STAY at home mothers these days are most likely to be very rich or on benefits.

The rest are juggling jobs, childcare and family life, either because they enjoy their work, want to keep a career on track, their independence, not waste their training and experience, or simply to pay the ever-rising bills. Or a bit of all those reasons.

Nearly three quarters of mothers of school-age children now go out to work, a huge increase over the last 20 years. In the last 50 years must have been one of the biggest changes in society.

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When I was a child, my full-time working mother was a rare bird. And not always admired. I was automatically assumed to be underprivileged, neglected and one step away from juvenile delinquency. I was a “latch-key kid” and other mothers felt sorry for me and used to ask me to stay for my tea. Which was fine by me.

But my mother loved her job and carried on working, part-time until well into her seventies.

By the time I was having babies, the world had moved on. Most of my generation went back to work when their children started school. I worked from home, so was working, part-time, almost as soon as I came back from the maternity hospital. Very few mothers of pre-schoolers worked then and I knew no mother of under-fives who worked more than four days a week.

But now that’s changed too. Mothers of toddlers are the least likely to be working – but well over half do and the numbers are leaping up every year.

In many ways it’s great news. Women aren’t wasting their talents and abilities. Daughters of working mothers are more likely to do well. They have a good example to follow.

So the stay at home mum is very much in the minority. And that’s where the problem lies. It’s now expected that mothers should go out to work.

But not all want to, not all can. And many believe strongly that they can do a far more valuable job at home than they ever could in the work place. They don’t see the point on going out to do a job they might not particularly enjoy just to pay other people to look after their children.

Women, families, are meant to have freedom to choose. Parents want to choose what’s best for their families, their particular set of circumstances, whether it’s bother parents working or a mix of part-time for one or both and or one at home as a full-time carer.

But the pressure pushing women back to work is now almost irresistible, not just financial but social and political.

The irony is that, as a result, a mother now is as likely to be criticised for staying at home, as my mother was 50 years ago for going out to work.

And I’m not sure that’s progress.

WAYNE ROONEY, right, is said to be buying a £5million holiday home in Majorca as a “sorry” to wife Coleen after his drunken antics with another women that led to his court appearance.

A holiday home is all very well – but Coleen needs to make sure that Wayne goes there with her and their sons.

It’s when she leaves him home alone that the trouble starts. A holiday villa could just make things worse.

WETHERSPOONS is the latest bar chain to ban plastic drinking straws. And about time too.

Their reason is to do with concerns about the environment and the amount of plastic that ends up in landfill. Fair enough.

I’m just pleased because who needs a straw in a gin and tonic anyway? It’s prissy and childish and utterly pointless.

There are some people – small children, invalids – who need a drinking straw. And as small children use them mainly to make disgusting noises, the sooner they learn to drink from a glass properly the better.

As for the rest of us, it will be quite nice to have a grown up drink and not to be made to feel like a five-year-old.

MEDICAL student Lavinia Woodward stabbed her boyfriend with a bread knife in a row about her drink problem. Yet she escaped a jail sentence because, the judge said, of her “extraordinary” intelligence and because she had a burning desire to be a heart surgeon.

When the emergency services arrived she was said to be “intoxicated, deeply distraught and mentally disturbed.”

Mmmm…. Are those really the qualities you want in a doctor?