The Changing World of Moms
New figures out last week show the number of stay at home mums in the UK is shrinking fast.
Partly this is economic - women have to work now, and the recession hit men first and many women had to go back to work earlier than they had anticipated or take on longer hours as they became the main breadwinners.
Partly, though, it is because more and more women want the financial independence and confidence they get from earning their own money. Now all we need is for the work situation and social expectations to catch up.
For some reason the media seem to have a rose-tinted view of stay at home moms, baking apple pie when this is no longer the reality. Work also needs to adapt.
Many companies do offer the kind of flexibility that makes it easier for women to balance work and family life, since they still have or expect to have the main caring burden. However, in order for flexible working not to be seen as a "woman" thing and therefore used to sideline women, it needs to be available to all workers. This would help families be able to share the caring roles more equally and may help avoid the terrible wage gap between men and women.
I spent the weekend listening to someone telling me about a "househusband" who had "sacrificed" his job to look after his children. He found it really hard as it was often dull and repetitive work, for instance, doing the school run every day. Well, of course. That is what women have been doing for years.
It shouldn't have to be that all the burden falls on one or other member of the family, unless they want it to. At the moment, except in the most enlightened of companies, even if you do the stay at home thing just for the early years, you fall behind on the career ladder. The statistics show women usually never catch up.Continued on the next page