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The Friday Rant Club – have modern mothers been sold a myth?

Its funny but I have a sneaky suspicion that actually this generation of mothers has been sold a bunch of tall stories and we are now paying the price for it.

At school we were told we would have choices – that we could stay at home, or have a career or some combination but actually the reality is very different. 

For every working mother trying to juggle a work/life balance there’s a stay at home mum who would love to work but can’t make the economics stack up because of the crippling cost of childcare.

In the workplace we find that whilst our skills and ambition match our male colleagues attitudes haven’t kept up and we face the choice of moving sideways into a second tier career or having to spend more time away from our family than we’d like whilst watching as Blackberries enable work to wiggle its way into our non working hours.  Instead of flexibility we’re discovering that admitting you want an alternative means you’re shunted onto a mummy track.  We watch male colleagues not even consider half the things on our to do list whilst we try and sort out the minutiae of family life without letting on that we’re doing all of these things as well as our job.  We are seen as being the part timers and given no credit for different work patterns and increased efficiency as we work single-mindedly in our time constrained hours.

Stay at home mums aren’t given credit for the hardest job in the world – are portrayed in the media as yummy mummies sitting around sipping coffee all day rather than the reality of life at the coalface of childcare and the unrelenting nature of a 24/7 job caring for small children. 

Childcare options haven’t kept up with the needs of families – the cost has spiralled up and up and there is very limited flexibility. 

Tax breaks and benefits that helped families bridge the gap have disappeared reducing down options and leaving women without choices but having to work more or less than they want to.

I was spun a story – I was told I’d have choices, options and there was a great world that our feminist mothers had pushed forward to create for us. 

Turns out whilst we have changed and our horizons have broadened society didn’t keep up and now we have a generation of mothers realising that the choices we thought we had are in fact a myth.

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The Friday Rant Club is a chance to get those niggles, those irritants, those things that make you want to throw a toddler-stylee tantrum off your chest before the weekend.

Go on, let it all out and if you feel like it there’s a rather nice little button over there on the right to show you’re a member

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25 comments to The Friday Rant Club – have modern mothers been sold a myth?

  • So many good points made. My childcare costs mean I work a lot of houra for a tiny sum. But its a tiny sum we can’t live without. I dreamt of being a mun and having a career and now don’t have enough time for either….

  • Yes, we’ve really been sold a myth. And by a generation of the lower who were so lucky they had no idea that they were a blip in history – where they could afford an affluent lifestyle and aspirations with only one income.

    Two income mortgages make it very hard for one parent to stay at home, but childcare set ups make it almost impossible for both parents to work full time. Most couples I know have one or both parents working part time. I work full time hours, as does my husband, although we are incredibly lucky to have some flexibility in when we work a few of those hours and can juggle childcare.

    My biggest fear/terror is schools. It really is. I stay up at night panicking as the current system is not set up for two working parents, with things like settling in periods showing open disdain for our ‘choice’. The thing is, I didn’t realise what a pact with the devil I was making when I went to a top university and engaged in a career. Now, which do I cast asunder?

    It is a complete bloody mess.

    Sorry for incoherent rant, hopefully it is at least a doodle on the same page.

    • Muddling Along

      Oh the whole school thing scares me – I had thought it got easier when they went to school but it becomes clear that it might actually become harder and they will require more of my time (homework – gulp!)

      Why can’t we have things set up to reflect the reality of so many families having both parents working?

  • I couldn’t agree more. We came to England when I was pregnant with D. I prefered to be a SAHM and then came the 2nd baby. Now, with the childcare cost here and with us having no family help,it looks so difficult to work full time. I plan to return to working at some point when baby is a bit older but I can see it won’t be a full time job.
    I definitely agree modern mothers are trapped.Until you have children, you think all can work out, however the reality is different, unless you are very lucky.

    • Muddling Along

      I think even after the 1st I thought it could work out but now with 2 and them needing more of me (and being able to articulate that) it is getting harder and harder and I don’t see it getting easier

      Horrid that things aren’t actually changing

  • Amen sister. That is all. Big Fat Porky Fib!

  • nikhk

    *cheers*

    To bloody right, we’ve been sold a myth.

    I actually work for a reasonably flexible company who have allowed me, as a manager, to work four days a week at hours that suit my childcare arrangements. However, although I am now paid 80% of my pre-baby salary, I am still covering 100% of my role. I often end up working in the evening or at weekends, and I’m effectively on call on my non-working day. If I struggle to strike a balance working for a company like mine, I dread to think how hard it must be for women working for unco-operative, unsympathetic employers.

    Oh, and while I’m ranting, I’m also fed up of being stuck in a 2-bed house with no garage or off-road parking because we can’t afford a big enough house in a nice enough area with good enough schools. We’re both graduates on decent-ish salaries, but in order to afford the next step up the ladder, I’d have to go back to work full time and we’d really be stretching ourselves even then. If interest rates went up, we’d be screwed.

    It shouldn’t be this hard.

    • Muddling Along

      Yay for a good company but boo for the rest of it and not least you not losing the 20% you aren’t being paid for….

      And house prices, that is a whole other awful rant…

    • Muddling Along

      Also I’m sure it was supposed to get easier as we grew up?

  • Andrea

    Great blog. I work in a school and am staying put there as I really don’t know what I’d do in the holidays otherwise. I left a career in television when I decided I wanted children because I knew it wouldn’t fit in with my new lifestyle. Even so I have had 2 flexible working requests turned down firstly asking to do 3 days in the office and 2 at home then asking to do 4 longer days abs Fridays off. Am just putting together another one for my return to work after mat leave. I will have an 8 mOnth old in nursery and a 5 year old in reception. I want to do 3 long days and 2 short days as after school club costs a fortune! We also need my husband to start at 10 rather than half 9 so we don’t need to pay for breakfast club. If it gets turned down this time I will be really upset. I didn’t even realise my son would be doing a phased start to school – god knows what I’d do if I wasn’t on maternity leave then

    • Muddling Along

      Oh my goodness what is a phased start? Sounds like a nightmare

      And they’ve turned you down that much? Why? Surely they have to explain and consider things properly?

      • Andrea

        A phased start is where they do just mornings for a couple of weeks, then stay a bit longer for lunchtimes then progress to full days.

        First time I was turned down as they didn’t have anyone else willing to cover part of my jon, however they compromised and let me start and finish earlier each day. Second timewas told as a member of senior leadership team I had to be in each day – I should have fought that one a bit harder but at the time just didn’t have the mental strength. I know my headteacher will try and turn me down this time too but I am willing to appeal as I thInk my request is perfectly reasonable and won’t affect my work

  • Redbedhead

    I came on here to post ‘Amen Sister’ and have found someone has already! Seems like there are a few of us feeling the same….

    On the cost of childcare, for my 2 girls in their lovely nursery for full time places it will be £1600 a month. Yes, really. And I am so fed up of when people discover this they then say to me ‘Is it even worth you working if that is the cost of childcare’. Notice, is it worth ‘me’ working. Not is it worth H working. Because heaven forbid I actually earn more than he does. Or the fact that the childcare allows BOTH of us to work. Not just me.

    • Muddling Along

      My goodness you nearly pay what we pay for our nanny who works far longer than a nursery (and does some babysitting) that is a ridiculous cost when you consider normal salary levels

      Fortunately when we had Bigger we looked at childcare costs across both of us and Mr pays her out of our joint account (and I pay the childcare vouchers plus incidentals) which makes the maths a lot better and yes it was because it allows both of us to work and my earnings aren’t just net of the childcare

      • Redbedhead

        Oh yes, all childcare costs come out of our joint account and we both claim the max childcare vouchers, so we both bear the brunt but it is amazing how many people consider the cost solely in relation to me and not H or even the two of us together. It seems the normal assumption is that it is the mother’s responsibility.

        We did consider moving to a nanny when we knew we were having number 2 but decided not to for a variety of reasons, not least that number 1 loves nursery so much and it is attached to the primary school she will go to so we are hoping the transition to school won’t be so hard when she sees it (and some of the children) on a daily basis.

  • This is soo true. I am not sure how much choice we all have.

    I am a stay at home mum at the moment as I was living abroad and not working when I got pregnant with my first child. I used to think I would be some kind of superwomen who would successfully juggle a career and a family. Now I have a family, I realise there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done when I am at home all day. How on earth do those women who do do it all manage?

  • I have a feeling I’ve ranted about this on your blog before and how I can’t believe how some people look down on mums for choosing to stay at home. Therefore I won’t go on other than to say I Don’t Even Like Coffee!!

  • Mummy Dichotomy

    so very very true. All those choices aren’t all they’re cracked up to be and there’s no such thing as having it all. I won’t go on as you and all the others who have commented have all my feelings on the subject comphensively covered!

  • Karen

    Mmmm, very interesting post but not sure I agree! I sometimes look wistfully at my mother’s era where on the whole you had one option and that was it…and you stoically got on with it (and before anyone shoots me for that I’m painfully aware through my mother how hard that was! She’s a recovering alcoholic I suspect there’s a link…!!!). I think there are choices and options out there but it is not the norm equally sometimes it takes a while to find out what you actually want. It’s easy to surmise what you might want or need post children before you have them but the reality of motherhood is very different. I always thought I would be a SAHM at whatever cost – that’s what I grew up with, I had a great career but I walked away from it to try and conceive so was in no rush to return. In reality – I had twins, returned to work because we couldn’t pay the mortgage and took a local job that paid ¼ of my previous wage because it gave me a precious extra few hours with the girls which resulted in 12 months of bullying and psychotic behaviour from my boss leading to a panic disorder. Finding out one of my daughters was seriously ill caused me to completely re-evaluate my motives for working – I felt I had no choice due to finances but when I looked we did , we just had to cut back severely on our outgoings. I left and muddled through for a year making pennies every which way I could find but realised at the end of it all that I’m a calmer, patient more creative mother for not being with them 24/7. What I have realised is that for me life must work around my children as opposed to my children working around my life. I have sought to find a job, which balances out time as a mummy and my career but means that if I need to drop everything to be there for them I can be. I have found a balance between work and family but I work for myself and one of my main clients is Nordic. Their approach to families and work is extremely different to the UK. I work at 26-hour week – split over evenings and days from home. My childcare is divided between flexible day-care close to home and my family. On the 2 days I don’t work I don’t take any calls from work or answer any emails – gives clear signals I am not available, I set clear boundaries and they have acknowledged that, I will not answer the phone for love nor money outside my working hours as it just leads to people taking advantage. I negotiated hard for these contracts, sold flexible working as a real bonus (my clients are international so I am often online when they are in evenings) and then proved my argument to them. Honestly – life is too short to busting your butt over a career where your boss is an arsehole an d regardless of the hours or work you do you are never going to be recognised for what you contribute. Time marches on, take no prisoners, cut your losses, find another job, one that offers what this one promised, where you are wanted and valued – I don’t believe they aren’t there and negotiate what you want at the front end not hoping it will be implemented down the line. There are people out there that recognise this is the modern way to working – you just have to be ruthless in finding them.

  • Snowflake

    I don’t even think I was told there was a choice. A “job” was not a choice, all my careers advice was focused on a “career”. At no point did anyone talk about the option of a family life, and anyone who opted for that was not discussed. (This is from my school, I should say – although it was never really discussed with my parents they’d have been happy either way). There was certainly never any advice on choosing a career that might be child-friendly.

    I am supremely lucky to work for an organisation that never turns down any flexible working request and cannot take my work home, so I leave work in the office when I go. A combination of an extremely long commute and grandparents for childcare make it imperative for me to leave on time, as well. That said, I have been turned down for every development opportunity I’ve gone for on the basis that “well you’ll never be back full-time” and I will likely never be promoted beyond where I now am. There is also little chance of my moving roles within the org as there is little recognition of jobs being acceptable for part-time, just people. I am also ruled out of the social aspect, as such things are always based on drinking til the early hours.

    I trained, qualified and made my “career”. I’ve now had to turn it into a “job” that pays the mortgage. I don’t expect it will ever be a “career” now, yet no way could I be a SAHM financially or emotionally. I have no “choices” now, and no change in the foreseeable. I sit in two roles and fill neither of them well!

  • Hazel

    I suppose my question is should we sell our children, particularly our daughters, the same myth? For me it’s a resounding yes. I’d far rather they grew up believing they could have it all and had to learn to modify their expectations than they grew up moderating their hopes from the start.

    Karen – on the one hand you say ‘take no prisoners’ but on the other hand you’ve had to completely change your career to make it work with your family. It’s fantastic that you now have a job where it all works, but why should we have to change our aspirations to make it work?

  • Karen

    Hazel – completely right you shouldn’t have to. I haven’t changed my job or my career (I did initially & it was a disaster), I’m back working for the same company (amongst others), doing the same work prior to the girls but I am self-employed now, my aspirations are the same but working for myself perhaps has greater risks. I was referring more to the situation MAM finds herself in – I don’t believe there aren’t companies out there that could offer what she is looking for, she deserves better than to be putting hours and dedication into an environment where regardless of what she achieves it is unlikely to be recognised, and the effort it takes to do this won’t be either. There are bosses out there who recognise that a company which flexes to work with its employees rather than against them usually has a more committed and energetic workforce than companies that don’t.

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