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Posts Tagged ‘working mother’

Here we go again: Children of working mums are less healthy than those who work part time. To the BBCs credit, they do at least briefly ask ‘what about Fathers’ – but this is yet another judgemental article, castigating full time work, and making assumptions about the type of parenting that goes on. I found the abstract for the paper (and why doesn’t the BBC link to this??), and it is clear that the associations found are very small – and short lasting! By the time the children in the study are school age, no association exists! However, surely what these studies highlight is the need for good quality childcare – rather than yet again putting working mums on the naughty step.

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The guilt stuff

I am a working mum, and honestly, I pretty much love it. I don’t have any of that guilt stuff you read about, or do any agonising as I wave the little darlings off at school or nursery before dashing off to the office. What’s not to love? You get your own money to spend on pretty little things you don’t really need (or sensible things that you do), you get time out from the relentless drudgery of life with small people, and you get to give your children the unarguably good example of being an independent woman. All excellent.

But, as my husband pointed out when I said all this to him, I’ve got it easy. I work for a firm where every woman – from equity partner to post room assistant – has the option to work part time if they have a child, and where each and every mother has taken advantage of this, so we’re a loose and – for the most part! – tolerant and flexible mix of different hours and term-time-based contracts and flexible hours to attend Sports Day. Personally, I work a four-day week but spread the hours over 5 days so that I can do the school runs and be at home with the children in the afternoons. Before and after the school day, my children are with at least one parent; at weekends we are both at home. In the holidays we juggle and muddle so that at least one parent is at home in the day then, too. This pleases me and given that it pleases me so, I assume that it’s probably more important to me than I realise. It’s definitely more important to me than huge pay rises, for the moment at least.

Given that not all occupations or workplaces are as family-friendly as mine, I can see the logic in the arguments put forward by those who insist that the glass ceiling is created by generous maternity leave provision, not smashed by it. As Alexandra Shulman said recently in the Daily Mail: what employer, indeed, would want to hire a woman who could turn around a few months later and take a year’s maternity leave followed by flexible working thereafter? But what the naysayers forget is that flexible working, part-time working and working from home is still working, it’s still profitable and sometimes more so. I’m not the only part-timer in my firm who makes as much, or more money for the firm than some full-time colleagues (male AND female). But realistically I don’t think things will improve as long as men have the automatic right to opt out of sharing the babycare, as Mary Fitzgerald points out in the Guardian. Increased paternity leave rights and more flexibility for fathers would even things out better than adding to the framework that is already in place for women, in my opinion. Working part-time yet remaining productive shouldn’t be an exclusively female domain, surely?

I would mention that I tried working full-time for a while and it wasn’t for me. I didn’t like not knowing what my daughter’s favourite foods were, and not getting the full gorgeousness of her after-nursery witterings, and not being able to share a meal and some playtime with her before bed. Equally, though, when I was on maternity leave and living the life of a full-time mum I knew that life wasn’t for me either. I can’t be the only mum who needs a balance of both. And I’m sure a lot of dads would like to have the choice.

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