When I went back to work 18 months ago after my nine month maternity leave, I didn’t realise how fundamentally different my life would be as a working mum.
I didn’t realise that I’d learn how unjust the system is to support mother’s – and father’s that want to go back to work. That need to go back to work.
This isn’t just about shared paternity leave – the problem is much bigger than that. It’s about the prejudices that are still around working mums. About the inflexibility of careers.
Working at a cost
UK law states that ANYBODY, who has been working for more than 26 weeks has the right to ask for flexible working.
Did you know that?
Personally, I’m a part-time worker along with 29% of families in England2. I work 4 days a week and that works out comfortably for me to spend time with my daughter.
But what I’m not comfortable with is what that means for my family. We pay for childcare for all the time that I’m in work. That means that I’m basically working for a few extra pounds minus childcare costs.
We’re just one family that shares the same story as thousands in the UK. We both have to work to afford our lifestyle (which granted is our own choice) but childcare costs practically rings us dry every month. 22% of families like us find it fairly or very difficult to meet growing childcare costs in order to work1.
Prejudice against working mums
As a working mum, I work bloody hard. I love my job and I’m passionate about it. That doesn’t make me a bad person. That makes me lucky. Sure, at 4.30 when the time strikes I’m halfway out the door, but that doesn’t make me any less committed. Instead? I try to turn up earlier.
But as a working mum I’m constantly working against the idea that 46% of people believe that mums become less committed to work after having a baby3.
That’s as compared to only 11% of people believing that dad’s become less committed to work.
Sure, there will be mums and dads that feel less committed to work after having a child. But that balance of prejudice should be equal between both parents.
Why should mums be treated any differently to dads when it comes to getting back into work?
Not equal household responsibility
We live in a fairly equal responsibility house. I do the ironing, he does the cooking. He takes our daughter to nursery, I pick her up. It’s fair to say that we share our parenting responsibilities equally.
But we’re not living in an equal world yet.
The first thing that 44% of mums2 do when they get home from work? Housework. Cooking. Cleaning. You know the drill. That’s as compared to just 24% of dads.
The first thing that dads do when they get home is play with the kids (42%) – as compared to 34% of mums2.
Although we’d love to think that we’re living in a cosmopolitan world, we’re not quite there yet.
Always the short straw for illnesses:
When it comes to taking time off for sickness, 70% of mums3 say it’s down to them to take time off.
Illness is an inevitability when children are so young. When our daughter first went to nursery, I rarely spent a full week at work for months. It made me feel worthless as an employee and worried about what my work would think.
Luckily, my boss has small children and was always understanding. I could work flexibly while she was ill, or choose to take off parenting leave.
It didn’t take my family long to work out a system with rules to make sure that we knew what we were doing if and when she fell ill.
We need more flexibility
As parents, we need more flexibility.
Did you know that only 6% of jobs advertised are openly part-time or advertise flexible working patterns?
With so many parents wanting flexible working it puts pressure on careers – making a parent’s decision on whether or not to progress with their career not just down to whether it’s a right step for them.
To parents, there’s always a worry as to whether a new employee will be as, if not more flexible to maintain the work-life balance that’s already been agreed with your current employer.
Of course, you can find out more about the brilliant Mother Pukka’s Flex Appeal if it’s something you feel passionate about.
What are your thoughts on flexible working as a parent? Did any of the statistics shock you?