Why the answer to superwoman is not a retreat to the home

New research suggests women are growing disillusioned with the ‘superwoman’ idea that you can have a high-flying career and a great family life. But is the answer a simple return to the home?

Okay, so everyone knows that the superwoman phenomenon is unrealisable, but does that necessarily correlate to what the Daily Mail suggests is solid proof that women want to stay at home with the family, even if they could afford to?

A report from a Cambridge University professor shows a marked decline in support among women for the idea that their families do not suffer because they are working, but the professor herself suggests the issue is slightly more complicated than some newspapers might suggest.

For instance, is this because women are surrounded by the attitudes of others, eg Daily Mail readers, who tell them that their families are suffering due to them being at work?

Or is it because women are working in ways that do not work well with family life?

Or is it that men are not still not pulling their weight either in childcare or housework or that they are not encouraged to do so?

Workingmums’ latest survey still shows that most women perceive that finding flexible work that fits with family life is one of the top three barriers to returning to work.

Many firms are moving in the right direction on flexible working, but there are still pockets of resistance and childcare is not getting any easier or less expensive, despite tax credits and childcare vouchers.

Don’t get me started on holiday childcare which is very patchy and doesn’t qualify for childcare credits unless you put your child into holiday playschemes for the entire summer.

There are some great subsidised schemes out there, but most of them, certainly where I live, are difficult to get to and only go from 9.30am to 3.30pm.

The cost of private holiday and after school childcare has increased by on average 10.1% in the last year, according to the Daycare Trust. Because of the cost and hours of holiday childcare, most parents have to juggle all sorts of different holiday cover, from grandparents/relatives to friends to schemes.

The whole constant organisation thing is exhausting.

If that doesn’t put you off working, then what about the fact that most working mothers who work flexibly seem still to do so to the detriment of their career and certainly to their earnings.

Women seem okay with sacrificing pay for flexibility, but that is because they cannot actually cope without the flexibility. But why on earth should they be paid less pro-rata just for doing a job a day or two less a week [and probably putting in more than their hours]?

What kind of resentment does that create? Women may not always be the best at standing up for themselves, mainly because they have too much else on their plates to deal with, but they certainly know when they are being exploited.

So, Daily Mail readers, I would ask you would you not feel somewhat “conflicted” about the whole work situation if you were in the same position?

This does not mean that women want to return to the home in their droves and that being at home is endless bliss.

Some of us have long enough memories to recall the reasons why women fought not to be consigned to the home: the boredom, the endless self sacrifice, the lack of any kind of public voice, the lack of any kind of recognition, the lack of any kind of independence, the patronising attitudes…

There’s got to be a better way than just rehashing dead ideas.

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