The mummy penalty you may ask? I don’t wish to traumatise you by mentioning the ‘p’ word so soon after England’s Euro defeat! Fortunately, the mummy penalty is something else altogether...
I recently had my soul-stirred by an article featured on CityWire written by Charlotte Wood entitled ‘I wish I had realised it sooner: our profession is broken for women’. I’d actually go as far to say it awoke some innate lioness fighting spirit within me, because not only have I witnessed the lack of equality working mothers receive, but I too have experienced it first hand.
Charlotte brought attention to the many difficulties often faced by working mothers
I think what saddened me the most is before I even finished reading the article, I’d already anticipated the Neanderthal comments that would follow. So, that brings me back to the mummy penalty…
Firstly, let’s talk biology. It’s an irrefutable fact that in a heterosexual partnership, only the female has the ability to conceive, carry, give birth to and nurture a child. This, in its own right, should surely be admired. So why is it, that after that year’s ‘holiday’ do working mothers seem to face so many penalties combined with an overwhelming amount of anxiety?
I say ‘holiday’ as I’ve often heard of maternity leave referred to in this manner
Just imagine the nerve, to think you can continue the human race and still actually progress your career… This is often the perception, boosted by the belief that as a mum you’re obviously now much less committed. This for me is almost as hilarious as the daily chaos of having children, running a household and striving to be a respected employee.
Yes, it’s chaotic and yes, sometimes I may turn up for work not realising my child has smeared toothpaste on my work clothes, but I turn up for a reason.
Not only do I want to embed an excellent working ethic within my children, but I love my job, we need the income, and actually quite frankly my job is helping me hold on to some sanity because let’s face it, no one handed us a parenting manual, did they? In comparison, some of us that aren’t fortunate enough to benefit from certain privileges often have two choices: work or rely on state benefits. I’m almost positive the same Neanderthals commenting on Charlotte’s article would readily comment on a stay-at-home mum that needs to rely on state benefits for her income too, so ironically, we are damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
So now I ask myself the question: where does this awkwardness of being a working mum stem from?
Surely not just the employer? Of course, feeling unsupported is partly to blame. But then it hit me, this stigma comes from all of us. From the mum that’s embarrassed to ask to leave work early to watch the Christmas panto, to the antiquated boss who’s highly irritated that you took one day off to take care of a sick child (that they’re absolutely going to mention at your monthly review meeting).
Thankfully, through a lot of hard work, progress has been made towards improving equality between men and women; we’ve definitely come a long way, personally and professionally.
At a snail’s pace, changes have begun to make the working environment a more equal place for both men and women.
However, the aftereffects of centuries of inequality, are that women have often subconsciously embedded a lack of respect and confidence within themselves. I think it’s high time we realise our own worth and have more confidence in who we are. I see no reason why being a mother and an employed worker can’t work in harmonious unison. After all, we may have lost copious amounts of sleep becoming a mother, but we didn’t lose our work ethics.