You may have seen a recent chatter on Twtitter about the ridiculous comments by UTV Ireland head, Mary Curtis, on how little she values her station’s core demographic and how little she values women and parents. This may seem funny to some because she’s a woman and a mother, however I’m really not surprised. There’s such a misconception of what it takes to bee a stay at home parent (I’m going to say parent here, not mother, because there are plenty of men taking on that responsibility these days).
In an article in the Independent, Curtis is quoted as saying that her station is targeting “housewives with a few kids under their belt” and that the group of entrainment reporters will probably not be watching what is no doubt going to be a mediocre season of programming because the reporters “actually have lives” as opposed to the hypothetical housewife who has “no choice but to stay at home”.
This has really annoyed me for so many reasons, so indulge me for a moment as I step onto my soapbox. This kind of sexism and belittling of parents should not be tolerated. We all, parents and non parents alike, should demand an apology from Curtis for her idiotic remarks. If you don’t know why this is such an inane thing to say, I’ll spell it out for you Mary.
First of all, I am a parent. I stay at home with my young children. But I make a lot of choices, especially in what programmes and stations I will NOT watch (that’s you UTV) and I have a life. I have a wonderful, exciting adventurous life that is made all the more exciting because of my children, not in spite of them. I detest the idea that your life is over once you have children. I’m not going to make this a have and have not argument, because I think we all have lives that are colourful and exciting.
I chose to have children at the end of a very exciting and fulfilling decade as an adult living in Boston and Dublin. And to be honest, my life has changed but it has changed in ways I am totally comfortable with. In fact, I’ve had many conversations with other parents questioning how we spent our time before we had children because we seem to fit in so many things now, for ourselves and for others. I work incredibly hard at home (cleaning, cooking, entertaining the kids, healing boo boos, teaching them life skills and how to count) and have very little time to indulge in mindless television. We have a lot of fun together as a family, exploring many of the amazing things Ireland has to offer–like the zoo, parks, children’s theatre and educational activities, festivals, cafes, markets, historical sites, and gardens. My husband and I parent together, so we both share responsibility for the children even though he works outside the home and I work in the home. I also have the choice to leave the house and go into town (with and without children) to do all the fancy things Curtis imagines young entertainment reporters do while Coronation Street is one. I’m certainly no indentured servant.
And speaking of choices, I have more now than ever chosen not to watch terrestrial TV. After Nate was born, I decided that my time was incredibly precious and so was my sanity. It was not worth filling my head with the negativity of reality television and it was certainly not worth watching soaps or other programmes with poor production quality and terrible story lines. We watch television programmes that enrich us, make us laugh or make us think rather than programmes that just fill the void and the silence of the house. I’m not trying to be snobby by saying this, but it really made a difference to stop watching things that wound me up. I encourage everyone to try it. And it applies to all aspects of your life, choose excellence and quality to nourish yourself and your soul.
But back to Curtis. I assume she’s terribly detached from the world and has forgotten that living, breathing human beings exist within her demographic reports. They aren’t sad creatures to be mocked at press conferences. They pay her salary and she should celebrate them. If we’re specifically talking about stay at home parents, she should applaud them for their hard, unwaged work to shape a future television audience. And as several people mentioned on Twitter, she should look into getting some media training along with a surgeon to remove the foot from her mouth.