I guess I can blame the c-section drugs, but our first interaction was more like “huh. Why is it so loud?”

        Re: talking in other cultures. The strive to talk is so strong in humans, that children grouped together with no common language, will create one for conversational purposes.

    • Ptownsteveschick

      This is gross.

    • whiteroses

      Oh, Virginia. No, no, no.
      My husband lives in Australia (we’re working through immigration). He’s been to visit the States twice. The baby knows exactly who he is. If a one year old knows who his father is when he hasn’t lived with his dad since he was two months old, what on earth makes you think that a newly born baby won’t have a clue who his dad is at birth? At the very least, the baby would recognize his voice.

    • Rachel Heston-Davis

      It cannot be healthy to inform new parents that one of them will have a natural bond with their child and one of them will be a virtual stranger. I mean really….under what circumstances is that ever a positive thing for new parents to believe?

      I would think any new dad would feel depressed and offended upon hearing that. Furthermore, it sets the family up for a lopsided dynamic from the start, by guilt-tripping the mother into thinking that she is the only one who can ever provide emotionally for her child. Down the road, that belief will become exhausting to her, and she will feel guilt about allowing others to help her out or give her a break.

      Not to mention where that belief leads you in terms of the adoption question…does she believe that any newborns who are adopted out to new parents are going to go through emotional trauma for six months? Seems like a cruel thing to say, in a world where so many people turn to adoption.

    • AugustW

      We can’t win. I had a pediatric nurse tell me that the reason my daughter’s speech is delayed is because I’m a single mom, so she doesn’t hear me talk to other people. Because single moms are mute, apparently.

    • G.S.

      I SERIOUSLY hope that Jill takes this advice as the useless waste of toilet paper it is. I can’t even imagine. . . Jill’s set up with her having a well-paying job and her husband staying home sounds like a sweet setup if all involved want it that way, honestly. I HATE the whole, “fatherhood isn’t as important/good as motherhood” bullcrap. Men/fathers are just as nurturing and good at parenting as women/mothers, and kids love ‘em just as much. If anything it’s this whole, “Fathers aren’t as important” attitude that’s incredibly damaging, not being a working mom. Failure at being a good parent is all to do with the person him/herself, not what set of chromosomes they’ve got.

      And WHAT “familiar smell?” Fetuses can’t smell, they’ve got those plugs up their noses when in development. Even more proof this lady’s full of crap.

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    • Katherine Handcock

      “Congratulations on the (soon-to-be) new arrival in your family and on the job offer! It’s a very exciting time, but it’s no wonder that you’re so conflicted — that’s a lot of change to happen at once, and it’s impossible to know what will work best for your family before one of the members is actually there. What’s most important is that you and your husband are happy with whatever arrangement that you come up with — just about any family dynamic can work it it suits everyone.

      That said, if you are very excited by this job, keep in mind that they’ve head-hunted YOU: that means they are seeking you specifically. You have leverage here to discuss any number of potential arrangements (starting now followed by maternity leave, flex time, part time work for the first year after the baby is born, and so on) with them before you sign on the dotted line. More and more companies are realizing that, to attract the top talent, they need to offer this kind of flexibility. Why don’t you start with coming up with a plan that would make you happy and present it to them: “If I start now, I’m going to need to go on leave X weeks before I’m due, and I plan to take at least Y weeks of leave. If you need me during my leave time, I can arrange to spend (one day a week, three mornings a week, etc.) in the office.” The company’s response may tell you a lot about whether you’ll be comfortable working for them as you start this new family adventure.”

      There, fixed it for you.