Monday, April 30, 2007

Having it all?

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.


Anonymous said...

I didn't read the book, but assumed I'd stay at work when I had kids. I did for a few years, albeit part time.
Then it got much harder when the elder of the two started school, and being part time, my job just felt more and more boring and I couldn't apply for better jobs as they were all full time.
So I took the company shilling and left.
Now I shop at Peacocks and Primark instead of Mini-Boden and Monsoon. But I think it's been worth it - not sure if i'll still feel that if the money runs out before I manage to bring in a reasonable amount from career number 3.

Stay at home dad said...

I assumed I'd stay at work too... Then I realised that not only did I not want it all, come to think of it, I didn't want the career in the first place.

I think you're right, but there is also the rise of the nanny.

Cathy said...

Beta mum...I didn't tead the book either, but it was just the concept which appealed!

SAHD...yes there are nannies of course, but you know how much they cost in London. Their wages would eat up one net salary for most of my friends and of course when you have a child with what is euphemistically called 'challenging behaviour' you also have to pay them danger money...!

Anonymous said...

Hi Cathy
Just passing by and thought I'd drop in.
I had every intention of continuing my job after I had children. In fact DH was a SAHD for the first year while I went back to work full time.
Then slowly but surely I was phased out of the paid workforce. Shift work and motherhood just don't mix unless you're lucky enough to have family nearby that can help out. And nursing being a female dominated workforce you'd think they'd have something sorted for those of us with children. Sadly that's not the case and they lose a lot of experienced workers because the hours are so difficult.
These days, like yourself, I'm a full time carer for my 'special' little man.
On topic, I think that woman can potentially have it all. We just can't have it all at once.
And really who'd want to?

Cathy said...

Andrea, you are right.It's pretty impossible to have it all at the same time. That is why I am so glad that I took time to have a career before kids.At least I know I'm not missing much (except the money). It's good to hear that things are no easier on your side of the world!

Anonymous said...

we're so ill-prepared emotionally for what becoming a parent means - partly because nuclear families mean that the first baby we hold is often our own, partly because of a conspiracy to undermine our instinct as a way of making us vulnerable to consumer pressure. it makes me bloody furious! women who are determined to 'have it all' end up by knackering themselves out completely.

Cathy said... true! Being a parent is certainly a shock to the system. I'm knackered enough without the high flying career.

Welcome, by the way....