One of the new women barristers who were recently called to the Bar, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, sat for her final examination only three months after her twins were born. She is 28, and at the last General Election was the youngest Conservative candidate. Margaret Thatcher believes in keeping busy and has definite views on careers for women. Her ideas and experiences show why.
There is nothing new about a married woman with children going out to work to help to supplement the family income. It has been done for generations in the poorer families where the wife has gone out to do domestic work, and in the cotton towns of the North where a great deal of female labour is used in the factories.
But the needs of modern society have widened the type of work available, and the changing status of women over the past 50 years has meant that many of them now choose to carry on some form of paid work outside the home.
Every girl now has to earn her own living between leaving school and getting married. Some of them take a long training and become so absorbed in their subject that they want to continue with it after marriage. For many of these girls the kind of work involved in running a house is not sufficient to use all their abilities and they feel they are not working to full capacity.
I do not mean that the housewife has a slack time! For a short while after our twins were born I was without help and had to do everything myself including three-hourly feeds day and night, so I know how exhausting children and housework can be! As well as being exhausted, however, I felt nothing more than a drudge.
I had little to talk about when Denis Thatchermy husband came home in the evening and all the time I was consciously looking forward to what I called ‘getting back to work’—namely, to using some of the mental resources which I had been expressly trained to use for years. I was indeed ‘on the go’ literally for 24 hours a day but I wasn't doing the kind of work that made full use of my own faculties.
When I returned to studies I was constantly asked ‘How do you find the time?’ The answer seems to be a perpetual mystery to the woman who doesn't go out to work and quite simple to those of us who do. There are 24 hours in every day: the people who ask this question seem to be amazed at how much can be packed into them; I am astonished at how little some people seem to do.
The answer is this—you can achieve as much in a day as you set out to achieve if you think ahead and get everything well organised.
The days when I have only our home to think about are just as busy as when I have other things to cope with as well. I am running about most of the time cooking, shopping and doing the housework and seem to have no spare moments. But all of this is done equally well when I have other things to do in addition, because I then make sure that everything is done with maximum efficiency in minimum time.
I see that the weekly order to the grocer really does include the needs for the week. Shopping which can be done by ‘phone is done that way after having a word with the butcher or other merchant about the quality and service that I like. All cookery operations are carried out in the best order so that not a minute is wasted. I quickly found that as well as being a housewife it is possible to put in eight hours' work a day besides.
Husband must approve
There are certain factors which are essential if this dual role is to be successful. For a woman with a family there is, firstly, having trusted and competent help with the children. Without this it would be impossible to go out with an easy mind. Some husbands can fortunately provide for this while in other cases the wife has to do so out of her earnings. Secondly, having a husband who readily approves his wife's pursuing another occupation.
Some men I know are far too ready with the phrase ‘woman's place is in the home’—forgetting that their own daughters will almost certainly have to earn their living outside the home, at any rate for a time; and, further, while condemning women in careers in round general terms, they would be thrilled if their daughters were to achieve new and rare heights. In many cases it would be impossible for a woman to comment constructively on her husband's problems without having some outside experience on which to base an intelligent and appreciative viewpoint.
A good thing
There remains the important question of what is the effect on the family when the mother goes out to work each day. The answer depends entirely on the woman concerned. If she has a powerful and dominant personality her personal influence is there the whole time and the children's upbringing follows the lines which she directs.
Of course she still sees a great deal of the children. The timé she spends away from them is time which the average housewife spends in doing housework and shopping, not in being with the children assiduously. From my own experience I feel there is much to be said for being away from the family for part of the day.
When looking after them without a break, it is sometimes difficult not to get a little impatient and very easy only to give part of one's attention to their incessant demands.
Whereas, having been out, every moment spent with them is a pleasure to anticipate, and a definite time each day set aside to give completely to them and their problems. Later on there will not be that awful gap which many women find in their lives when their children go away to school.
The general conclusion can best be summarised by saying it all depends on the woman. If she has no particular outside interests and finds her work in the home satisfying and absorbing then she must develop her interests from that as centre.
But if she has a pronounced bent in some other direction in which she has already achieved some measure of success then I am sure that it is essential both for her own satisfaction and for the happiness of her family that she should use all her talents to the full. With a little forethought she will find that most things are possible.