No, I won’t be embarking on an “us against them” post, although I will be pointing out a few things that should remind us all that the battle for equal rights is not over just yet.
I am a working mum. I don’t have the choice, unfortunately, so I’m not sure that if we were able to live on a single income I would be working. I know the 4 days I do at the moment doesn’t feel right for my family, but it does work for my employer, so at least someone is winning.
I am lucky though (and unlucky) as my husband is an actor and he has a sporadic working life. Generally he works around 2 days a week, but often we will have weeks on end where he is working more than that. We have a few emergency options open to us and I just have to take leave from work occasionally. However, he does do childcare 2 days a week most of the time. I love those 2 days. I can come and go to work like a normal person.
I have blogged before about the stress of doing the nursery, school run and dash to work (and then all in reverse on the way home) on the 2 days I have to do it. Just 2 days seems like it’s okay really, but I dread those 2 days so much I can’t tell you. My stomach in knots that I won’t make drop offs or be late for work or the worse one, that I will get stuck in traffic and my two children who are in two different places will be stuck there with no one to pick them up. I can’t park near work (although I do pay to use a car park that costs me £10 a day if I am feeling particularly pressurised) so I drive so far and then use a Brompton folding bike the rest of the way. Occasionally, if I’m sneaky, I can work out when a few people who have car parking spaces at my office are off and I can nick their space. This makes things so much easier and cheaper and lifts a level of stress from me.
Recently at work I realised that it was mostly the mothers amongst us that were in charge of pick ups and drop offs from school, breakfast clubs, after school clubs or nurseries. Most of the men, particularly those in a more senior position, were not. They didn’t really “get” our situation at all. I get blank looks when I mention my parking problems or the stress of my 2 days. When pressed they say “Oh yeah, I understand, my wife has the same problem”. Ahhh, no. You don’t understand, because it’s not you. You aren’t going through this, you have no bloody idea.
Before you say it, it really isn’t bloody MY CHOICE. Yes, I wanted children, yes all of those women wanted children, but so did their husbands. Why is it that the husbands aren’t also being responsible for the childcare? Well, it’s down to our working culture primarily and until that changes, we haven’t got much hope.
A male colleague of mine has recently started doing the nursery run in the morning before work. He lives very close to work and the nursery is nearby, so it’s not quite the juggling act others have, but none the less, he has to do this because his wife is a lawyer who has got a new job since maternity leave which is quite a distance away.
He has regularly arrived in to work late in the morning, to be greeted by me cheerily saying “Good afternoon”. Helpful I know!! He has sat down at his desk with a massive hurumphh, looking exhausted before he’s even started work. He looked at me the other day quite forlornly. “It’s a nightmare”!
“Trying to get two small children out of a house and to nursery before work”.
“Yes, isn’t it”.
“Finally got shoes on both of them and then eldest pushed the youngest one off the front step just as we were going to the car”.
“Yes, they do that.”
“I had to comfort her, get the first aid kit out. She refused to get up. I got angry. It was horrible”
“It usually is”.
“I’m counting the days until I don’t have to do this anymore, when we move and get that au-pair. I can’t stand it. I’ve not even started work and I need a lie down”. Ahh an Au-pair. Yes, that would be helpful.
And here in lies the problem. I need ALL male employees at my work to do this for, say, a period of 6 months. To step into their helpful wives shoes, whether they are Stay at home mums, part-time employees or full-time employees, I need all my bosses to experience the pain in the arse that is childcare. And I’m not suggesting this because I want to punish them or I think we deserve a medal or because I want special treatment. I want this because if they realised what a bloody malarkey it was we may see a bit more equality and help in the work place. Until more dad’s start doing this (and I know there are lots that do, unfortunately just not where I work!) we are never going to change a thing.
So, what might change if this childcare situation was more evenly distributed?
- More emphasis on parking facilities for working mums and dads who are in charge of childcare.
- Senior meetings or away days that don’t start at 8am and finish at 6pm (or at least a bit more notice of them. Better still, I’d like to see a senior male manager leave at 4.30pm to go and do pickup so the rest of use don’t look like we are uncommitted)
- An end to working long hours in order to impress people. Let’s finish off the report at home, hey?
- More crèche/nurseries in workplaces or nearby
- Being able to work from home (biggy for me and my employer is very against this). If you’ve got children and have worked at the business for XX number of years, this should be offered. I’d happily fill in forms, write a business case and jump through hoops to allow me to have this flexibility. Especially when both my children are at school and then at an after school club. I could drop off and be at my desk by 9am and work until 5pm.
- Flexible working hours for ALL employees. Why does it only get offered to women after maternity leave? Surely that’s wrong.
So, there you have it. It’s not very eloquent or a very well written rant, but it’s a rant none the less. I am tired of it all.
Let’s get more equality back in the work place for all parents.