The Times reports on its front page today that:
' The first evidence of an end to the “have-it-all” generation of women emerges today with thousands of nursery places lying empty because mothers are choosing to care for young children themselves.'
Well, I'm not sure that will surprise many of my friends. Perhaps it is just the little corner of suburbia where we live, but many of the people I know took a career break when their children were born. Although most of us are now working again, our working lives have been transformed. The exhorbitant cost of childcare in London makes it hardly worth working fulltime, so most Mums are working flexibly, perhaps from home or in a school, so that their work can tie in with their children's schooling. Many have made large salary sacrifices.
The notable exceptions to this are those who are lucky enough to have grandparents or other relatives living locally and willing to help out with childcare on a regular basis. But then again, many grandparents themselves are still working or just don't want to be tied down in that way, while some of us just do not have family nearby.
When I gave birth I also took a break from a successful professional career, in what had once been a male dominated environment, simply because the career structure was too patriarchal to be flexible enough. I always intended to return one day, but my children had to come first. They had 'optional extras' and needed security and continuity of care. Yet actually there have only been a very few years when I did no work at all and now, being officially a carer, there are also many other things to consider. Fulltime work is no longer an option. I have plans for a future career change, but life keeps getting in the way.
Ironically, I grew up in the feminist 70's and left university in the very year that Helen Gurley Brown's book 'Having It All' was published. Being a fan back then of Cosmopolitan magazine , I really believed her.
I don't now.