Different strokes for different folks

Everyone’s circumstances and goals are different so what matters is giving people as much choice as possible over how and when they work.

2019 best practice report


The object of workingmums.co.uk is to help working mums, of course, but to do so by promoting all the different ways people can manage work and home life. Some may aim for the top; others may be happy working part time and doing other things. The idea is that everyone faces different circumstances and we should try to enable the type of work that gives people genuine choice – a greater sense of autonomy being key to mental health – and have a welfare system in place that truly has welfare at its heart.

I’ve done enough interviews with mums in my time to see that not everyone wants the same things in life. We are all complex products of our own upbringings, influences and circumstances. That’s why it is almost impossible to be the voice for working mums. I remember my mum talking about why it is important not to make ‘rash generalisations’. These became known in our family as RGs. RGs tend to miss the interesting stuff of everyday life.

I put all this first because I feel like we are sometimes in danger of falling down the economic rabbit hole and solely talking about flexible working, etc, in line with a certain economic agenda, which sees us all as little cogs in the wheel of UK growth. That’s not to say that we don’t all prosper in some way if the country is doing well economically or, at least, if the doing well is spread across everyone more evenly. It’s not to say that work – good work, properly recompensed and with progression pathways [not necessarily upwards] – is not a way towards greater independence.

And, of course, it sometimes makes sense to adopt the language of whichever government is in power to catch their eye and influence change. But in the process are we in danger of swallowing that line whole and suggesting that every woman [or man] wants to work full time leading something or other? And is it even a good idea that we should do so? What about all the other things we do that are not work, but are equally or more important? Spending time with family, volunteering, doing sporting activities, making things, encouraging others’ creativity, etc, etc.

I’m talking to a lot of burnt out people at the moment. Maybe it’s my age. I don’t know, but these are people who are just about gripping on because they are trying to fit way too much into their day. Flexible working makes that more possible, but flexible working does not change the alchemy that creates time. Hence the enthusiasm for the four-day week or other alternatives. Time is the thing, it seems, that we value the most these days. My daughter was fascinated by time – she thought she had lots of it, but it turned out she didn’t.

It is important in the short time we have here to campaign and push for equality – not just gender equality but equality of every kind, particularly between rich and poor [which will, of course, help to address gender inequality]. That’s about putting welfare, in its widest sense, at the centre of everything and not by hammering the poorest and giving people even less choice.

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