Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A woman's work

THE OLD argument regarding whether or not working mothers are evil incarnate and a drain on the workforce has reared its ugly head again this week.
It was no surprise to me to read that women with young children fare the worst when it comes to career progression. Apparantly those of us with functioning uteri (or is it uteruses?) are a liability in the workplace. We may get pregnant and then, when that messy procreation business is done and dusted, we will no doubt have our mind on the wains and silly little things like calpol, teething, potty training and drool.
When it comes to promotion we are at the bottom of the pile, regardless of our qualifications, experience and ability. You see we working mothers, it would seem, are just not reliable. If our children fall and break a limb we could be so bold as to clear out of the office for an afternoon to take them to A&E and God forbid the wee mites take sick and we need a day off to clean up vomit and crusty snot.
On top of that knowledge that we are now no longer valulable members of the work force, we also have to deal with the guilt at working in the first place. Because those people who don’t think we are rubbish at our jobs instead like to think we are rubbish at our parenting. A woman’s place, did we not know, is in the house.
The ills of society - all those ASBOs and illiterate wains are precisely down to the fact that we women go out and work and leave our children in the care of virtual strangers. It has even been argued that a woman should not have children unless she is prepared to stay at home and raise them. Yes, the working mother is both incompetent AND selfish.
And people wonder why growing numbers of us are beating the Prozac down our necks and taking to drink in the evenings?
If you think I’m exaggerating, think again. Have a wee gander over at the BBC ‘Have Your Say’ website on its news pages. They stop just short of getting the ducking stools out and giving the likes of me a good drowning for my troubles. The thing all these creators of studies and social studies seem to ignore time and time again is that the vast majority of working mothers do so because they have no choice.
Most of us could not keep a roof over our family’s head or clothes on their back without bringing that second income into the house. I for one am certainly not working to finance a glamorous lifestyle where I’m swanning off on fancy holidays or clothing myself in designer clothes while my son sits in a creche pining for some affection. Perhaps, however I shouldn’t be so hard on those people who would have me hung, drawn and quartered.
When I was younger I used to think that having children wouldn’t alter my outlook on my working life one wee iota. I would argue with my mother incessantly that I wasn’t going to university for the good of my health and that there was no way I was going to turn my back on years of study for the sake of staying home up to my eyes in Play Doh and Thomas the Tank Engine trains. Being a stay at home mammy would, I firmly believed drive me to distraction. But then I became a mammy myself and I enjoyed it.
I love spending time with my son reliving those wee innocent joys of childhood and it does at times pain me to leave him. In an ideal world I would be at home reading to him, drawing with him and kissing away his tears when he stubs his toe on a building block. Multi-task But this isn’t an ideal world.
For financial reasons I have to work. (Contrary to popular belief I did not earn millions of pounds from selling my book) but yes, becoming a parent has intrinsically changed my perception of the world. My focus is now very different, but that does not mean I’m rubbish at my job or don’t give it 100% while I’m at work.
Like many working mothers, I have become adept at turning off the mammy head within five minutes of hitting the office and switching into work mode. That’s the thing with us women, we can multi-task. To say we are unreliable as workers is laughable. I’ll guarantee that as a working mother I’m more likely to be at my desk on any given day than single office workers the world over who are sleeping off a hangover or taking a sickie just for the craic.
At least when I’m not at my desk it’s for a good reason. We are masters of organisation, efficiency and the afore-mentioned muilti-tasking. The thing is, give a woman a job - especially a mother, and you can guarantee it will be done.
As I’ve said, it doesn’t surprise me that this argument has raised its head again, but it does disgust me. It’s time we woman stood up to demand an end to this discrimination.

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