The health visitor who did the first home visit after my son was born didn't stay long. She weighed him, whizzed through her questionnaire on autopilot, gathered up her handbag and said she was sure I'd be fine.
She was right, luckily, but I doubt she deduced that from her questions, having barely listened to the answers. I suspect she just scanned the livingroom for signs of your classic middle class mother (Habitat cushions, Earl Grey avaliable on request) and mentally moved on to more vulnerable clients.
I was reminded of this last week, chairing a Labour leadership hustings, when Diane Abbott got onto the subject of lone parent benefits. She said she always wondered why when middle class mothers stay at home fulltime that's considered a good thing - lovely for the kids, a noble sacrifice for the mother - but when poor single mothers stay at home it's suddenly bad. One mother is a pillar of society, especially for the conservative right: the other's a drain on the state and should be driven out to work with a cattleprod.
That double standard always bothered me, and particularly now the government is offering tax breaks to stay-at-home married mothers but simultaneously expecting single mothers to get jobs. Why is what's 'good' for the children of married parents strangely bad for the children of lone parents, who might arguably need them around even more if there's been a traumatic family breakup?
The answer's partly that the mother on benefits is subsidised by all of us through our taxes, while the married mother is subsidised by her husband so it's nobody's businesss but theirs. Except that isn't the whole truth.
When I worked full time, I paid a lot of tax: now, I use just as many public services but pay less tax, because I earn less. Doesn't that make me a burden on the state too, since I'm not working as hard as I arguably could?
Which leaves the question of whether this is about class. Middle class mummies get mocked for our pushiness and ponciness but we usually get the benefit of the doubt from authority figures, be it health visitors, teachers - or the media. Poorer mothers are negatively stereotyped from the start.
Yet parenting is blatantly easier when you have the money for everything from the big things (good childcare, house in the catchment of a good school) to the small (treats and activities that get you out of the house). The welfare issues are complicated, particularly at a time when public spending is under such pressure: but we're more likely to reach a fair solution if we can stop subconsciously dividing mothers into slummy or yummy according to income.