In praise of the yummy mummy
Cherie Blair's comments about women have made her seem painfully out of touch, writes Cristina Odone
On my way to the office, when I was working full-time, I used to pass a corner cafe whose tables spilled on to the pavement. I'd hear snatches of conversation that hinted at another world: of massages, Pilates classes and skiing -- but above all, of time spent with the children.
The voices rang in my head as I slogged at my nine-to-five. All I wanted to do was run back home to my five-month-old baby, but could I risk our family finances by giving up my job and going freelance?
I suspect that Cherie Blair, who, by sheer hard work and determination, has overcome a difficult and under-privileged childhood to become a successful barrister, finds the yummy mummy as irritating as I did.
But her attack on their "dangerous" lifestyle last week sounds worse than sour grapes; it sounds censorious -- and out of touch. The truth is, most women would rather be a yummy mummy than a Cherie Blair.
Mrs Blair despairs of young women who say: "Why can't I just marry a rich husband and retire?" What she finds particularly galling, I presume, is that such girls have the potential to be lawyers and CEOs.
Yet their view is widespread and the highly educated stay-at-home is an international phenomenon. A recent survey of Harvard Business School graduates found that 31pc of the women from the classes of 1981, 1985 and 1991 who answered the survey worked only part-time or on contract and another 31pc did not work at all.
Alpha-feminists want to be free to do as they please -- shine professionally, stick two fingers up at marriage, whatever; but they quash other women's freedom of choice. There is one way and it's their way.
In reality, not quite. Most mothers today work. Many love what they do and are fulfilled by their job but many others watch those clock hands at work move s-l-o-w-l-y towards closing time and then they rush off to real life -- with their families.
Their dreams are not pinned on the corner office but rather on the pastel nursery.
Cherie may round on mothers who "put all their effort into their children" but most women aim to do precisely that. Perhaps that explains why young women lag behind men once they have a child.
It also explains why most women want to be like Jools Oliver or Tana Ramsay, both of whom are proud of their stay-at-home lifestyle.
Alpha-feminists reject that choice as defeatism. This is unfair; not all work is exciting and remunerative, and not all stay-at-homes spend their day at yoga or Starbucks.
Many crucial, if unpaid, jobs are carried out by so-called yummy mummies: they volunteer to help children with special needs and organise the school book fair.
Their nails may have just been polished and their foreheads Botoxed, but these mothers are stepping into a long tradition that women's increasing employment risks snuffing out.
Tamsin Kelly, who edits a parenting website, deplores the vicious, unsisterly mummy wars. "Unlike Cherie Blair's generation," she says, "we no longer need to be cast in the role of stay-at-home or working, both casting aspersions on each other."
Such pigeonholing helps no one -- as Cherie Blair should have known when she weighed in with her attack on stay-at-homes.
There are too many professional women who regret that they did not spend enough time with their children and too many children of professional women who resent their mothers' work ethic for Cherie and other alpha-feminists to persuade us that theirs is the right way. It works for some, but should not be imposed on all.
Let mothers be -- at home, or at work. There will always be ambitious professionals, men and women, who reach for the stars.
That's fine, as long as they allow the rest of us on the ground to bump along as we choose, hankering for that sunny spot where the yummy mummies lounge.