Pick up any woman’s magazine and it’s likely you’ll find an article or, at the very least, reference to working mothers. It is an ongoing issue as more and more mums struggle with the physical and emotional juggle of going back to work. According to The Guardian, today 66.5% of mothers work.
I have three children and have always gone back to work following maternity leave. However, I am a teacher and I am fortunate that this a job that allows you to spend the holidays with your children, so I have the best of both worlds; an income, a career and time with my kids. But what if I worked in an office job? Or did shift work? Or was in the forces? Would things be different? The answer is, I don’t know. I have always said that if that were the case, I probably wouldn’t work. But that’s not wholly accurate. I wouldn’t want to work but I might have to. The current economic climate is dictating that we have no choice. In order to maintain our mortgage, car payments, utility bills, let alone our lifestyle, holidays and leisure activities we HAVE to work. For a lot of us there is no choice.
I have spoken to many working mothers who, once travel and childcare costs are deducted, are bringing home barely a couple of hundred pounds a month. But, they tell me, this £200 covers the council tax and electricity bill and so although a paltry ‘wage’ for all their efforts and seemingly ‘not worth it’, it is actually an essential part of the uphill struggle.
Get Back in your Box
What irks me is that whichever parent decided to be the ‘stay at home’ one, their career has been at best suspended, at worst gone forever. We often return to work in lower positions, compromising years of climbing the ladder to find ourselves answering to someone who was once, and still should be, in a junior position to us. When considering promotion my initial reaction is that promotion increases responsibility, which means more hours, which means more childcare, which means less time with my kids. Promotion becomes a negative thing. Something to be held at arm’s length rather than embraced.
Thou shalt not return to work when one has gone forth and multiplied
I am not going to say whether mothers should/should not return to work. Who I am to judge? Who are you to judge me? It infuriates me when this gets turned into a moral issue instead of a practical or personal one. When people have the audacity to suggest if you loved your children, you’d be at home with them, ergo working mothers are bad, selfish mothers. How dare they! Whether it is by choice or having to go back to work that is YOUR decision, not mine, not the neighbour’s and certainly not the mother in law’s. And it certainly bears no reflection on how much you love your children. Back off.
I’ll leave you with this thought: The working mother is not a new concept. Go back through history and you will find mothers have always worked in some capacity, unless you were very rich and lived in Downton Abbey with the children being raised by nannies which is clearly much better for nurturing the kids… Today many of us still think ‘normal’ is father bringing home the bacon and mum at home with the kids, mirroring the iconic 1950s housewife, dazzling us with her sparkling taps and worrying gin habit. For many women this was a fulfilling role. For many more women, it wasn’t. In a country where, on the backs of their foremothers, women demand equality; we claim our choices. Our choice to marry, our choice to vote, our choice to have children, our choice to work. The mother’s role has changed. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it is a change for the better.