When the concept of ‘mummy business cards’ hit the media last week, they —and the mothers who use them — were universally mocked.
The cards were presented as yet another example of middle class mother control freakery.
And it wasn’t just the usual suspects who were pointing and laughing at mothers with the temerity to carry small rectangles of cardboard printed with their personal details.
Writing on Daily Life Letitia Rowlands said ‘Mummy cards go hand-in-hand with "play date cards", which helpfully list where and when your offspring are available to play with other children. Seriously.’
The Project’s, all-women Mother’s Day episode panel couldn’t resist taking a swipe. Nicole Livingstone asked, ‘Who’d want to catch up for a play date with somebody that gives you a card?’ Amanda Keller quipped she’d rather bite down on a cyanide pill.
Now, I don’t have mummy business cards of my own, but they’re a great idea.
Take a break from the guffawing and ask how many of the women criticising ‘mummy cards’ and the women who have them, have business cards of their own? And how many are in possession of a large stack they’ve gathered from other people?
And why — pray tell — do we hang on to these little pieces of cardboard? Because — to state the bleeding obvious since it evidently needs stating — business cards are a brilliant tool for building and maintaining relationships.
In paid employment this goes without saying. No one expects you to remember the names and contact details of all your new acquaintances. You’re not expected to remember every detail of each person’s schedule down to when they have regular team meetings, client presentations and physio appointments. Instead, you use business cards and Outlook.
But when you become a mother you’re supposedly blessed with automatic name and face recall —in spite of the fact that you’re most likely suffering from fatigue-induced memory loss and will be distracted by the welfare and safety of your children.
Not only are mothers supposed to be able to remember all the names, phone numbers and email addressed of the people at the park or at mother’s group, we’re also expected to remember her kids’ names and when each child goes kinder, childcare, or storytime at the library in order to arrange appropriate times for play dates.
In spite of these realities, we can’t resist turning mothers into a punch line when they dare to use the same time-saving convenience as the rest of the world.
More to the point, exchanging business cards is the socially agreed upon ice breaker when introducing yourself to complete strangers. And if ever you needed help to meet new people it’s when you become a mother.
It should be no secret that motherhood can be lonely. Many new mothers live in a suburb that they only used to sleep in. Everyone they know is at work while they are stuck at home, starved for company and adult conversation.
When you’re so tired and struggling to adjust to your new role it’s hard to put yourself out there to meet other mothers. It’s even harder to meet mothers that you really bond with.
Is it any wonder that women are more likely to suffer from depression and other mental illnesses when they have young children, than at any other time in their lives? Loneliness and social isolation are key factors in poor mental health.
Anything that can ward against this is surely a good thing.
The very term ‘mummy business cards’ shares something of the patronising whiff that surrounds the term ‘mummy bloggers’, which is often used to demean and diminish women who are mothers and who also blog. It’s a way to delegitimise women’s activities; to present motherhood as something that’s trivial and unimportant.
Equally, the disproportionate response on the part of commentators to mothers who use business cards is itself telling. Women who opt to use business cards have, in a small way, stepped across the threshold that separates public and private life.
By importing something that is normal in the public world of work into the private, domestic sphere of motherhood, they have dared to call motherhood work — just as valuable and as challenging as the paid variety. Evidently, those doing the mocking are uncomfortable with even the slightest blurring of boundaries that separate public and private worlds.
Sneering at mothers who use business cards is just another way to judge mothers and tell them that they are doing it wrong. It’s kicking our sisters when they are down, when what we should be doing is putting their card in our wallet and inviting them around for a cup of tea.