Mothers Work by Averil Leimon

People are rightly seen as heroes for fire fighting and upholding the law. Others are hugely rewarded for running multi million pound corporations.

Raising the next generation, often while also doing all of the above, must be one of the most critical roles there is. Yet how is this role valued by society?

  • Do we make it easy for women to pursue a career, confident that they are not short - changing their children?
  • Do we tell women how vital they are?
  • Do we reward them for years of devoted commitment to raising the next generation of citizens?
  • Above all – do we hold each other in high esteem, whatever personal choices we have made in our mothering careers?

. . . . .I don’t think so.

Recently, an article in the papers reported that when working women were late, they lied about the reasons. It was still much more acceptable in business to blame transport or congestion than it was to admit you had children who needed you on occasion. Great social advances have made it acceptable for either sex to admit to attending the Nativity play or Sports Day but for the rest of the year, for women, it is better to avoid drawing attention to the fact you even had children. It would bring into question your commitment to your work.

The media frequently reports the latest research which finds fault with women in some way - whatever choice they make – whether they stay at home throughout their children’s lives, whether they work full or part time. Somewhere there will be a piece of research that shows that they are wilfully damaging their children. Then the next week there will be an article that seems to say the exact opposite. So the only time that women are truly visible is when they are being blamed for the world’s ills. Better get used to it – a woman’s place is often in the wrong! Of course, we never get the full story and the chance to check the robustness of the research. We just have something more to worry about. The reality is that most of us are doing a pretty brilliant job, by multi tasking, trying to be superwoman but often having a nagging sense of failure that we are not totally focused on any one part of our lives.

At the risk of sounding like I am blaming us mothers again, I have to ask why this situation is still being perpetuated. Do we collude? Do we accept a lack of glory because we really are not sure about what an amazing role we are playing?

At work, some changes have been made to facilitate women as if their strange personal needs are being accommodated at incredible cost to industry. Quite the reverse is true. Businesses are still not fully grasping the financial and competitive losses they are making by failing to retain and manage female talent. Some excellent ones work hard to support and encourage women knowing that they are an expensive and valuable resource that they can ill afford to lose. For these women, paid leave, enticements, part time working and nursery support are all provided. Elsewhere nothing much changes.

Until recently, I just felt reassured that it would be different when my daughters came to want it all, as I do. Teenage boys have had to learn to relate to girls in ways they have not in previous generations. They know they are all equals and are often quite aware of the fact that the girls are beating them academically. Surely that respect would carry on into the workplace when they all got there. Gradually, it has dawned on me that what will really happen is that the older generation of men (and, let’s be honest, even some women) in senior positions will enforce the status quo making change and real equality slower to achieve.

As mothers of boys and girls we need to make sure change happens now – for ourselves but also for our offspring. One of the best argument for doing all that you can to support women as mothers in the workplace is the clear cut business necessity of it. Working populations are shrinking. There will be a short fall of 1.3 million in key positions in the UK by 2030. That makes a clear - cut business case for ensuring that women are enticed to stay in or return to the commercial world. They are the most significant untapped or underutilised resource in business.

So, we while burning our bras would not be the option here- just think of the postural implications – why are we not more active and militant about claiming our place in society, if we want it, changing the world of work from the inside so that our children inherit a more equal society?

We are mothers. We do everything else, why not this?