I was enraged recently by a discussion overheard on a train between two women, and only the fact that we had just pulled into Birmingham New Street meant that these ladies didn’t get a piece of my mind!

The women were be-moaning the ‘working mother’….yes, I’ll let that sink in for a moment….women moaning about other women who are just trying to do their best for themselves and their families.

“Why aren’t they happy to stay at home?”

“We never even wanted to go back to work”

“They just want the next new car or another nice holiday” – this really is a quote from their chat!

“They all just do it for the money and neglect the poor kids”

Needless to say, I was livid. Things have changed a lot for women and families over the last thirty years. For a start, house prices and mortgages have risen to be such a larger percentage of income that it’s often not feasible for only one parent to work (and that’s just because we want a house to live in, not because we want another new car or nice holiday!).

Even more importantly, it would make no economic sense to discount more than 50% of the workforce and the skills that they have.

Mostly I was angry because I started thinking ‘what about me?’. I have studied hard through academia and worked hard in my professional life to be able to do a job that I enjoy and one where I feel I make a valued contribution. Whilst, at stressful times, I would love to stay at home, I get a lot of self-esteem from my career and wouldn’t want to not have this part of my life. I appreciate that being a working parent is not for everyone, and everyone chooses what is best for them and their family – but to make out that women are only working because they want more ‘stuff’ I found absurd.

It struck me recently at a dinner with the ‘School Mums’ how differently we all approach the career/life/kids balance. I know that is a really obvious statement…but there are so many different combinations of life/parenting and the thing that really stood out is just that we are all trying to do our best!

The media loves to pitch the ‘Stay at Home Mums’ against the ‘Career Mums’, the ‘Part-Time Mums’ are told that they can’t have it all and the ‘Single Parent Mums’ are told they should be at home.

IGemma would describe my immediate family set-up as ‘Dual Career’. My husband and I both work (although I work slightly fewer hours) and we are both passionate about our careers… but we are often at odds with each other and feeling like we are in a fight for our family’s resources – who stays home when the kids are ill, who’s meeting is more important when it’s a snow day, can one of us get off work early to collect if the other one is stuck at work? It’s a constant challenge and there are days when I envy the families where one parent is at home. But that wouldn’t be right for us. So we make sure that we keep talking, make sure that we listen to one another, plan and organise like we are on a military operation – and drink a lot of red wine. And that is not so we can have a nice car or a big holiday….it is so that we can both contribute, achieve our professional aims, have a nice family life and good mental health. Because that is what is best for us, and our family.

Credit – Gemma Saunders


Who is Leah Miller

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