So it’s 2010.

I’m 31, a graduate, a mother, business owner, and studying towards an MSc.

My son will turn 3 in December which means that my business is about the same age (maternity leave turned into self employment).

I’ve been working hard and things are going well. While I am not yet ready to retire to my yacht in the Indian ocean,  I earn my keep, am showing promise and feel that I am on the road to doing some important work.

My work follows the ebb and tide of the academic year so in preparation for September I decided to do some delegation. Things got a bit stressful last year. So, I took on some help with my book keeping, and had for a short while some administrative support in the office. The book keeper has remained (thank god) but my admin person got a ‘proper job’ and left me to my devises. So this year I thought, while sat on a pile of ironing, that perhaps I could delegate some of my other duties. This made sense. I could pay someone to do my ironing and cleaning, to free me up to do better quality work.

So now, once a week my ironing is picked up, and twice a month my house is cleaned. This is working well.

Until yesterday. My Mum, a 4ft formidable Irish woman, who looks after my son twice a week (he goes to nursery too) heard that I had a cleaner. Her beady eyes fixed on me and she sucked her teeth. ” Well, if you can afford a cleaner, that’s all very well.” She began moving the cups of tea about the table in an erratic fashion which has, for my entire life, signalled trouble. “But why can’t you just do it?”

Now I knew that at least a part of me was reacting to my perception of my mothers disapproval/ disappointment/ distaste in her lazy goodfernothing daughter’s penchant for domestic help because I actually felt guilty.

But why?

If I had said that I had called a plumber in, or had my windows cleaned, or hired an accountant, would I have had the same response? Would I have felt the same response? I could, with a bit of time and effort do the jobs of those people. I would do it badly, and they wouldn’t be paid, and it would detract from the rest of my work, but I could, if I chose.

And what does afford mean? To have enough money to buy a thing or service, or to have so much surplus cash that you can meet every other desire and requirement and still have enough money to buy the thing. I may, like many other people in business, bump along for the first few years before the hard work really begins to pay off. I may tread water for a time. But, to my mind, investing my time in my work has more scope for potential future income than ironing really well. Unless of course ironing really well is my job.

And despite her response, I decline to accept that my dear Mum, who through sheer persistence and grit moved away from the Irish farm she grew up in, with scant education, saw herself through nursing training and worked day and night, and was apoplectic with rage when a younger me decided that i might not learn to drive because that’s what men do (I have been driving for 13 years), would actually be more proud of a daughter with a clean house, than me.

I decline.

Despite the feelings of those around me, and despite some critical part of myself, need not to apologize for my choices, but rather to follow that insistent voice that tells me, firmly, that my work is important and significant. But I know that the delegation of these particular duties remains in some absurd way, controversial.

The thing is, ironing cleaning and looking after the babies is still seen as woman’s work.

It’s 2010

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