Double Oscar®-winner Emma Thompson has encouraged women to take a year off work, telling the UK’s Daily Mail that “you can’t be a great mum and keep working all the time.”
Thompson, who recently starred in Saving Mr. Banks, went on to say that she had recently taken a year off from movies: “A year off was my birthday present to myself. I didn’t actually act or write. I was just a mum. I taught drama at my daughter’s school, cooked meals, and had fun. I highly recommend others to do the same if they can afford it.”
The 55-year-old actress has a 14-year-old daughter, Gaia (pictured with Thompson above), and a 26-year-old adopted son and is estimated to be worth around $30 million. So it is no surprise to find out that Thompson has come under a lot of flak for making such statements — particularly from those who have no choice but to work and cannot afford to take time off.
But I think people are missing the point: Thompson isn’t saying that you are a bad mother if you work full time. She’s saying that it’s impossible to be amazing at work and at home — and juggle the lot!
In the same interview she goes on to say: “Sometimes in life you’ll have some things, at other times you will have other things. You don’t need it all at once, it’s not good for you. Motherhood is a full-time job. The only way I could have continued working would have been by delegating the running of the home to other people. I never wanted to do this as I find motherhood profoundly enjoyable.”
Whilst her comment that “you don’t need to do it all at once, it’s not good for you” is slightly on the patronizing scale — and I am sure there are millions of women who would rather not be HAVING to do it all at once — I do think Thompson has a point. I was working full time plus writing in the evenings and trying to be a good mother. I had never been more stressed, more snappy, more tired in my life! I felt like I wasn’t able to be great at any one thing, as I was trying too hard to be good at them all. I was extremely lucky to be able to leave the full-time work and focus on writing, and in doing so, have more time for my family.
It means I have more patience for the endless homework, more time to chat over dinner, and more energy to devote to my children — energy that previously was getting sapped by my job. It is extremely hard to do it all — i.e. working and managing a home and keeping up with your children’s school activities. I’m sure we’d all benefit from a year off, but not all of us are in careers where we can take sabbaticals. And now more than ever, it’s hard for women to return to the workplace after having babies. Can you imagine what a woman would face if she asked her boss, “Can I take a year off … no, not traveling … no, not my husband’s job … just thought I’d like to be a stay-at-home mom for a bit?”
The idea in theory is great, that is if we had the funds, the understanding bosses, the ability to jump back into work a year later. I think you can be a great mom whether or not you work — full-time or part-time — as long as your children feel that they are your priority in life. You can be a great mom and keep working all the time. You might not be in mom-mode as much as you’d like to be, but it doesn’t make you any less great.
Photo credit: Twitter; and PCN Photos