You’ve heard it before, I’m sure. Perhaps in the check-out line at the grocery store, or at the playground on a Saturday afternoon. Maybe you’ve even come across it in the office! You know what I’m talking about—the snarky comments and upturned noses or even the gasps of blatant scorn. Raise a hand if you’ve ever gotten a reaction like that when you’ve told people you’re a working mum.
It’s no secret that putting work and motherhood together attracts candid opposition of all sorts; running the gamut from mild dismay to downright disapproval. Professional Coaching experts testify that the working mums they advise encounter criticism from all directions, often to the extent that they’re burdened by shame and guilt. Despite reaching what some might call the fourth wave of feminism in a time when equality is becoming central to the socio-political agenda, one still comes across the average Joe and Jeanette who remain scandalized by the mere, shocking idea of mums in the workplace when, don’cha know, they should be at home with the kids of course! Such hostility is perhaps not too surprising when it’s fed with the validation of social conservative agitators. One might recall, for instance, Michael Morpurgo’s vicious backlash against working mums’ decision to put kids in nurseries while they take employment outside the home. In 2006, the former children’s laureate blamed mothers for increased childhood rates of mental health, sleeping, and eating disorders, claiming that working mums damaged future generations.
Though extreme in his allegations, Morpurgo and fellow social conservatives have supplied their vision of stay-at-home domestic bliss by turning to learned professionals who bear the “proof” that working mothers are a detriment to their children. In fact, several hard-hitting studies have emerged in recent years amid growing controversy in the UK about the consequences that working mums supposedly incur upon their child’s well-being and health.
One 2008 inquiry into early childhood development in Britain published by The Children’s Society claimed that toddlers left in the care of grandparents were at risk of lowered emotional and behavioural scores due to the inability of elderly family members to provide proper social and educational stimulation. Anti-working mums’ groups neglect to mention that the same study revealed the toddlers benefited from an improved vocabulary and other cognitive abilities. An international report of the same year by UNICEF also claimed that institutional care, especially in the first years, could cause depression and behavioural development issues in children, stating that, “The younger the child and the longer the hours spent in child care, the greater the risk.”
At fault, the study concluded, was greater gender equality and opportunity as well the increasing economic need for dual incomes. When researchers narrowed in on the UK, finding that the “majority” of children receive non-parental day care during their first year, UNICEF did call for improved maternity leave policy as English children were lagging behind their counterparts in many other developed countries, meaning that it’s perhaps official policy that’s at fault and not working mothers. Finally, one study just released this year comparing obesity rates from 1965 and the early 1990s attributed an increased prevalence of childhood obesity to the working mother’s lack of time to prepare nutritious meals or engage their children in more physical activity. Few of the articles reported on the positive, meaning that the message picked up by the media was unfairly biased.
One mother of two I know, so successful in her marketing career that she’s been awarded top accolades, remarked that, “it’s mad, really. The idea that my success means that I care less about my kids’ well-being than a stay at home mum is ridiculous—ignorant, really. It’s an insult, is what it is!” Yet, with results from the pundits themselves that suggest that we’re hurting our children, what is a working mum to do?
Never fear! Before we park our careers at the door and welcome our at-risk kids back into the welcoming folds of be-smocked bosoms and home-baked bread, good news is on the horizon! Part Two of this article sheds a happier glow over the working mum controversy with fab news from the other side! In the meantime, if you’re finding it difficult to deal with socially-imposed feelings of guilt, Online Coaching may be the answer! A Professional Coach can help you see that your career decisions are wise ones, and she may even point you to the positive news we’ve uncovered in Part Two of our report! Stay tuned!