It has come to my attention, in readiness for International Women’s Day, that amongst all the gender equality speeches of late and women championing women in work; we are failing in one VERY IMPORTANT area – championing women’s parental choices. I am very pro choice – by that I mean I respect a woman’s decision to return to work after having children and I respect mothers who stay at home to look after children. So when reading a national newspaper the other evening I was appalled to read an article written by a WOMAN actively trying to destroy a woman’s choice to go back to work after her maternity leave!!
Let me put this into context, the woman in the article was Labour Shadow Cabinet minister Rachel Reeves who is due to have a baby in June – weeks after the General Election which could see her become the Minister for Work and Pensions should Labour win. Rachel has decided that she will come back to work in September, so effectively she will be cutting her maternity leave short, but this could be dependent on the election outcome. So far this is nothing out of the ordinary, except this situation has prompted some concern and a question has been raised by both male and females…how can a woman with two children run a powerful job full time? EXCUSE ME?? Did I just wake up in an alternate universe where women with children are back in the kitchen whilst the men and the childless are keeping the economy afloat?
The female writer in question even took it one step further and said that she wouldn’t trust Rachel Reeves to make a decision if she has been up all night with a crying infant. By this point in the article the air was slightly colourful in my house because this woman has completely missed the point…and she dared call herself a feminist. She believed that Rachel Reeves was giving the wrong impression to women (apart from us ordinary folk who had to go back to work for financial reasons), and that as an elite woman whose husband earned a lot of money that she should set an example amongst the elite and take a career break.
So in reality, this writer is basically saying that there should now be a divide and if you have worked hard to get yourself into a senior position (therefore making you elite) you should be setting an example to the world and allow your career to come to a grinding halt whilst you stay at home bringing up your children whilst your husband has full control of the finances and gives you pin money to buy yourself a nice frock!!! Us mere mortals who are stuck in limbo because we are on middle ground climbing the ladder and raising families are exempt from this rule because, in her eyes, who cares? The non-elite working mums need to keep on facing pressures from all angles because our pay packet does not allow us to have the luxury of choice.
What made this argument even more interesting is that no one has bothered to ask if her husband will be forfeiting his career for a few years whilst his wife tries to make a difference to our country. After all, shared parental leave becomes law in April and this is meant to allow women the right to share the responsibility and retain her equal status in the household. I think rather than constantly pointing the finger at women’s choices we should be rephrasing our thoughts to make the right impact.