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KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 24-Jan-14 16:12:43

Why is society so unsupportive of high-achieving 'power mums'?

A recent survey found that 57% of us think that 'when it comes to the work-life balance women can't have it all, however much they may want it'.

So where does that leave mothers with high-level careers? In this guest post, Christine Armstrong asks why society is so ambivalent about 'power mums'.

Read the post and tell us what you think. Could society be more supportive of women who want motherhood and leadership roles at work?

Christine Armstrong

Founding Member, Jericho Chambers

Posted on: Fri 24-Jan-14 16:12:43


Lead photo

Power mums - "surviving, not thriving"?

Nigel Farage has hurled himself into the debate about equality at work with a typically thoughtful, modern and nuanced view: City women with families are "worth less" than their male counterparts. UKIP-madness-as-usual, you think.  Until you look at polling data which reveals what society really thinks about women in senior roles - and are forced to wonder whether his comments are smarter than they first look.
At a Jericho Chambers debate last week, chaired by Zoe Williams of the Guardian, the research company Populus shared a resoundingly miserable take on public views of women in top-level jobs.
Of the 2,000 people they asked, very nearly half think that our society has suffered as more women have worked out of the home. A whopping 57% agreed that 'when it comes to the work-life balance, women can't have it all, however much they may want it'.
So while many of us blithely assume that everyone sane wants broadly equal numbers of women and men at senior levels of business and government, we may not be right - especially if the women in question happen to have children.
A year ago, fed up with a corporate world of retro alpha men, I set out to interview some ‘power mums’ and ‘power dads’ about the choices they've made to get their senior jobs, for Management Today. I was looking for potential role models - but it wasn't that straightforward.  Yes, the mums do generally love their jobs. But they also work long hours, miss their kids, feel quite stressed a lot of the time, feel judged at the school gate and judged at work - and most concede that they are surviving rather than thriving.

We can spend all the time we like dissecting equality and discrimination, childcare options and our hours culture - but until society puts quality of life and families on a more equal footing with business needs, this is just how it is.

In contrast, the dads feel no social censure, express few regrets and are free from the racing mental ticker-tape of things they must remember (‘online shop, wash PE kit, plan birthday party, book haircuts, cancel swimming….’) which even the women with the most help keep on a loop. Unlike one of the dads, none of the mums has yet confessed to inventing breakfast meetings to escape the chaos of Cheerio throwing.
The response to the publication of those interviews has, if anything, been even more striking - particularly the judgement cast upon the female high-fliers by other women. On Facebook, a woman commented on a power mum with four children and a long commute: "She may be powerful but she is no mother"; an ambitious 20-something friend said: "when I read that they only see their kids two nights a week, I think 'shame on you' - and then I hate myself for thinking it".

In our frank debate last week, the self-confessed 'enlightened' CEO of Costcutter Supermarkets Group, Darcy Wilson-Rymer, was brutal on the business realities of the subject. Four-day weeks don't work - because women end up doing five days for 20% less pay, and then getting frustrated and doing something else. Job shares can work, but are not ideal at the most senior levels. 
After the debate, a woman who read about it sent us an infuriated email, arguing that we were missing the point: "it's actually NOT about the Power Mums who have made it in their careers by getting up at 5am, working out, working a 10-hour day, getting back late feeling guilty and employing loads of staff to help them through. Its about the average professional woman who can work maybe 20 to 30 hours a week but who doesn't want power or even career progression”.
Which is of course brilliant for everyone it suits.  But - news flash for Mr Farage - some women do want equality and power and progression. Even some who have had a baby, or two or three. And if the men work 70 hours a week and the women half that, it won't happen. Find me a FTSE-100 CEO who works 30 hours, and surely we'll find an exquisitely wrapped carriage clock ticking under their PA's desk.
We can spend all the time we like dissecting equality and discrimination, childcare options and our hours culture - but until society puts quality of life and families on a more equal footing with business needs, this is just how it is. 
So until that time - unless we agree with Nigel Farage and his mates - we need to be supportive of the women who are making the sacrifices to get to the top, and ensure that those women are heard. If they are not, what hope do we have that our daughters will face less stark choices?

By Christine Armstrong

Twitter: @HannisArmstrong

SirChenjin Fri 24-Jan-14 16:59:39

Why do these women who are making 'sacrifices' to get to the top need the rest of us to be supportive of them? I can think of many, many other things that I would rather give my support to - and quite frankly, I'm encouraging my daughter to be happy in her own skin as opposed to anything else. I hardly see that as a less stark choice.

ProfondoRosso Fri 24-Jan-14 17:10:53

Society is 'unsupportive' of high-achieving mothers because it's unsupportive of 'underachieving' mothers. It continues to make women's choices difficult because it still isn't enlightened enough to understand that women have complex lives. So plenty of politicians and media outlets do their best to pit women against each other. But the majority of us aren't biting. Many of us want things that others don't, and vice versa.

I know mothers who work crazy hours, mothers who don't work outside the home, mothers who work from home. They don't need my judgement and I wouldn't offer any anyway.

I don't have children, but I want to have them sooner rather than later. This may well dent my career prospects, but I don't evaluate myself in terms of hours worked or promotions earned, and equally I don't evaluate anyone I know in terms of how many children they have, or how much time they spend with them.

Whatever someone else wants to do is their choice. I don't want to see sexism or inequality and will stand up for women's rights not to be constrained or judged on the basis of gender. But these things happen however you choose to live your life, sadly.

Paintyfingers Fri 24-Jan-14 17:25:33

I think we should all care about jobs which demand more time away from children than can be good for any family. That affects both men and women who work in corporate environments.

I would prefer a more Scandi working hours culture where women and men have equality of opportunity, but spending time with children is considered important for both sexes.

Ilovelists Fri 24-Jan-14 17:37:07

I agree with Painty, surely it's about encouraging dads to be showing the same family oriented priorities at their workplaces, rather than championing the cause of the "power mums" as they compete in an environment that does not often leave much room for work-home-life balance. Of course those women need support in the choices they've made, we all do, but I would much rather question the dads who are increasingly absent from home life than encourage mums to do the same. Wouldn't that do more to redress the gender inequality for the future?

jonicomelately Fri 24-Jan-14 18:00:12

Wtf is a 'power mum?' It sounds like an Americanism to me. Who cares about being judged by Nigel Farage or 'school gate' mums?

SirChenjin Fri 24-Jan-14 18:04:15

Or indeed, being judged by anyone for our career choices and the level to which we choose to rise to (unless, of course, you're doing something illegal or immoral - or both. In which case, judge away!)

ChoudeBruxelles Fri 24-Jan-14 18:28:59

It's difficult to read all of that on a phone asthe text has gone all wonky

maxpower Fri 24-Jan-14 18:35:45

. Dh and I both work full time me m-f dh shifts. As a consequence we really do have a partnership sharing child care and the running of the house. However Quite a lot of my female friends are sahp and there's a very clear division of responsibility between them and their partners. Even at weekends the dad doesn't share the parenting or running the house. Giving parents the ability to share maternity leave would be a start so women aren't discriminated against in the job market; likewise we need men to champion their parental rights in the workplace to stop parenting been seen as a female responsibility.

scottishmummy Fri 24-Jan-14 18:40:58

I don't associate with term power mum Too sloganising.i work ft.thats it
I don't seek anyone else support or approbation,nice if it's spontaneously offered.not holding my breath for it either.

No parent has it all.have it all us biggest myth we ever got sold
You work,you're not always available,not there fir every school gate or party.fact
You don't work,your out the employment loop, and usually dependent upon waged adult.fact

I don't actually care whether or not my employment status causes consternation fir anyone suits us
I love working I've worked hard for career,I didn't want to give that up

Re:jip from other women?god yes,no man ever asked me why do you work,or has pulled the hmmface.all the snippy comments came from other women,the precious moments crew

On mn I habitually read explanation why female gave up work,reduced hours,leaving male unencumbered and able to attend to career. It's a bit sad that babies and childcare is still seen as female domain

I'm happy to work ft -I think it's good fir my children to see mum work, as opposed to being housewife and dad work.i didn't want to enact a patriarchal set up

scottishmummy Fri 24-Jan-14 18:54:15

Also it depends kind of partner you hook up with,if they're equitable on task and spirit
I compartmentalise when I'm at work no I'm not thinking of kids,laundry,to do
We share tasks,have planner and workout daily who responds if we get the call from school/ nursery.whomever has most on that day due ant respond it's not automatically my responsibility cause I'm mum

We as women need to make sure we don't slip into the default,everything child related=mum

justdrankacappuccino Fri 24-Jan-14 18:55:14

There are so few women because it is nigh on impossible for them to compete.

I'm an Executive Assistant and my boss' calendar changes minute by minute. Unless you have a house husband/Mary Poppins figure on hand 24/7 how on earth can you be expected to jump on a plane/travel to the other end of the country/sit on a conf call at 1am with a couple of hours notice. Because that is what is happening day in day out at board level every day.

The only way it will change is if women start businesses and design jobs around women's needs not the other way around.

scottishmummy Fri 24-Jan-14 18:55:40


Pollycazalet Fri 24-Jan-14 19:05:22

Agree, broadly with Pointyfingers.

I have a huge admiration for women who combine raising their children who get to the top in their professions. Thank goodness for them showing our daughters that women can be at the top table. And frankly, until we have many more women in senior roles, the long hours culture of our working lives will not change.

Paintyfingers Fri 24-Jan-14 19:08:36

The men think it too, Scottish. They just don't say it.

It makes me wonder if you are really so secure in your own choices when you belittle sahm with comments like 'the precious moments brigade'.

I've said this before but I think anyone who works 70+ hour weeks is nuts.

Male or female. Parent or not.

I mean, that's not even a debate about family friendly workplaces. It's about human being friendly workplaces. That kind of lifestyle takes a tremendous toll on your physical and mental health.

I think there's something a bit wrong with a society where some people think that working like that is a privilege and what success looks like.

scottishmummy Fri 24-Jan-14 19:33:18

When need is there I've done a 70hr+ Week,not the norm but if it was deadline I'd do it

scottishmummy Fri 24-Jan-14 19:43:23

Painty,if you're on a thread about working mums,to complain bout precious moments crew
You're barking up wrong tree,as you see the op had given a recognition to the sniping from other women
Am I insecure not at all.but damn right is I will rebuke the precious moments crew

ithaka Fri 24-Jan-14 19:47:31

The men think it too, Scottish. They just don't say it.

Was there any need for that? What gives you the knowledge to pronounce on what all men are thinking? You have just reinforced that some women feel the need to put down other women they think are too successful.

I do think women can be their own worst enemies. It always just 'makes sense' for the woman to give up work, because she earns less. And why does she earn less? Because she has been supporting her DH's career at the expense of her own - so convenient for him, such a cul-de-sac for her.

I am not sure of the solution. To be honest, children or not, I doubt I would have been a high flyer. But too many men have got further than they deserve on the back of women's self sacrifice and that isn't right.

MadameLeBean Fri 24-Jan-14 19:48:33

The thing that is annoying about Nigel Farage's comments (lol just autocorrected to girl garage!) is not that he is wrong - anyone who takes a year or two out of the workplace is at a disadvantage and "worth less to their employer" than someone who stayed in - but that he assumes (1) that the taking of parental leave and raising of kids is exclusively female responsibility and (2) that all women need or want to take 1yr+ off work. It makes me so mad that everyone the media ignore the fact staring everyone in the face that if child rearing responsibility was shared equally between parents then almost all workers would have those things to balance - it would be NORMAL not to be able to jump on a plane with 1hr notice - but it will never be normal until MEN are subject to those constraints sometimes too. That is why I will not have a child with my DP unless he makes equal career sacrifices (eg same amount of time off, request flexi etc)

Paintyfingers Fri 24-Jan-14 19:56:45

Ithaka, I know they think it, because they've said it to me!

annieorangutan Fri 24-Jan-14 20:00:10

I work full time and whenever I with my kids Im loving it, and dont feel any guilt. God sake I dont want to be tied to them 24/7. I prefer working to staying at home.

ItStillLooksLikeRainDear Fri 24-Jan-14 20:00:15

Because people like Katie Hopkins are thrown in our faces by the media. vile woman

ithaka Fri 24-Jan-14 20:00:47

Pointyfingers the men in my life admire hard working women - don't assume you speak for all men.

Paintyfingers Fri 24-Jan-14 20:06:01

Ithaka, I'm not a man. I work in a very male-dominated industry and have heard a lot of comments about mothers working long hours from both men and women. Of course the people I speak to are not universally representative. You also need to bear in mind that most of the women commented on have extremely high flying spouses who work full time and very long hours. So people know young dc will rarely see either parent during the week. It is not just woman who find this problematic.

My point if view is that it shouldn't be about mothers, it should be about parents. Individuals of either gender shouldn't be criticised for wanting stellar careers. But we should try to reduce the pressure on parents which is inimical to family life. And less sexism would be a great start.

SoftSheen Fri 24-Jan-14 20:08:00

I have known several 'high-flying' women with children, and without exception, they have all been married to 'high-flying' men.

The woman in this category who I knew best went back to work after 3 weeks maternity leave, leaving her twins (and elder child) in the care of two nannies and an au pair. She works long hours and frequently travelled/travels abroad both during the week and at weekends, as does her DH. Unfortunately at least two of the three children do seem to have suffered from this arrangement (emotional problems).

I absolutely agree that women and men should take equal responsibility for their children, and that neither's career should automatically take priority. However, if neither parent is able to spend much time with their children, then it is not surprising if their welfare does suffer.

SoftSheen Fri 24-Jan-14 20:08:56

X-post with Paintyfingers

annieorangutan Fri 24-Jan-14 20:09:19

I admire working women who have achieved something as any mum can stay at home, but not everyone can achieve in work.

TheCrackFox Fri 24-Jan-14 20:28:51

I think society is generally unsupportive of all mums.

ShreddedHoops Fri 24-Jan-14 20:30:39

Lots of interesting replies.

But please sort out your formatting HQ - the OP is illegible if you're on the app.

Bonsoir Fri 24-Jan-14 20:31:57

I know plenty of power mums (really awful expression but very evocative) and plenty of FT working mothers and they aren't one and the same.

The power mums have no time for (female) friends and they have several helpers in orbit around them to whom life is largely outsourced. You must really like your job to live like that.

scottishmummy Fri 24-Jan-14 20:33:42

Lets lose the term power mums,it's dreadfully.too kickin ass,breaking glass ceilings
There was a recent mn supportive thread mums mainly ft working,support and chat
I simply don't afford farage any time,he's not credible.hes a rabble rouser for the indignant and habitually offended

ProfondoRosso Fri 24-Jan-14 20:38:59

Completely agree with meringue - I have zero desire to work a 70+ hour week. I would never want to work somewhere that was the norm, because it's not normal. No time for recharging, recuperating, looking after yourself does not do anything for my productivity.

I have no problem with being positive about "power mums". For me they fall into the same category as SAHMs (who SAH through choice). I'm pleased that they are able to do what they want and that women have choices available to them, but I certainly don't want their lifestyle myself. I am probably one of the majority of professionals who are mothers who feel that way about "power mums".

The role model of "power mums" doesn't do much to promote equal gender representations at high levels, because most women don't want that lifestyle and will therefore "opt out" in some way before reaching those levels. I therefore don't see how they will improve the choices available to my daughter.

If we really do want to attain greater gender balance then I think that the comments about Scandi lifestyles and human friendly workplaces are spot on.

4paws Fri 24-Jan-14 20:40:40

Society wants people who throw themselves into working long hours, presenteeism, can jump on a plane at a moment's notice.

Society also wants people to nurture their children, staying at home with them for the first few years and generally being around throughout childhood, for the school play, the trips, the homework, the additional clubs, sickness, vomiting etc.

It is basically 2 opposing camps.

yes some people do manage to do well at both. Somehow. And I can't help thinking a lot of luck is involved (how often child/ren is/are sick etc) and an awful lot of planning.

But really, most people can't. It isn't possible. With (delete as appropriate) their spouse/relatives/career/boss/child/living arrangements etc)

annieorangutan Fri 24-Jan-14 20:45:38

Really 4paws? I would of said modern society is conpletely geared around both parents working.

Bonsoir Fri 24-Jan-14 20:47:00

I do sometimes find with power mums that they are so used to life revolving around them (so many helpers) that they think that miscellaneous people they meet in situations where they ought to treat them as equals (such as other parents at school) are also available to revolve around them. They can appear quite selfish by normal standards.

<dons hard hat>

4paws Fri 24-Jan-14 20:50:02

annie I don't think business is geared towards parents working. I think children are a nuisance as far as business productivity is perceived.

People without children aren't going to be looking as much for 'help' be it flexible hours, time off because dependents are sick, maternity/paternity leave etc.

Bonsoir Fri 24-Jan-14 20:52:11

I suppose what I mean is that some power mums do seem to expect an awful lot of support from the wider world while not giving much back. And that creates a bit of resentment.

4paws Fri 24-Jan-14 20:52:23

So yes, govt might make noises about parents/children being valued etc, but for business right here, right now. No.

scottishmummy Fri 24-Jan-14 20:52:29

I'm not compelled to work,I want not under any enforced employment yoke
I love the job I do

annieorangutan Fri 24-Jan-14 20:56:31

4paws - We manage it easily as I just share everything with dh.

4paws Fri 24-Jan-14 20:57:05

scottishmummy that's great. Most people want to work. Would be bored stiff if they couldn't. But most are under an 'employment yoke' to some extent

Bonsoir Fri 24-Jan-14 20:57:52

Forgive me, scottishmummy, but I don't think that you are a power mum with a nanny, housekeeper, au pair and a zillion airmiles. Are you?

4paws Fri 24-Jan-14 20:57:54

great for you annie. Are you one of these high flying 'power mums' re the OP?

Paintyfingers Fri 24-Jan-14 20:59:32

According to a recent survey which asked I think 4,000 mothers about their employment preferences (as opposed to their actual hours), only 18% said they wanted to work full time.

justdrankacappuccino Fri 24-Jan-14 20:59:45

I don't think I've worked for any business that is geared to family life because most of them are run by men with a stay at home wife running the show.

So much for progress...

Paintyfingers Fri 24-Jan-14 20:59:46

Will try to find and link.

annieorangutan Fri 24-Jan-14 20:59:55

No but I have done up to 50 hours regularly andits no big deal. Im sure if your as rich as a power mum type it would be even easier as you get cleaners and help.

scottishmummy Fri 24-Jan-14 21:00:47

It's not exceptionally plan,you share,you nominate who's doing what
We had the big conversation early on,our values,both work,career plans
So when we had children it came as no surprise how both felt

CandyKate Fri 24-Jan-14 21:01:09

I used to have a very high-powered professional job where you were basically on-call 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. People often got their planned holidays etc cancelled. Anyone who had children were immediately written off as not serious about the job. The only women who were at the top level did not have children.

Personally, I found the whole lifestyle, atmosphere, values abhorrent. I always knew I didn't want to be there long-term but it fulfilled a part of me that wanted to be a high achiever. As soon as I had children I resigned, and was lucky to find a PT job that is challenging and fulfilling but only 9-5 and no expectations outside of those hours.

I could never go back to that former lifestyle, even once the DCs were grown up. I personally find it a very toxic environment to be in.

However, I think it is sad that my female former colleagues have to make a very stark choice between working FT with all that pressure and not being around their children, or choosing to be a SAHM or try to find a good PT job, which is rare.

I agree with whoever has said that it is the business culture that needs to change to become more holistic and acknowledge that workers with a good work/life balance are more productive. I'm sure there was a recent study that said if you have to restrict your working hours to 7hrs a day you actually get more done than working 12+ hours. Can't remember where I read it though...

Bonsoir Fri 24-Jan-14 21:03:44

The power mums at DD's school mostly have two housekeepers, one who comes in before breakfast to make and serve breakfast and get the DC ready and who stays until around 3pm and does shopping/cleaning/laundry and then another one who does the afternoon/evening shift and makes dinner. And then an au pair to pick the DC up from school and do homework. And one of those three people lives in so the power mum and her DH can travel for work at a moment's notice and leave the DC.

4paws Fri 24-Jan-14 21:11:24

Does Norway get more done in 7 hours a day (approximately) or does it work because they are oil and cash rich? I would love it to be true. I have relatives over there who cannot believe their luck at being out of the insane corporate whirlwind that is south-east England. They had no kids, so no pressures there, but they hardly had a marriage, they mostly just had a work-load.

ShreddedHoops Fri 24-Jan-14 21:14:15

I know it's not a popular view on MN, but I never understand how on these threads women who work ft talk about how much they love their jobs, there seems to be an assumption that women who SAH by choice didn't enjoy work. I loved it, I was very successful, but I chose to stay home for the early years and yes that involved career sacrifice. But it was unthinkable for me to put my child into childcare until I felt he was ready for it. I do strongly think it makes a huge huge difference to children to have parental care for the early years and not be chucked into a nursery as a baby (put that bit in for sm grin ) and all the 'I love working' and inference that women who SAH don't, is misguided ime. Of course if you can't stand being with your children all day then admit it. Or if you can't put your career on hold without sacrificing it altogether.

NK5BM3 Fri 24-Jan-14 21:16:50

There are societies out there which allow power mums and dads because they have live in help. So a maid essentially who cooks, cleans, takes care of kids (school drop off pick up) etc. and mummy leaves at 7 and returns at 9/10 having either worked or smoozed at some afterwork dinner thing. Daddy too.

And if there's no maid, then it's grandparents. Or other relatives.

4paws Fri 24-Jan-14 21:19:03

Yes quite Bonsoir

And men are lauded in the press for going away on expeditions/training intensively/working all hours for personal/sporting/business success. And he's a family man. Except if you read behind the lines - he's never there.

And then they publish reams about how children need their parents as much as possible.

Well, which is it?

scottishmummy Fri 24-Jan-14 21:20:51

I had nursery booked 12wk pg.had it all planned.was delighted to return
Found some aspects of mat leave stultifying
It was a given I'd return.

annieorangutan Fri 24-Jan-14 21:30:56

I think its mad if you like your work to give it up just for the sake of a couple of years that your children wont even remember. Different if you dont like working.

scottishmummy Fri 24-Jan-14 21:36:51

Giving up work wasn't option I considered why would I?no one expected it of dp
On mat leave I met plenty who introduced selves in past tense,the used to be...
I didn't want to be a Used to be.its possible to work and have family. Men do it

Paintyfingers Fri 24-Jan-14 22:18:25

Obviously some individuals want to work full time, but according to that survey 82% of mothers don't.

scottishmummy Fri 24-Jan-14 22:23:05

It's a blog about power mums,not power housewives
If one is a power housewife it's hardly a fraught lifestyle

ProfondoRosso Fri 24-Jan-14 22:24:08

My DM went back to her teaching job after mat leave when she had me. Then she decided she wasn't happy, quit her job and took 3 years off to look after me and have my DSis. Family income took a massive cut because DM was the higher earner but she and DF managed and they were happy with their choice.

DM has recently taken early retirement after many years of advancing in her teaching career, earning a very good salary and really enjoying the challenges of her job. But now she's retired, she bloody loves it - she's more relaxed than I've ever seen her.

She's enjoyed her work and done well on her own terms. She's never lived to work. Neither do I. I work fucking hard but I know my life is more than my job. It's not a competition - who works hardest and complains least? Measure your success in your own terms and don't judge others because you don't agree with their choices.

WidowWadman Fri 24-Jan-14 22:26:42

Like scottishmummy, it never occurred to me to give up work on sprogging.

But I remember, when I was put at risk of redundancy at 31 weeks pregnant with my first, some wankers told me "oh, it's not so bad. You're having a baybeee, you probably won't want to work once you had it anyway." Arses.
I earn twice as much now than I used to before having my children. Wouldn't want to be without my children. Wouldn't want to be without my career either.

Viviennemary Fri 24-Jan-14 22:55:10

I really don't see why a high achieving 'power mum' needs my support or anybody's for that matter. And I object to the term. A lot of ordinary Mums achieve amazing things.

beanandspud Sat 25-Jan-14 00:27:34

It's very easy to suggest that you can just put your career 'on hold' for a couple of years and stay at home but in many fields it's not so easy.

I am extremely lucky in that I hold a senior position in a company that promotes flexible working, working from home and work-life balance but I know that it's not always the case. Even then, there are decisions to be made, sometimes I have no choice but to be away from home or work long hours. I couldn't do it without a DH who takes a 50:50 share in household stuff and child care.

specialmagiclady Sat 25-Jan-14 04:48:36

would be interested in how much family support FT working parents have. I loved my job but ultimately felt the work I did was important enough to society for me to leave my PFB with a stranger. Great fun, well-paid but ultimately hardly vital to our society. (shopping telly ffs!)

I wonder if I had the depth of support - all my family are 500 miles away minimum - I would have gone back more readily.

I also wonder if the control-freakery that made me good at my job made me unable to delegate the child-rearing...

muser31 Sat 25-Jan-14 07:15:38

i had to side track my own study and career because dh was doing a degree and of course its his stuff that counts, i automatically have to look after dd. it has caused resentment... i love looking after her, but i would prefer more of a balance so i can pursue my goals as well. but the way of it seems to be that he does his stuff, and we have to fit everything round that. we are going to marriage counselling so i am hoping to try and address these issues... but i think men do need to change and become more family orientated so that women get a fair chance as well. im not talking about not seeing my dd, i am just talking about getting the chance to work even 20 hours and have him contribute to her responsibilities.

WidowWadman Sat 25-Jan-14 07:48:56

specialmagic - husband and I work full time, no local family. Paid for childcare, isn't "strangers" though, but people my children have quickly developed a close bond with. I don't buy into the theory that blood related means better.

NK5BM3 Sat 25-Jan-14 08:08:48

Special magic - we both also work ft and nearest family is 6hr drive away. Other family is 14h flight away so no we do not have family childcare arrangements. Our kids have gone to ft nursery since. 6 months old when I returned to work. And frankly if I didn't our family income and situation would be quite untenable now as my dh got made redundant when dc2 was nearly 1 year old. It would have meant tremendous upheaval for everyone, me scrambling to go back to work with nothing to show for 3/4 years in hand. A nightmare.

So we had a v good nursery as childcare in the early days... And now dc1 we have after school club (paid of course) and on Fridays one of us will leave at 3 to take dc1 to a club.

annieorangutan Sat 25-Jan-14 09:17:31

specialmagic - I have family near by but due to family illnesses they cant help. Thats what childcare is for there are nurseries, morning, afternoon clubs, holiday clubs, childminders etc. Quite a lot of them do out of hours, weekends or nights once you know them if required.

scottishmummy Sat 25-Jan-14 09:40:05

No family support,I pay feral strangers with NVQ at mrs hannigans to watch the wean
I can honestly say I had no PFB happy to pay so called strangers
They work,I work it all works

funnyvalentine Sat 25-Jan-14 10:13:05

What makes a 'power mum'? Lots of mums work FT doing fairly long hours, not earning masses and still doing most of the housework. Do you become a power mum when you earn enough to outsource some of the domestic stuff?

Whoever said that society is just unsupportive of mums has nailed it ;)

annieorangutan Sat 25-Jan-14 10:16:22

I dont see why if a mum works full time then she shiuld do anymore at home than her dh, unless shes a complete mug. I dont recognise the description in the blog Im not certainly not thinking of the shopping or pe kits all the time. If you both share it that sort of thing takes up a couple of hours a week at the very max.

elguacko Sat 25-Jan-14 10:42:03

As a 4/5 days a week working mum I know exactly what Scottish means. I get a lot of snippy looks and off-comments because I'm not available 5 days a week for the various clubs and afterschool activities. Like I'm less of a mum and/or not devoted to my babies.
I was a sahm and loved it, but also love my job and the amazing rush of self asteem when I got my job after 5 years out of the market.
My ex-husband hated me working. My new amazing partner fully appreciates it, that being said the responsibilty for all the 'kids' things still lies wih me.
It's hard, and I constantly feel the pressure from all sides, but I know that it's best for me and my family.

rookiemater Sat 25-Jan-14 10:42:33

This kind of reminds me of the threads that crop up occasionally where SAHMs ask why society doesn't recognize their value.

On both sides, SAHM or high earning WOHM, I'm not sure what they are looking for - a medal?

My personal belief is that I am perfectly supportive if either parent has a long hours job, but for DCs I feel it is better if one parent is not working uber long hours - doesn't matter if it is the father or the mother.

I'm not sure what this sacrifice is that the blogger talks about. It sounds like she loves her job and the big bucks it brings her - if anyone is making the sacrifice it is potentially the children. Why is it my job to be supportive of that? I'm one of those grunt mums who chose to sacrifice my career by working p/t - I don't expect anyone to applaud me for that, it's my decision and what we chose because we felt it was the right option for our family.

scottishmummy Sat 25-Jan-14 10:47:03

I'm not constantly switched on for the kids when I work.i compartmentalise
I think there needs to be a equitable sharing of tasks between both parents
It's bit of a stereotype that as mum one is constantly mentally juggling.fretting - it's not like that for me

annieorangutan Sat 25-Jan-14 10:50:28

I think like sm I have a partner that does as much if not more than me. I can honestly saying Im never thinking of what I have to do at home when Im at work. I dont even think about it much at home tbh as there is not that much to think of. Im looking after 2 kids when Im at home, not running the country.

Not sure I like the term 'power mums'. I work full-time in a responsible professional job but I'd scoff at the idea of being a 'power mum'.

However, I do think the OP has a massive point in that women are always criticised, and women who work f-t get a really bad press (as do SAHMs sometimes). And the world of business can often be hostile to women with children, assuming they are 'less serious' about their career, while merrily employing fathers with no questions.

Companies are unhelpful or even negative about work-life balance, completely ignoring all the research that proves people who are knackered and unable to switch off are less productive and creative. All this bollocks about long hours and high stress being necessary is just bollocks. Having employees who have a life outside work is A Good Thing. Having employees who barely have time to go home and get a shower is not good for productivity or creativity or anything.

ProfondoRosso Sat 25-Jan-14 11:51:07

Feral strangers with NVQs, SM? hmm

scottishmummy Sat 25-Jan-14 11:56:26

As in,Left with strangers.nursery/nanny is a feral stranger with NVQ and runny nose
Because of course a better mother well she wouldn't leave her pwecious baby with strangers
And of course,someone knows someone who worked in nursery and they were a reprobate

gotthemoononastick Sat 25-Jan-14 12:50:39

There are many different kinds of Mothers.You can not go what is against your nature.

The Elephants,long,hard gestation and years of looking after offspring.They never forget.This can be good or bad.

The live birth givers on land and sea...some look after offspring for a period of time and let go.

The egg layers,some there for a day or a year or never.

The incapables,for whatever reason, who eat their offspring.

None are 'better' than the others

None of the above have a just is.

amothersplaceisinthewrong Sat 25-Jan-14 13:52:46

My own old fashioned view is that it is probably not good for children to have a power dad and a power mum each pursuing their power career at the same time.....

There are some very high powered jobs that need loads of hours, travel at short notice etc etc. People doing those jobs with children (men or women) need a partner to take responsibility for the home life. We therefore need men to take on the vital and just as important support role at home if we want more women at the top table of business.

ppeatfruit Sat 25-Jan-14 15:01:17

S'funny I've not noticed a marked improvements in the home\work balance in businesses who have full time parents working in them. There is as much difference between women 'high fliers' as there is between men 'high fliers' as this thread demonstrates.

A lot of very powerful women pull the ladder up behind them (Margaret Thatcher was a good example). They judge people purely on their results not their sex.

Trying to figure out why the term 'power mum' jars so much.

Is it because the equivalent 'power dad' would be absurd? (As someone pointed out up thread, powerful men usually have children too, but no one mentions this/ cares. Men are not defined by their reproductive status).

Is it because 'power' and women are so rarely linked? So 'power mum' is qualifying the power you have - you may be a CEO but don't forget you're still responsible for the muddy football laundry?

Either way, I hate the term.

Want2bSupermum Sat 25-Jan-14 15:41:54

I don't like the term 'power mother' either. Its not about power its about making choices that are best for my family.

With both DH and I are working FT, I have spoken on MN before about how my family set up is probably unusual to some. I am very lucky I have the funds available through DH's career to enable me to work long hours. It shouldn't be this way and I think its sad UKIP didn't say how they would be changing the system to enable change in our society. IMO childcare should be fully deductible from gross income if both parents are working.

I don't disagree with UKIP's statement about working mothers. I rarely see reduced hours/compressed weeks help a woman and I never see men taking these options. In the city it is all about your relationships and if you are working 4 days a week or less you are not meeting your clients needs. Your value is based on your relationships with clients so you are worth less if you work less.

Other women will always judge. My sister judges me and I pity her that feels the need to judge me. If she was secure in her parenting she wouldn't feel the need to judge me. I don't make it home during the week for bedtime. I do have breakfast with the kids every morning, we read books and sing songs. Why do you have to do it in the evening? I am secure enough in my parenting that I know I am doing what is best for my family.

Dixy30 Sat 25-Jan-14 16:11:57

I think society/ other peoples responses depends on the conditions of the job/ person.

I earn in the £80/100k bracket and husband earns the same. We both work 9-5 day in day out and don't travel. We state this when head hinted/changing jobs. Kids are dared for my grandparents who are well paid and love the job.

Nobody has ever ever said anything detrimental to my face/knowledge about either of us. You cut your cloth.

IceNoSlice Sat 25-Jan-14 16:13:32

Interesting blog and thread.

I agree that, in general, women are more judgmental of other women than men are. About child care choices, working etc. But also about a lot of other things - clothes, weight etc. I think some of it stems from feeling judged themselves - so they then judge others.

A lot of men just don't seem to care as much about what others think of them - or waste time judging each other.

This does not help. As a WOHM I try not to get involved in all that - I get my work done at work, I spend time with DC when at home.

Posters are right about how important it is to share home responsibilities and child care with DHs. Men should have equal responsibility and until women stop being a martyr/ doormat and letting men shirk in the h

IceNoSlice Sat 25-Jan-14 16:15:14

...letting men shirk in the home then that won't change.

Oh, this makes my blood boil!

This is not about our individual choices or our individual circumstances. What I or any of you do is irrelevant - this is v much a societal issue.
And it's so NOT a 'women's issue' - well, it is, but is shouldn't be.

Nobody harps on about high-flying men making sacrifices although of course they do. They don't 'have it all' - how on earth could anyone 'have it all'?? It's such a fallacy that there is such a thing as 'having it all'.

It IS a massive issue that women are less likely to make the choices that will take them to the top. They will be more judged if they do. They will have to work harder/be better in order to get there - and still might not angry. 'High-flying' women are more likely to do more housework/supervise homework/know when the school play is/sort out emergency childcare when there is a problem etc etc than 'high-flying' men.

As long as society values men more than women and working lots and lots for as much money as possibly more than a satisfying and healthy work/life balance, nothing much is going to change. Tinkering with childcare is not the answer (although of course welcome) - a whole sea-change in attitude is required and I cannot see this happen in my life time tbh.

BIWI Sat 25-Jan-14 16:29:25

Surely if you were a 'power mum' this would be a description of your role within the home and family and would have nothing to do with your career? hmm

What a bloody awful phrase.

spectacular Sat 25-Jan-14 16:51:15

I am one of these types of women working at the very top level of a male dominated business. My observation is that things still have a very long way to go before women and men have equal choices to pursue a successful career and enjoy a happy and balanced family life.
I am about to leave and what brought me to that point was that women are still expected to operate in a male dominated culture and all that has been achieved over the past 20-30 years is that women have been 'mentored' as to how to do so. In fact in my organisation it is interesting that the majority of the women who have reached the top have done so with SAHPs, so if anything it is a question of role reversal rather than having a dual career couple both managing to make it work.
My own organisation spends so much time and effort telling women how to be effective and in effect, to be more like men. Mentors hand out all the various cheats, leave your jacket on the back of your chair when you leave for the evening, so that it looks like you are still in a meeting, make sure you are seen burning the midnight oil for one long night a week, send a few high profile emails over the weekend to show you are working, make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of the networking events you attend etc etc.
No one seems to stop and ask the question 'is the way we work, the best way possible to allow both sexes opportunity for a good work, life balance?' Why not? Why is there some kind of holy grail around being chained to a desk? Why is presenteeism still such an issue, in the world of ever evolving technology? I think the answer is trust. No one trusts each other to work hard and to put the interests of the business ahead of other pressures. That's why hierarchal organisations are still prevalent, when they are really totally outdated. If we became better at finding ways of measuring outputs (and I am sure technological advances should make that possible) then maybe the hang-ups about not being valued unless you can be seen by others 24/7 might disappear.
I am quite depressed by it all, quite frankly. It is so easy to be drawn in to the 'this is the way we do things' culture of an organisation and even once you realise it, your ability to change it is next to nil. So I am walking away from it all, my head is just far too bruised from all the banging against walls it has been doing!

spectacular, it is depressing, but you are so right.

Want2bSupermum Sat 25-Jan-14 17:27:21

spectacular I hear you. I am working from home today. I am MN while on a conference call. DH is away on business and the kids are being looked after downstairs by our childminder. This is the only break I will get this weekend. Trust is a huge problem. In my teams I make sure that performance is based on meeting deadlines and quality of work. I don't care how you get there but you need to get there and the work has to be of a good standard.

IceNoSlice Sat 25-Jan-14 18:13:40

spectacular thank you - interesting post. And striking a lot of chords with me about my workplace. Although I'm not at the top (yet?) - several more rungs to go. I will look at mentoring in a different way now.

stealthsquiggle Sat 25-Jan-14 18:38:15

Having been working with Scandinavian teams lately, but still bases from the UK, I have observed some subtle but important differences.

One example is that "I can't do that time because I have to pick my child up" is an entirely valid reason for moving a call, either internal or with a customer, from either men or women. In the UK I would just say "sorry, I can't do that time" but would never admit that it was childcare related.

spectacular Sat 25-Jan-14 18:42:52

I really do feel quite stupid for being so easily hoodwinked.

I was so excited to be invited to the damned table that I didn't stop and think whether I was in the company of people that I wanted to dine with.
And of course, once you spot the game that is being played, it is impossible to 'unsee' it.

I would like to say it was fun while it lasted but ...

slugseatlettuce Sat 25-Jan-14 18:48:04

Great post spectacular. I work 24hrs PW in a very male dominated, cut throat industry, I have loads of ambition but I'm not working 70hrs plus. It gets me down a bit as I feel I can't compete with my male colleagues, at senior levels they are either childless or have a sahp. My company is pretty supportive, I am trying to stick to my guns in the hope I can get somewhere I can influence more and get more women in.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 25-Jan-14 18:52:28


Lots of interesting replies.

But please sort out your formatting HQ - the OP is illegible if you're on the app.

Sorry about this - we'll get Tech on the case.

YY re the 'honour' of being invited and the company one is then forced to keep.

I kind of 'chose' to not gun for the top because I always knew I'd want children and I'd want to be at home for some of their childhood. Now I wonder how much of a true 'choice' I ever had and am angry about thinking (at the time) that this was a free choice.
And I work in an environment that recently has quite heavily changed to become more equal in its gender distribution (in fact women now number more at university, but are still hugely underrepresented in senior/management positions).

stealth, v interesting what you say about Scandinavian teams.

Want2bSupermum Sat 25-Jan-14 19:16:24

stealth DH is Danish and I find his employer a dinosaur. He left yesterday for HQ leaving me with the DC (aged 2.5 and 11 months) when I have a hard deadline next Friday. For a company with 6 billion in sales they have have two females in their most profitable sales department of 400+ people. The women on the board are either token hires or are behaving like men.

What I have observed is that once women have been admin roles for 20 years they are put into management positions in areas that don't matter but are cumbersome positions. As they have not had the training they fail or work twice as hard as the guys in their peer group. I think this is done on purpose. Don't believe a word of what you hear about equality in Scandinavia. Observe closely and you see right through it.

Part of the reason I continued with my career is so I can be in a position that enables the Western world to evolve. DH is challeged by me all the time to open up opportunities to women and change working practices so they are more life friendly.

FYI - I hate the term family friendly and use life friendly. Even if you don't have kids you still have personal needs that need to be met.

woodlandwanderwoman Sat 25-Jan-14 19:20:40

The flip side of this is that Nigel Farage is implying that a lot of people make it to where they do only because a great proportion of often more capable candidates cannot compete because they choose to have a family.

This might go some way in explaining why a culture of self importance seems to have infected so many otherwise quite average people, making them feel that not only are they qualified but entitled to judge mothers (and fathers) by the amount of time they spend at work or home.

Meanwhile, I think that most mothers will say that having children has helped them to understand what is really important in life and it's not simply a function of time.

This understanding is different for everyone which is why I personally don't feel that society truly supports the choice of any mother, power or otherwise, because no two mothers want the same thing.

stealthsquiggle Sat 25-Jan-14 19:23:10

Want2b - I should be more exact, sorry. I have been working in Sweden and Norway, where I have had "sorry, HTC, kindergarten run" (male) customers and similar things from both male and female colleagues, and there are way more women in senior customer facing roles (including the country MD) and in senior technical (CTO) roles in customers than I have ever seen elsewhere in Europe. OTOH, the only Danes I have worked with have been macho-culture supremos, but I have not spent enough time there to condemn an entire nation on that basis smile

stealthsquiggle Sat 25-Jan-14 19:25:12



wordfactory Sat 25-Jan-14 19:25:15

I don't like the phrase but will roll with it here.

I know quite a few power Mums, and I do think they get a very hard time (mostly behind their backs) from women who are often married to power Dads.

The double standards is revolting.

These women will say oh-so proudly how ambitious their DH is. How great at their job. And yet still they're such an oh-so great Dad.

Apparently, it is their magic penis which allows these men to be hugely successful and a good parent!

Paintyfingers Sat 25-Jan-14 19:28:38

My experience has mainly been of Norwegian attitudes - very senior male colleagues have refused to do late meetings on the ground of needing to go to children's events and have left at 5.30 in order to do the school run!

LittleBearPad Sat 25-Jan-14 19:38:49

I think the comment about society not supporting mums is most true on this thread.

Paintyfingers Sat 25-Jan-14 19:43:20

Should say something else about Norwegian 'power mums'. Iirc they can have 2 years maternity leave per pg, not much long hours culture, dads can share the leave and expected to share care for kids out of hours.

One of the senior colleagues mentioned above has a wife who is even more high flying, but their dc see plenty of both of them and had their dm / DF at home for the first two years of their life.

This is what I would love to see here.

Want2bSupermum Sat 25-Jan-14 19:46:51

stealth I condem any society where one of their largest employers thinks its ok to send someone 3500 miles away and not give them paternity leave when their wife has a baby. Heck, they didn't allow him vacation time while I was in the hospital. He took 4 days off split over the two weeks. SiL said none of the men have taken full paternity leave during her career. They might take the first week or two but after that they are back at work. While she doesn't have children, she is not in an unskilled role.

Want2bSupermum Sat 25-Jan-14 19:55:28

doh - she is in an unskilled role.

Forgot to add that Norway has a different set up because they have managed their oil money. Childcare is fully paid for allowing women to work if they want to. Most Norwegens I have worked with work really long hours, just not in the office and they have all been men. I have not come accross many women in senior positions outside of government/oil industry.

My Dad ran his production facility out of Sweden and the sexism was a big problem there. The general manager would be fired within 2 years either because of sexual harrasement, lack of equal opportunities etc. My Dad wanted to put a women in charge and the board would not agree with him. That was 20 years ago and the company that bought the facility closed it down and moved production to Poland. Just be wary of what you see. There are a lot of silent barriers in place even in 'progressive' places.

legoplayingmumsunite Sat 25-Jan-14 20:21:38

It does vary so much from country to country. My brother worked in Switzerland for a few years, he had British work colleagues taken aside for a little chat to check they were coping with their workload if they were seen to work late too often.

make sure you are seen burning the midnight oil for one long night a week, send a few high profile emails over the weekend to show you are working

I recognise this. DH is at home one day a week and I always work late that day. I also regularly send emails in the evening or at the weekend, or on my day at home. And I don't even work somewhere where we work particularly long hours but we do have a lot of American customers so the emails sent at odd times definitely have an effect on them.

LauraBridges Sat 25-Jan-14 20:25:45

As a nation we tend to criticise anyone who does well at anything as most people are pretty idle.
However if you "lean in" whether male or female you can do well. It's not rocket science.

To be honest every week someone says I am amazing and their role model etc etc. I get embarrassed by their heaped on praise for the fact I've lots of children and earn a lot. Someone on Friday said it yet again. So if other people think I should be given a hard time it never ever is voiced to me at all.

I have always been happy to be counted as a woman who has always had lots of ambition, loves power and money and likes beating other people whether male or female. Plenty of women are like that. Many of us like that also adore children and babies and pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Laura, I get the 'admiration' too. DH doesn't. We have the same number of children, we work in the same field, I do less hours than he does.
He gets admired when he 'baby sits'. His own children... hmm

And are you Xenia? wink

lalouche Sat 25-Jan-14 20:29:17

I think 60-70 hour weeks of work are bad for children, whether it is the mother or the father that does them. Other countries, notably in Scandinavia, manage successful economies without the insane hours pressure we have.

stealthsquiggle Sat 25-Jan-14 20:46:45

Fair enough want2be - I was not disputing your condemnation of the Danes, just saying that I didn't have enough experience to do so smile.

As for Norway /Sweden I am interested to hear what you say. I don't think it's perfect by any means, but it is noticeably different to the UK and other European countries that I have worked in.

scottishmummy Sat 25-Jan-14 21:33:53

Powermum awful term,smacks of know your place.might be good at job but don't forget you're mum
I'm not wholly defined by being a mother.ive never heard man called power dad
Because women still defined by parental status,as if that is all consuming,but not for men

specialmagiclady Sat 25-Jan-14 22:06:52

Thanks for getting back to me upthread on the family backup thing. Sorry I

For me, as well as my control-freakery about someone else looking after my PFB was the fact that my DH and I were both in the same business, with the same stupid hours expected and the same short term contracts offered at the last minute. We were always set up, financially and admin-wise for one of us to be out of work. It's just that it stopped being DH's turn to be the "wife".

I also, and this is crucial, didn't have any role models. I had met precisely 2 women who had kids and worked in production. They job shared with each other. But one was the boss's wife and both had taken huge cuts in pay and status to keep working. For an industry that is dominated by young women, telly has been rubbish at retaining them as parents. it may be very different in the BBC, but that is how the independent sector at the shitey end of telly was.

Because people are supposed to "love love love" working in telly. It's the Arts, dahling, they are expected to put in the most horrific hours. My DH really only has friends from that background, because everyone else would realise how appallingly rude it is to announce you're not coming to an event at the last minute because you're "stuck in an edit".

It's not family friendly whether you are talking about men or women.

Rant over.

The book "The Invention of Difference" by Binna and Jo Kandola says it all. And spectacular, I agree. I left for the same reason, having worked for the "I work 100 hours a week and so should you" type. A woman.

scottishmummy Sat 25-Jan-14 22:32:03

Leave baby with stranger,you know what that's the snippy shit working women hear habitually
How is a sourced,visited,registered setting a stranger?but the inference is who cares stranger is adequate
Just as you don't want to leave your pfb with someone strange,neither do other mums

If you think nursery,nanny,cm equates to stranger care,that's your prejudice

I wonder whether there is any benefit in redefining some jobs as having standard hours of 60 hour a week (leaving aside the time directive issues). This would then enable some workers to take realistic part time jobs as 30 hours a week and actually work 30 hours a week in those types of job.

MyPreciousRing Sun 26-Jan-14 03:09:52

Anybody else on an iPhone who finds this completely illegible?

Want2bSupermum Sun 26-Jan-14 04:36:12

I think spectacular has hit on a major problem with the workplace. Nothing has changed with how things work. If we as women want to change the workplace we need to get into senior management roles. This is easier said than done.

My experience as a mother with a paid career is that childcare is the biggest barrier that women face. I hear on MN how women should consider family income, not just their income, when deciding if they are going to continue working. That argument is hollow to me. If I earn GBP20k after tax and have childcare expenses of GBP20k I am not earning anything by working. It shouldn't be this way. I really think the only way forward is for childcare costs to be fully deductible against the lower income earners income where both parents work. I think this is an important change that needs to happen.

merrymouse Sun 26-Jan-14 07:55:27

"A year ago, fed up with a corporate world of retro alpha men, I set out to interview some ‘power mums’ and ‘power dads’ about the choices they've made to get their senior jobs, for Management Today."

Where are the interviews with the 'power dads' for comparison?

Mimishimi Sun 26-Jan-14 08:04:18

I agree with Bonsoir. It only leaves a bad taste in others mouths when others, not necessarily related, are expected to pick up the pieces when it comes to their children - taking them after school, to sport/music practise, on a weekend so mum/dad have time together etc. Generally those sorts of families have two high-flying parents where a lot of time commitment to work is expected or something they want to commit to (not talking about parents with ordinary hours).

I don't see how the approval of other parents should make a difference but strongly disagree that the word 'unsupportive' is appropriate when others (relative included) aren't too willing to take on some of their family responsibilities.

tomverlaine Sun 26-Jan-14 08:18:29

I look at it a different way -of the senior men in our organization I can't think of any who have wives who work full time- most don't work at all. So the working culture assumes this is the case - travel, social meetings, evening meetings, calls/meetings at weekends and on holidays all have the stay at home spouse as the hidden assumption. Even at a more junior level it exists. Senior women are in two camps - ones with sahps - at one stage of the senior 12 women 9 had sahps - and then there is the camp with a lot of paid help- and it takes more than a nanny and cleaner to fill in the gaps.

hazchem Sun 26-Jan-14 08:43:59

What does having it all even mean?

Commander6 Sun 26-Jan-14 08:52:32

Society is unsupportive if neither parent is much with their child, especially a younger child.

Mimi, your and Bonsoir's argument is why I feel we need a societal shift to change anything at all.
Those who are child-free whether by choice or circumstance will also need a younger generation growing up to provide services as they get older. Children are ALL our children, not just mine or yours. This is not an individual problem and it is profoundly unfair that it's seen as a 'women's problem' or a 'family problem'.

And yy, 'having it all' is a stupid, misleading phrase.

I liked the aforementioned 'life-friendly' policies that are needed; not 'family-friendly'.

Commander6 Sun 26-Jan-14 08:56:41

But families still have choices individually too.

Mimishimi Sun 26-Jan-14 09:07:04

Pacificdogswood I certainly agree with you that this should not be perceived as a 'woman's problem'. I don't think anyone, aside from the predictable bigots(who will take nitpick over everyone elses choices too), would mind if mum was the high-flier and the dad was the one who was more committed to spending time with the kids. The 'it takes a village' approach is old and overused though - when used by high-fliers it almost invariably means that they want someone else to watch out for their kids, quite often without returning the favour.

merrymouse Sun 26-Jan-14 10:08:25

The question should be:

"During the years you have dependents, how much should you allow your income earning work to impact on the time you spend with your dependents and your ability to manage your household?"

I don't think there is a straightforward or universal answer to this question, but

"^As a mother^, how much should you allow your work to impact on the time you spend with your children", is certainly the wrong question - yet it is asked over and over again.

merrymouse Sun 26-Jan-14 10:09:12

as a mother

(And also you could ask, could you pay better attention to your formatting?)

LauraBridges Sun 26-Jan-14 10:17:09

I certainly have never faced any criticism at all and just embarrassing comments of much praise which of course in itself is sexist. If you have an equal marriage and both do as much at home then it is no more wonderful that a woman does very well at work than if a man were to do so. It is only because of old fashioned sexist attitudes that anyone would think it wonderful that a woman can succeed any more than it is not wonderful if a man actually looks after his children at weekends or cleans the back of the loo on a regular and enduring basis.

However it's changing for the better. In the last 2 years the word feminism has ceased to be a dirty word for many women and men again and that is lovely and secondly more and more women are getting promoted at work and taking decisions with their other half as to childcare and the like. Also most new work and jobs can be done by email and that enables fathers (and also mothers) to lean in whether they are at home or work which can ease working lives. I was working early yesterday morning (Saturday) but I was in the house with children sleeping upstairs and emailing what I had to do. That is much easier than 20 years ago or 25 when you had to be physically present, find a secretary who worked the night or weekend shift to type the stuff and you had had to take an hour's train journey to get into the office.

Lean in (if you want do well) and whether you are male or female and you're okay. I would also suggest those of us who are parents and work do a lot of leaning in to our children. I adored the hours i spent breastfeeding and cuddling the baby and the time I spend now with the teenagers. Just because you are working full time whether male or female does not mean you choose never to see your children and spend no time with them. I had a lot of children because I love them and being with them. I have never felt the fact I work means they are neglected and nor do most men. It is just a nice balance - work plus home. Mind you it's 10.20am and only 1 is up yet so it's absolutely dead easy to work and have a family whether you are male or female when they get easier. When there were babies you often get the 5.30am starts to Sundays. I remember it well.

Timetoask Sun 26-Jan-14 10:23:20

If I had daughters, I would be honest with them, you cannot have it all. You will burn out by trying to be a good mum and trying to be at the top of your career whilst trying to raise a young family.

If I had daughters I would tell them to choose a career that will allow them to get good experience before having children but will allow them to become self employed (own business, consulting, etc) when the time comes.

I have a friend that did just this. She was in marketing, always knew she wanted a family, so worked really hard at the beginning of her career, thinking ahead she made lots of contacts in the market, then setup her own business with a colleague. Now she has children and she choses projects as when she is able to work on them earning mega bucks.

My sister is a very successful dentist (not in this country). Worked really hard for someone else for 10 years, build up her reputation. Setup her own practice with 3 friends. 20 years later she is extremely successful but is also able to send valuable time with her teenage daughters.

Timetoask Sun 26-Jan-14 10:27:26

"spend valuable....."

Because you can't be a 'power mum' without relying on other women on close to NMW to do your dirty work.

Nursery workers, nanny, CM, cleaner, woman who does your ironing. Granny.

Never mind the cleaners and junior admin. in the office. Their hair dresses, nail technicians, dry cleaning staff.

Behind any smart together business women is a whole host of forgotten badly paid other women.

fedupandfifty Sun 26-Jan-14 10:36:34

Why are we ambivalent towards high-achieving working women with children? Because, for many of us, they have managed to achieve something unattainable. It is something many of us hanker after, but will not achieve, because our circumstances will not allow it. Talking about "choice" is somewhat disingenuous because that implies that you are able to follow any course of action you like. This is not the case for most of us: having children is a choice happily made but once done, cannot be opted out of. Any further choices are made with the children at the centre of the decision-making process. They need us to give them our time and energy. They do not bring themselves up. The time and energy we have left for other things such as work is determined by the amount of support we have from others. Many of have support from parents; some from paid childcare, or partners.Many of us have nothing, and cannot justify the cost or hassle of reliable childcare.

The reality for most of us is to muddle along, doing the best we can under the circumstances. We try our best, but are still compared with - and compare ourselves-with an ideal which is unattainable for most of us.

We do not admire this woman, we do not applaud her. We resent her! We are made painfully aware of her achievements, which only serves to rub our noses in our own perceived failure.

It is no longer enough to be 'just' a mother. But this view has not just been perpetuated by sexist men and their misogynistic posturing. This is a view that has been mainly created by women for other women. True equality at work is an utopian vision which will never be realised. We can go round in circles for ever discussing why women with children are paid less, or feature less in the boardroom.

What we need to do, as women and as a society, is to accept the situation for what it is and recognise that being a mother is something that cannot be changed. We need to take pride in our achievements as parents, whether working or not. We do not need to be beaten about the head with visions of perfection achieved by the (very few) who "have it all".

I knew a local woman once who established a fairly successful small toy shop. She was all over the press impressing everyone with her achievements. And she had kids! Wow! How did she do it?

She had her parents living with her, that's how! Funnily enough, she kept that fact quiet....

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 10:36:40

I agree that the "it takes a village" or "I want my DC to be part of the social fabric" stance adopted by some people whose lives are too busy to devote much time to their own DC can be very annoying. "It takes a village of other people to whom no payment or reciprocation is due..."

JennieD101 Sun 26-Jan-14 10:46:52

I find it so sad that yet again as mothers we are seemingly forced to choose sides and fit ourselves into boxes-just so others can criticise us. Why is it seemingly always about condemning what mothers do? Too much work, not working, putting children in childcare, home educating!! Can we do anything right? It's no wonder depression is on the up!
Can we not accept that we all make choices and that these will all have been given thought and consideration for what is right for our particular circumstance. We may not be happy with it, but we will have thought it through and doing our best to reconcile ourselves with that choice. We do not need more guilt thrown at us surely????

scottishmummy Sun 26-Jan-14 10:50:32

Hang in there the housewives also access nmw jobs hairdresser,retail,childcare
Your partners access nmw catering,coffee shops.accessing nmw isnt solely a powermum activity
It's risible to portray working women as lady of manor employing and exploiting the minions

If you're in a spin about nmw you can't pin it in so called power mums

annieorangutan Sun 26-Jan-14 11:11:38

It doesnt make sense to put mums who work in childcare wages up as then they would lose their childcare and not be able to work. Im getting 14.5k to be a nursery manager but then another 10k+ for the free childcare so if my wages went up I would lose that and wouldnt be able to pursue a career.

scottishmummy Sun 26-Jan-14 11:58:04

So called dirty work is legitimate and arises from demand,meets a need
Those jobs circulate money,employ people.far from dirty fact necessary work
It's snippy to dismiss someone employment as dirty work. What is clean work out of interest?

ppeatfruit Sun 26-Jan-14 12:18:04

Yes WRF to bankers what is clean work? There are countless numbers of people who are sometimes not even on the lowest rung of wage earning. as we know slave labour is not unheard of.

But now we're getting on to the capitalist system which IMO should be much better regulated and the vast profits and exploitation of the environment of some people needs to be addressed urgently.

ppeatfruit Sun 26-Jan-14 12:19:21

Sorry I meant to put 'and' of some people.

Commander6 Sun 26-Jan-14 12:27:03

But I dont call it an achievement if the so called achievement means that both parents combined just about only manage to get their young child to bath bed and story.
I call that a failure. For the child. As do many many others it seems.

LauraBridges Sun 26-Jan-14 12:29:21

Gosh, it's all very sexist. Why would the same comments as fedup said not be made of men?
Also let us turn this quote from above around
"If I had sons, I would be honest with them, you cannot have it all. You will burn out by trying to be a good father and trying to be at the top of your career whilst trying to raise a young family."

The point is in many marriage where women earn a fortune the men do as much sa the women at home. in marriages where women find the balancing hard is when they are married to arch sexists who never lift a finger at home and would never in a month of Sundays find and interview nannies or childminders as that is "women's work" in their unreconstructed sexist eyes. Avoid such men.

This is not about capitalism and right and left, it is about fairness at home and work for men and women.

spectacular Sun 26-Jan-14 12:30:36

The whole 'lean in' advice really annoys me as it is shorthand for 'lean in, listen and observe how we men do it, then be more like us and you will succeed!'

I would far rather lean out and get these male dominated work places to see that there are other ways of doing things that don't involve 70 hour weeks!

I watch my fellow senior employees competing as to who has put in the most hours when really the question they should be debating is who has been more effective in the past week! Who has done a good top quality job or sold the most work or had the happiest clients. But oh no, the big swinging dick competition is about hours again!

I have not faced any issues with other parents about my working hours or job but I have employed an army if people to keep our show on the road. Nannies are very good at reciprocating favours from other parents I find and indeed I think we were always 'up' overall in that regard.

After ten years in a 'top' job though and with teenage children about to take public exams, I am looking forward to seeing things from the other side of the fence!

LauraBridges Sun 26-Jan-14 12:33:19

I don't agree with that interpretation of lean in. It just means work hard which most men and women do if they want to get to the top (although many men and women have no aim to get to the top at all so it's not for them anyway). If you work hard to do well. It's pretty simple.

spectacular, I think I lurve you.

Part of the problem is that the 'village' has not quite understand that whether individuals have children or not, the whole 'village' needs children.

ppeatfruit Sun 26-Jan-14 12:34:32

Commander6 I agree

Laura, bollocks.
I know many many people who work extremely hard to just keep their heads above water.
Honestly, bollocks to that.

Ubik1 Sun 26-Jan-14 12:43:28

Can I add that 'power mums' hmm do not have the monopoly on hard work while juggling childcare responsibilities.

Working class women have always worked but their pay and conditions are significantly worse than many white colour professional jobs: 12 hr shifts through the night coming in and looking after young children all day and then a few hours sleep before off to work again. Many have 2 jobs.

Men's work is more highly valued - you see bin men getting higher rates of pay than, say nursing auxiliaries because it is considered hard physical work yet nursing is also physical and leads to back problems etc.

I know thus is about 'power mums' but you should remember that many other working mothers have it tougher in terms of hours and pay.

ppeatfruit Sun 26-Jan-14 12:50:18

Yes ubik1 And one of the reasons why there isn't much sympathy for 'high flying' parents is the fact that SOME of them take full advantage of the low paid women.

Paintyfingers Sun 26-Jan-14 12:51:46

Problem is Laura that for many people there is simply no real equality of opportunity. Life chances are just not equal for all children.

If you come from a family where there is great instability and no support with school it is well documented that you are extremely unlikely to do well.

Paintyfingers Sun 26-Jan-14 12:52:47

I don't think power mums take advantage of less well off women any more than power dads too. Many high earners rely on low wage earners.

merrymouse Sun 26-Jan-14 12:56:07

I thought 'lean in' just meant don't go with the flow of prevailing attitudes, whether that is that a particular role can't be done flexibly or a man can't be a SAHP.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 12:57:31

spectacular - while I do not doubt you employed lovely nannies, as do the parents of many of my DD's friends, the "issues" of non-reciprocation largely arise from skill sets that parents have and nannies don't.

spectacular Sun 26-Jan-14 12:57:45

FOrgot to say, that yes, all of this is only achievable in my opinion if you have a partner who shares domestic and childcare on an equal basis. Interestingly, this is viewed by my uh sands place of work, where he is also a very senior person, as some kind of miracle!

nickymanchester Sun 26-Jan-14 12:58:09

Also most new work and jobs can be done by email and that enables fathers (and also mothers) to lean in whether they are at home or work

LauraBridges That may well be true if you have a naice middle class job, but for the vast majority of people working in the UK that simply isn't true

spectacular Sun 26-Jan-14 13:01:39

Bonsoir, I cannot think of anything that I would do differently from a nanny when looking after other people's children.

Or indeed anything that any non-working parent has done with mine that my nanny would not do.

Bumblebzz Sun 26-Jan-14 13:26:12

It's depressing to hear women (I'm assuming the posters are mostly women on this thread, I might be wrong) turning on other women. The issue is NOT that working women outsource (be it cleaning/childcare/whatever - and I know very few working women who leave it to the "Village' (WTF? we don't have time to get to know the Village. Is this just anecdotal or is it backed up by proper evidence?), the issue is that while society has allowed women access to jobs/opportunities by improving so-called women's issues (maternity leave/pay & employment discrimination law) it has not changed expectations of men by one jot. In the last 40 years or so, as women have progressed (albeit slowly) in the workplace, men's lives and their expectations on the whole have changed very little indeed. This equation does not balance. If women are working and therefore have less time at home, working FATHERS have to make adjustments. And I strangle believe most of them want to, but they don't want to lose face at work because society is still not reedy for working fathers who actually have to juggle work and family.
I wholeheartedly agree with some of the comments above (spectacular - I feel like we work in the same place) but I am depressed by some of the anti-WOHM comments. As I am when I read anti-SAHM comments. If we channeled our efforts at achieving real equality instead of trying to justify our own choices by putting down other people's, we would do far better.
There is no reason that men do not share 50:50 responsibility for domestic and childcare responsibilities, other than this is the way it has always been. I wish the government would focus some of their think-tanks and policy-makers on targeting working fathers rather than obsessing over women. Everytime I read I headline announcing a new childcare voucher scheme (or whatever) I despair that it always refers to helping working mothers, and totally ignores working fathers. Like they are covered anyway, because their work will never be impacted by such trivia as childcare. Meaning constant reinforcement that these issues are ours and ours alone. Bollox to that. I am more than a mother, as my husband is more than a worker-bee.
Maybe I should move to Scandinavia ;-)

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 13:29:01

spectacular - I am not talking about looking after other people's children.

Bumblebzz Sun 26-Jan-14 13:31:07

Apologies for the spelling mistakes above.
I also despair that I don't hear any of our female (or male) politicians coming out and attacking this point. There is what feels like some small chipping away around the edges (as mentioned, tinkering with childcare costs) but no-one is standing up and saying, hang on a second, why don't we get the men do do more at home. The legislation is there (men can ask for flex working, shared maternity leave, parental leave etc) but there are not enough role models to allow men to believe they have real choice. I don't have the answers, but there are enough clever people working in Westminster to come up with some ground-breaking ideas, surely.

Commander6 Sun 26-Jan-14 13:32:10

Therein lies the rub I think Bumble
Women have changed. Men have not.

And can we get them to change? Not much I dont think, and not anytime soon I dont think.

That is part of the reason why I get so I dont know what about there not being a proper dadsnet.
There would no doubt be some reasonable speaking men on there eventually.
But they get such a rough ride on mumsnet, that most dont hang around.
I cant say I blame them. I wouldnt either if I was them.

Society has to learn to work together to change things.

Workplace issues have to be sorted out by both women and men working together.
A tall order.

Commander6 Sun 26-Jan-14 13:34:19

spectacular. The difference is love.
The love from a parent, either the dad or mum, is different from a love from a nanny.
And the child knows it.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 13:41:54

Women have changed. Men have not.

I think men are changing and are, on average, more interested in the nitty-gritty of, for example, their children's lives than they were a generation ago.

These things take time...

Ubik1 Sun 26-Jan-14 13:42:59

I would also add that many working class men take on childcare responsibilities without a murmur - because it's accepted that both parents have to work.

Personally I think free good quality childcare which is not endlessly means tested and better pay and conditions fir childcare professionals (who are, ironically often low paid women) would make a huge difference to everyone whether a 'power mum' <boak> or one of us lowly non achievers.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 13:45:58

I was thinking of things like availability and willingness to sort out a child's friend who is in difficulty with homework. I'm always available at the end of the telephone (and quite often at weekends or afterschool) for other people's DC whose nannies are just not up to the task. The parents are often entirely unaware that their DC are even asking other people's parents for help because the DC have it instilled in them that they must be "independent" and it suits both the nanny to have the parents believe this is true and the parents who are too busy to help their own DC, let alone anyone else's.

Or when there is some major issue at school that needs tackling - some busy parents live their lives blissfully unaware that other parents are working hard behind the scenes and diplomatically to sort out problems that affect their DC too.

Yy to the issue of SAHP and WOHP being pitched against each other.

And men and women.

Divide and conquer IMO - until well ALL realise this is a problem that affects us ALL, whether we work at home or outside of it, whether we are men or women, nothing with change other than tinkering with details.

annieorangutan Sun 26-Jan-14 13:57:53

Agree that working class men have already changed if rl is anything to go by.Its middle class men on here that go for the old fashioned model with women doing everything.

Bumblebzz Sun 26-Jan-14 13:59:25

I agree that there have been some changes with working fathers being a bit more involved (certainly compared to my father's generation) but I think we/politicians need to speed this up. Sometimes things need to be helped along to enforce a sea-change. The dearth of senior male role models who are, for example, working part-time, is as disappointing as the lack of senior female role models. I just thought of something, wouldn't it be great if a senior male politician, took shared maternity leave with his (would have to be working) wife? i.e. took a few months maternity leave to allow his wife to go back to work.
Now that would send a message. Maybe business leaders would wake up. Has any politician done this?
In my company, (big investment bank, invests incredible time and effort on how to attract and retain female talent, never discusses men changing their work patterns, hmm...) I was in a meeting recently and when I asked if the forms/practical processes were in place for men who wanted to request shared mat leave, and the HR manager looked at me quizzically - she wasn't even aware of the new legislation. Businesses are running along safe in the knowledge that their mostly male executives will NEVER request 1-6 months off. This has to change. For us women, it has to change. I want my daughter to interview for jobs where taking time off for family is not lurking in anyone's mind as a factor, because it affects all genders equally and therefore is a moot point.
Right. Does anyone know of a senior male politician who is expecting a baby and whose wife works?!

Want2bSupermum Sun 26-Jan-14 14:36:26

Because you can't be a 'power mum' without relying on other women on close to NMW to do your dirty work.

This is the attitude that has to change where women pull down other women. With the high taxation in the UK very few families are able to hire help at anything more than minimum wage. I also dislike the term dirty work. It is a huge put down to women who have worked darn hard to reach senior levels in organizations. It is these women who are in positions to bring about change. While I am not yet in a senior position, I do what I can to help those who work for me achieve their goals.

funnyvalentine Sun 26-Jan-14 14:46:55

Because you can't be a 'power mum' without relying on other women on close to NMW to do your dirty work.

It's a bit of a double edged sword. You either get to the top by relying on hired help, which is often other women working for minimum wage. Once you're there and visible, you can effect change. Or you don't rely on the cheap labour, don't get as far in your career, and don't get to a position where you can change anything much.

Men who are 'power dads' also rely on cheap or free (their wife!) labour to do it.

TheCrackFox Sun 26-Jan-14 14:52:05

Successful people can afford to buy support - I'm not really sure why they seem to want everyone else to be their cheer leaders too.

Bumblebzz Sun 26-Jan-14 14:52:24

This argument about women employing other women to look after their homes/children is a distraction from the core issue here. But for what it's worth, it's not women doing the employing, it's families (men and women).
We will never get anywhere if we keep criticising the way other people live. It is incredibly tedious.
Maybe it's easier to abstract ourselves from the debate, and focus on what kind of world we want our sons and daughters to live in. And think BIG ;-)

TheCrackFox Sun 26-Jan-14 14:56:46

I do think it is totally relevant that the long hours culture kicked in at the same time as women started to want the good jobs too.

BIWI Sun 26-Jan-14 15:00:56

I'm fairly sure that when we employed a nanny, she was working to support my husband as well as me ... hmm

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 15:14:59

Successful people can afford to buy support - I'm not really sure why they seem to want everyone else to be their cheer leaders too.

Successful people are often driven by recognition. They want to be seen to be successful. Hence wanting others to champion them. It's a version of celebrity culture.

TopBirder14 Sun 26-Jan-14 15:16:27

I think that child care issues are the main problem. It's fine if you are well-off enough to employ a nanny or fortunate to have family who can take the children to and from school and look after them whenever required.

Unfortunately most working women aren't in that position and have to constantly juggle their working hours around their children. It only takes something like the school being closed because of bad weather or the child being ill to put the working mum in a very difficult position. I've worked in offices which are dominated by women with young children and it causes chaos when the mum has to leave work immediately because there is a problem.

Highlander Sun 26-Jan-14 15:17:39

Doh, if men can 'have it all', why can't/aren't we?

Because women are still, in 2014, to take on majority of child-rearing RESPONSIBILITIES. And by that I mean taking full respnsibility for organisation ofour children's lives; wrap-around care and associated drop-offs/pick-ups, holday care, homework, organising extra-curricular stuff..... The list is endless, and time-consuming!!

DH is happy-ish to do what I tell him to, but acts like a petulant teenager when I point out that he has a responsibility to get the school calander, work out his AL, find out what care is available and come up with a plan.

His latest fuck-up s failing to book AL for Feb half term.

Want2bSupermum Sun 26-Jan-14 15:26:05

I agree Bumble. I found that sentence really bothered me on so many levels, one of them being that women, not families are who hire help. While DH earns 10x what I earn and I could stay home if I wanted to, we as a family made the choice to be a dual working family.

My goal is to create opportunities for flexibility for the generation behind me. Here in the US it is tough getting everyone out of the office at a reasonable time. It doesn't help that being in audit, we are working at the client site and when it comes to discussion of fees there is often talk of 'Well your team left early.' We might have left early but we worked from home. The work still got done.

Another real issue is that the move from manufacturing to a service led economy has created issues with regard to income disparity. I have seen that the junior positions in the service industry are much lower in pay compared to the manufacturing industry. Generally speaking, the profits generated by manufacturing companies are much higher compared to service companies. Also, outsourcing has limited the number of entry level positions. This is going to create a problem down the road as we won't have the talent needed to maintain the service economy we now have.

Timetoask Sun 26-Jan-14 15:27:12

I really think it is almost impossible to have 50/50 shared home management (childcare, house stuff, etc) between two parents. One parent usually has the biggest share of responsibilities in the home and the other parent is usually the main provider.

Both parents can work, but one of them will have to have a less powered job for things to function well and for the children to grow emotionally confident. (Don't know how single parents manage!).

In our case, I want it to be my job to be the main carer for my children, DH is great, he does bath time, reads everyday to them, does the washing up, but I have the patience and motherly intuition that he just doesn't.

I think want we need a new revolution: After mums or dads take a career break, have enough support in place for them to reintegrate into the workplace more easily. How many threads have we read on here about SAHP that want to go back to work and find it almost impossible?

Bumblebzz Sun 26-Jan-14 15:40:35

Timetoask, I agree that that model (i.e.not 50:50) is perhaps the most common today (though luckily not in our house as our earnings are comparable and my husband is better at housework than me) but I really believe it is common only because of how society has conditioned us.

There is no real reason that anyone can give me why a father can't do more at home and a woman can't earn the same as a man. Leaving aside the maternity period itself, which is really just a drop in the ocean when you look at rearing a child from 0-18years, there is no reason a father can't do 50%. Other than 1. he doesn't want to 2. the mother doesn't want him to (I get that some women want to retain 100% control of domestic and family arrangements, again I put this down to conditioning).
Legally, working fathers enjoy the same employment protection as working mothers, they just don't feel they can ask for flexibility without it affecting their career. This is further complicated when the father remains seen as the main breadwinner, there is too much to lose if his career supports the majority of the family expense. Though there shouldn't be that risk, as the law is there to protect people, including men.

It will be interesting to see the first test cases come through the courts where working fathers feel they were discriminated against for requesting flex working/paternity/parental leave etc.

I guess what I am trying to say, above all else, is that just because things are the way they are today (1950s working fathers paired with 2010's working mothers) does not mean that this has to persist.

annieorangutan Sun 26-Jan-14 16:03:53

Its not impossible timetoask. Dh does exactly half as do I. Its very easy to organise just by doing stuff as you see it. I dont take sick days with our children usually as dh does that.

merrymouse Sun 26-Jan-14 16:04:13

Because you can't be a 'power mum' without relying on other women on close to NMW to do your dirty work.

As opposed to men who have apparently relied on women to do these jobs for centuries for no wage at all?

ruthvq Sun 26-Jan-14 16:13:47

Just because you think 'you can't have it all' why does that have to mean you're not supportive of high achieving women?

I don't think any individual can have 'it all', male or female. If you're going to put all of your time and energy into your career then you can't invest the same time in your family as a stay at home parent can.
That's not me being unsupportive of anyone, I just don't think it's possible!

I run my own company and my partner is the main child carer. I've not spent as much time with my kids as my partner has so I haven't 'had it all'. Doesn't matter what sex you are, it annoys me that its always women who are expected to have it all.

annieorangutan Sun 26-Jan-14 16:18:22

The way we do it is I drop off and pick up on half the days, dh is at home with them 2 of my working days, and Im at home with them 1. He does 40+ any overtime and I can do up to 55 over 7 days. It works pretty well as whichevers at home does all the cleaning, entertaining the childrens friends, homework, bath etc.

We started this particularly working pattern when dc 2 was 7 months as we both started managerial roles. I am planning to do a masters degree as well from September. Its really not that difficult and we do it without family or cleaners. If we can do it I dont see why its that big of a deal in any other family.

BIWI Sun 26-Jan-14 16:32:08

timetoask - that's nonsense! Of course you can do it 50:50. It's exactly what we did.

And who is the main earner in our house has changed virtually every decade. It has all depended on the jobs we have been in/roles we have had as our careers have developed.

Powermum - ah so that makes every other mum what? Lazy?

IMO it's only the sodding pm's that anyone ever gives a shit about. Holding it up as the ideal is ridiculous. It's the normal levels that need sorting out because that will have knock on effects for all women at all levels. Achieving something for a CEO level woman achieves little to nothing for anyone else in the organisation. It becomes a one off agreement. And this woman has power/money to arrange her own contract. It helps no woman in middle management or lower achieve a flexi working schedule and often ends up working against as it's a special it's not intended to be repeated.

It also hasn't escaped notice that hr is often predominantly staffed by women. Arranging agreements on advice of a few men and male requirements and male views on work. It's not generally a feminist environment. Often very opposite. Particularly when aimed at lower ranks of women. (I had to fight and act like a man, you can too). It's depressing.

Ubik1 Sun 26-Jan-14 16:40:32

And is it really society's problem? Certainly public sector organisations seem to be more sympathetic and there are family friendly working practices in place - I gave 4weeks paid parental leave per child available to me working fur the NHS. I can also take unpaid leave. Thus in some part makes up for some of the vicious shift rotations.

Are these 'power mums' organising themselves into some sort of campaign group? So that men and women can benefit from policies which are more supportive of families in general? Is there a union? In the end it's up to employers to improve their policies.

BoffinMum Sun 26-Jan-14 17:25:17

Here's the elephant in the room. It doesn't help when half the world seems to be taking Fridays off for work life balance reasons, and refusing to do anything at all at the weekend. This means it's really tough to see my (male) dentist, (female) dental hygienist (Wednesday bloody mornings only? That's not a job, it's a fucking hobby), (male) GP, in fact get any routine healthcare at all, when I think about it, without taking annual leave (difficult when that is also multiplied by the number of children I have, because they need me at their appointments too at least half the time), see my (female) solicitor, or see my (male) accountant, all of whom also pretty much work part-time these days.

Add to that my colleagues who also decide a full week's work of 40 hours is just that little bit too taxing for them, leaving the rest of us to shoulder the really tough stuff and the out of hours work. Someone has to be there when the shit hits the fan or we will be closed down. We can't all be at yoga or sailing or playing bloody golf. The world does not run to a part-time timetable, in fact the way my industry is going it is now global, 365 days, 24/7, with ever tighter margins. Like most businesses. So professionals should be bloody well responding to that, and organising themselves according with a bit of flexibility.

Sometimes I feel bitter that half the graduate world seems to be cruising along in non-ambitious, work life balance mode (especially most bloody dentists and certain GPs, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND I DON'T MEAN THE WORN OUT INNER CITY PRACTICE PEOPLE WHO POST ON HERE) leaving the rest of us professionals to bloody run everything that they then take advantage of quite happily. It's bonkers, that's what it is.

I am starting to sound like that Lean In woman. Forgive me.
<and breathe>

ClarissaG Sun 26-Jan-14 17:31:35

I've just started this talk thread. Anyone out there?

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 17:32:30

If you are sharing housework and childcare 50:50 you aren't a power mum or a power dad though.

Piscivorus Sun 26-Jan-14 17:43:49

Article in Times yesterday about a high powered city woman with 9 children who states you can't have it all. Buried in the article is the fact that her DH gave up work to look after the DCs so coming back to the fact that many of these successful partnerships are role reversals as someone said upthread

Who says we need to have it all anyway? Surely most things in life are about choices and compromises anyway

Paintyfingers Sun 26-Jan-14 17:51:38

I think of a power mum (hateful term) as someone earning 100k+, at the top level professionally i.e. director/partner level - almost impossible if not working full time. Will be small numbers of women.

I would think anyone earning less than that, less senior than that or not working ft is a working mother but not encompassed within this very narrow power mum bracket.

BIWI Sun 26-Jan-14 17:53:13

No, you're right, Bonsoir. We had a fulltime nanny and a cleaner twice a week.

Nevertheless, there are still housework chores to do and children who need to be looked after at the beginning and the end of the day.

annieorangutan Sun 26-Jan-14 17:56:35

Yes definitely bit surely if most mums and dads can manage both working full time+ with multiple children, in all sorts of roles very easily with no staff, cleaners, nannies or family help with then I really dont see how you couldnt do it if you were very rich and could employ who you wanted.

Commander6 Sun 26-Jan-14 18:01:18

Does some of these problems come back to men not taking time off because they are then seen as weaker employees if they do?

Weak as in job wise, presenteeism, and weak in a macho sense amongst their male colleagues?.
And actually, they also feel weaker, by their own ego?

TheCrackFox Sun 26-Jan-14 18:04:17

I know loads of families where the couple are working opposite shifts, weekends, night shifts, 4am starts and rushing to the childminder on ad hoc days and zero opportunity to work from home and no money for a cleaner. In comparison, power mums have it easy so I really don't see why they need society's support.

wordfactory Sun 26-Jan-14 18:11:07


If we don't try to support women in demanding positions then we will have no female judges, politicians, CEOs, scientists, financiers. Our media will be entirely run by men and all our creativity will be led by male energy.

How on earth can that be good for society as a whole?

Algorta Sun 26-Jan-14 18:33:14

The high-flying power roles come with high salaries which can be used to buy support.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 18:36:38

wordfactory - I agree that we need women in all those positions, and not just women, but mothers.

However, I am more in favour of the "role reversal" model of power mum family life (awful English but you know what I mean) than the "dual power career" model.

merrymouse Sun 26-Jan-14 18:43:21

The point is not that 'power mums' need more support than other mothers, but that they should not be more disadvantaged in their career because they are parents than 'power dads'.

I think that generally children of high earners pull through somehow (sarcastic emoticon). However, as a woman I don't want to live in a society where women don't become politicians/judges/surgeons/board members because they have children while fathers steam on regardless.

wordfactory Sun 26-Jan-14 18:52:42

Bonsoir I see no reason why Dads shouldn't SAH. And indeed, it is definitely getting more and more common.

But not all men will want to of course. Or if they do, not in the traditional way many SAHMs model.

And the reality is that many highly demanding positions actually don't pay that much. Coupled with them being too often London-centric, it becomes far less doable to have a one income family. Especially if one wants to have a reasonable existence.

funnyvalentine Sun 26-Jan-14 19:01:49

Another issue with 'role reversal' over 'dual power couples' is that many high achieving women, for whatever reason, end up with high achieving men who don't want to stay home and look after the kids. So it's not an option for many 'power mums' to have a household with reversed roles.

It's not the same in reverse, many high achieving men marry women who are happy to stay home.

LauraBridges Sun 26-Jan-14 19:07:22

I don't feel a lack of support. I just feel constant praise. I feel the praise is sexist as it is equally as due to men who do well and work full time so there is sexism within the praise.

When those of us who work full time talk about 50/50 we mean he does as much at home as we do. That probably means we use a nanny or childminder or nursery when we are at work and at home he is as likely to be picking lice out the children's hair and clearing up the baby's sick as we are.

Ubik1 Sun 26-Jan-14 19:12:42

Of course we need women in 'power roles' but generally they are well paid and able to buy in help.

Contrast that with many working families who are both working long hours in lower paid jobs, childcare sucking up cash, no nanny/cleaner.

I know many women in this situation.

BigBirthdayGloom Sun 26-Jan-14 19:18:19

Why does a high flying power mum need my support? They have clearly had the opportunity, through genes, upbringing, luck and hard work, to make choices that others don't have. They have the finances to outsource the household work and childcare that many have to do alongside full time work. And they can also, more than likely, pay for luxuries that make life so much more pleasant.
I don't judge, much less despise these women, but I reserve my support for those in more challenging, less choice fuelled lives.

Paintyfingers Sun 26-Jan-14 19:30:00

Laura, most 'power couples' I know where both work very long hours have a relatively small amount of household work left over once nanny/au pair and cleaner have finished.

In other words, neither parent does putting young dc to bed/gives them breakfast or nursery runs as neither parent is around usually at pick up/drop off or when children are getting up / going to bed.

At the weekend there isn't any deep cleaning to be done as cleaner has already been.

Au pair or cleaner does the ironing and often laundry is done for them too.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 19:34:01

My issue with power couples is that they are sometimes or often power trip couples. And I am not particularly happy about a society where too many positions of authority and power are held by power trip couples who frequent other power trip couples and, IME, live in a very particular prism that has little bearing on most people's reality.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 19:36:00

Paintyfingers - I agree. When I talk to my power mum friends about things to do with the family/children, their question is always "where can I buy that [service]" or "whom can I outsource that to". The mindset is never that they should think of doing anything themselves.

Paintyfingers Sun 26-Jan-14 19:52:55

So whether your DH pulls their weight or not matters much much less if you are well paid enough to get it all done for you by other people anyway.

The main reason there aren't more 'power mums' is that at the moment that isn't what over 80% of mothers say they want - as over 80% say they don't want to work full time.

I wonder what percentage of the 18% who say ft work is their ideal (ie 9-5, 5 days a week) would say they would be happy to do the following in exchange for lots of money:

Work 7-7 as standard and 7-9 or later as needed - so only see young children at the weekend.
Take limited holidays.
Not be able to stay home with a sick child ever as work must come first.
Frequent work travel.
Take weekend/evening work calls/messages as needed.

I reckon maybe that would reduce the 18% down to say 5% who would aspire to this life? Would be interesting to see a survey of that!

Bumblebzz Sun 26-Jan-14 20:05:43

If the discussion keeps reverting back to women not supporting other women (for whatever reason - earnings power, choosing to SAHM/WOHM, etc, <yawn>) we are missing the key point, that across all spectrums of working life, regardless of income and regardless of what 'help' people have (and everyone has to has some help, to enable them go to work, unless they are lucky enough to cover it between the two parents, but that I think is rare) women are still the default when it comes to responsibility for domestic issues and children.

legoplayingmumsunite Sun 26-Jan-14 20:07:03

When I talk to my power mum friends about things to do with the family/children, their question is always "where can I buy that [service]" or "whom can I outsource that to". The mindset is never that they should think of doing anything themselves.

But what is wrong with that? DH and I both work part-time so we don't fit the 'power parent' stereotype but we have 3 kids and can afford good quality childcare and a cleaner. We are currently considering outsourcing laundry. And so what? We employ our cleaners though an agency that guarantees 16h minimum (so they get working families tax credit, paid holidays and sick leave), we use a nursery that encourages the personal development of its staff (so they don't have a high turnover of staff, in fact they have several teachers on their staff who say doing wrap around care at nursery is much better than teaching in school, they do all the fun things that teachers should do but can't).

What is wrong with paying other people for services (unless you are a communist)? No-one worries about outsourcing when in a work situation (my work wouldn't exist if other companies didn't outsource the work we specialise at), so why is it an issue at home? The upper class have always outsourced household services, it's one of the privileges of money. And in the west we are all so rich we can delegate a lot of household services to machines (dishwashers, washing machines, microwaves and vacuum cleaners being the main ones). I assume you don't think it's a problem putting someone out of a job by using a washing machine rather than employing a cleaner?

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 20:07:54

"The main reason there aren't more 'power mums' is that at the moment that isn't what over 80% of mothers say they want - as over 80% say they don't want to work full time."

This. And as to why society at large is not more supportive of power mums, it surely has much to do with the vast majority not viewing them as a role model they wish to emulate.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 20:10:33

There is nothing wrong with outsourcing! You are missing the point that was made earlier - that power couples aren't sharing housework/childcare because they are outsourcing it.

madwomanintheatt1c Sun 26-Jan-14 20:18:23

quite, bumble.

Instead of pr about the failures of power mums, let's see a butt load of pr about the successes of domestic dads, exhorting more men to equalise the gaping inequality in the current domestic scale of responsibility.

Ignore the women. Write about the men. For a change. Please.

I'd like to know how many of the power mums and power dads interviewed by Armstrong had a (non-working, stay at home) spouse providing the backdrop that enabled them to reach the pinnacle of their careers.

I'm willing to bet the power dads had sah wives, and the power mums didn't have say husbands.

I would also like to know to what extent the contradictory feelings experienced by the mums interviewed were caused by gendered norms and gendered cultural expectations, that are only reinforced by this 'article'.

Quit with the agreeing with Nigel Farage, and start smashing up more than one gendered norm, please. We know women can work. I want it to be proved and accepted that men can parent. Equally. Or in a prime parenting role that accepts the woman as the breadwinner. Not as a 'Ono, how novel, it works for so and so', but to an extent that it is part of the normal family life. So that the school gates are equally populated by both genders. So that schools call dad at work to pick up the sick kid. So that fathers take the day off to mop up puke. And that no one bats an eyelid.

Quit the focus on women, and get the men under the spotlight. Why aren't they pulling their weight?

TheGreatHunt Sun 26-Jan-14 20:34:37

spectacular speaks so much sense.

I work in a male dominated industry. The women who do well are those without children or who work all hours and someone else deals with the kids.

I work 4 days a week. I've been told to go for promotion but am resisting as it will mean working full time.

And for what?

I was touched by an article I read a few months ago in the guardian - top ten regrets of the dying. Not one person on their death bed wished they'd worked more or spent more time away from the family. It was quite the opposite.

I want a balance. I do not want my life to become about work and squeezing a bit of family time in between.

Ubik1 Sun 26-Jan-14 20:47:15

women are still the default when it comes to responsibility for domestic issues and children.

Well yes - but the op is about 'power mums' ie: specifically about women who are high earners.

Yet this is a problem fir women across the economic spectrum. And at least power mums can afford a nanny etc

May I drop back in again? Just pointing out that the majority of me don't make it into being high powered. Most men are somewhere around the middle. Or lower. Only certain men, a percentage achieve high power. A larger percentage than women but these articles give an impression that everyone has high powered roles. That you achieved nothing by being middle or lower. That by 30 your dead if not almost CEO.

Then add woman to the mix and obvs it gets worse. Just please don't be deluded that it's easy to get these roles if you're male. The other thing is the higher you get the more able to delegate you are. I've worked for some very powerful men who did in actuality very little. In terms of actual work, letters, planning, theirs became more about talking not doing.

Tbh whilst working would be nice. I cannot fathom wanting to be that high. It's just not worth anything but the £ and then, well, no one dies wishing they spent more time at work.

scottishmummy Sun 26-Jan-14 20:59:45

I see people are making up statistics to support ill thought out points.tsk tsk

The official ONS data shows The age of the child and the relationship status of the mother are important factors in if they are in work or not.

For lone mothers whose youngest child was aged up to three, 39% were in work, compared with 65% of couples with children in the youngest age group

For mothers whose youngest child was at primary school age, between four and ten, employment rates were higher at 74% for those in a couple and 61% for those who were a lone parents

The majority women work,fact

LauraBridges Sun 26-Jan-14 21:42:29

Yes, most women work and always have done . My grandmother worked in the 30s (widowed). Her mother worked. My fathers aunts worked - one as a nursing sister in Wapping in the 1920s, the other two had a shop. The generations before had very hard working women but on their farms, spinning, sewing, making goods to sell and all the other stuff you do on farms.

I suppose it depends what a power mother means as to what help they might have or power men for that matter. If you just mean a full time working couple in London where both earn say £100k - £500k I would still call them a reasonably power couple and I am certain one of them rushes home each day to see the children, sort out the school bags, pick the nits from the hair. Most of us who live those lives want that contact with the children even if we have a nanny to give them their dinner at 5pm or whatever.

As for what women and men regret as they die I don't think that saying is true for everyone - that all workers wish they hadn't worked. Plenty have good relationships with family and work full time, male and female. Many when dying actually wish they had more money as how you die in the UK can depend on income - is it at home wtih wonderful full time care in a warm comfortable home with big pension and bringing in nursing staff as you want or are you the woman who never worked and has no pension(husband run off) who is dying in poverty? As said above most women work and they therefore like men like that balance of work plus family. Of course some people don't want children at all and that is a perfectly legitimate choice too.

The main point for me on the thread is just to say no one has ever been negative about the fact I work and am reasonably successful. I suppose I grew up in a feminist home and would never have married someone who wasn't a feminist and the only comments I get about what I've "achieved" are positive. No one has ever suggested my children have suffered because I or their father work full time.

Paintyfingers Sun 26-Jan-14 21:45:40

I think you mean me Scottishmum - the survey I am quoting was about what women wanted not what they did. Their aspirations not their actual work patterns.

Paintyfingers Sun 26-Jan-14 21:49:13

Laura, the thing is a lot of people don't say these things to your face. I've heard plenty of people privately saying how sad it is that high-flying mothers in my industry hardly see their children. I've never seen anyone say it to their faces.

Of course they also say (quite rightly) how well those women have done and how impressed they are.

And sexism means colleagues don't say chief exec level men don't see their children enough. Or at least I've heard it much less often.

scottishmummy Sun 26-Jan-14 22:14:05

Women make up a third of UK managers

Part of Women in the Labour Market, 2013 Release
Released: 25 September 2013

Full report - Women in the labour market

% of women in managerial roles higher than Germany, Spain and Italy but lower than France

The proportion of women among the UK’s managers was 34.8% in October-December 2012, slightly higher than the European Union average of 33.5%.

The percentage of managers that were women was slightly lower than the UK figure in the larger economies of Spain (31%), Germany (29%), and Italy (24%) but it was greater in France (39%). Across the European Union as a whole, women were most prominent within the managerial occupation group in Latvia (45%) and Lithuania (41%). The country where women were least prominent as managers was Cyprus (16%).

Bumblebzz Sun 26-Jan-14 23:10:34

But who cares what people say, to your face or not. They are entitled to their opinions but surely no one makes a decision to work/stay at home on the basis on what other people think. I mean really, what is the relevance to this debate? I couldn't give two boots if other people judge me for working - it is the norm for me, my mother worked until she was 69 and so do all the females in my family, I would find it very weird not to work. I genuinely find it weird when people bring up such hearsay as if it's evidence for something, it just doesn't matter. And such opinions say more about the person holding them than anything else.

wordfactory Mon 27-Jan-14 07:02:14

painty the figures about what women want refer to women with young DC.

The figures for women of older DC are different. Those women want to work but often cannot get back into the work place. And the time to become power mums has long since passed them by!

But that really is beside the point. Whether you want to be a power Mum or not, why on God's green earth wouldn't you, as a woman, support another woman?

Why do women only support women who live their lives like them?

It is so narrow minded. And so so bad for society.

scottishmummy Mon 27-Jan-14 07:03:48

Only on mat leave did I meet the precious moments crew,no jip at work.obviously
I don't need or seek the approbation of others on whether I work or not

kotinka Mon 27-Jan-14 07:35:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Paintyfingers Mon 27-Jan-14 08:29:48

Yes the survey results showing very strong choices against working full time at all, let alone having a 'power job' was about mothers of young dc.

The reason most people (men and women) don't 'support' so-called power mums, sadly, is because fundamentally many people think the time away from a young family where both people work so hard is just too great.

These aren't normal 9-5 jobs and usually both partners in the couples concerned work very busy hours. I think the hours culture needs to change for both sexes so that women can have the careers they deserve.

I also think attitudes to career breaks need to shift. No actual reason women couldn't make it back to the very top after having dc.

Bonsoir Mon 27-Jan-14 08:37:01

"Why do women only support women who live their lives like them?"

I think that it is only human nature to not want to make sacrifices in your own life for the benefit of other people who are already in a position of relative comfort. Especially when those people think it is their due to receive support/concessions and/or they seek recognition for being a role model.

It's about not wanting to have the class meeting at 7pm every time because that what suits the working parents with nannies (who can pop in to school on the way home from work before the nanny's shift ends). It's about not having your DC's friends for sleepovers only on those nights their parents are away on business. It's about the DC who goes to Hong Kong for a week in the middle of the school term because she is accompanying her mother who is going there for work not getting into trouble at school (indeed, receiving all the work by email) but the DC whose has a SAHP getting into trouble for one Friday afternoon taken for a long weekend. Etc.

When work, and particularly "power mums", use their agenda as a trump card to get their own way and get life to revolve around them, the wider world doesn't feel very supportive.

wordfactory Mon 27-Jan-14 08:38:13

painty I agree that women should be enabled to rejoin the workforce after having children, and I certainly supported the extension of maternity leave and would resist any attempts to shorten it.

But I think we have to be realistic about long career breaks. In some areas, being out for several years for whatever reason, will mean you're of limited value on re entry.

wordfactory Mon 27-Jan-14 08:52:29

Bonsoir perhaps the power Mums in your vicinity endlessly ruin the lives of SAHPs ... but back in the real world....most of us are utterly untroubled by them. They almost never affect our lives.

And anyway I don't think for one nano second that this is the reason for lack of support.

The real reason is defensive narrow mindedness. A complete failure to imagine that families can raise their DC successfully in different set ups to our own. So the few women who do try to continue in their demanding positions receive endless criticism.

Small wonder that so few even try.

And while we can all shrug and say it doesn't matter, we then end up living in a society where women have almost no voice in areas that impact upon us all. So we have men running our media, our banking systems, our corporate world, our law making process...

LauraBridges Mon 27-Jan-14 08:54:19

Well if they aren't saying negative comments to my face but supposedly are saying them behind my back (I have no evidence of behind the back comments) then we just need to convert them to the advantages to families of successful parents. I am not so sure we all go around having the time to be pointing fingers and gossiping about whose choices are good or bad whether we are male or female. We just get on with life and seek to achieve our ambitions which for me were just as much about having lots of babies and enjoying breastfeeding and the like as earning a lot. Both matter a lot to me.

Bonsoir Mon 27-Jan-14 09:04:33

Few people care at all what other families do and how they organise their lives until it encroaches upon them. So I disagree that being narrow-minded has anything to do with it - most people are far too busy to care.

wordfactory Mon 27-Jan-14 09:06:29

laura whilst other people's good opinion may not bother you (I'm a bit like that too), I still think it matters, because that general negative opinion of women in demanding positions feeds into policy at a macro level.

Nothing is done to make it easier for women to hold onto these positions because it's not considered A Good Thing.

wordfactory Mon 27-Jan-14 09:09:21

Bonsoir what utter rot!

You make it very plain here on MN that you care very much what other mothers do and that you consider women who work when they don't need to, as utterly immoral. You've said so ad infinitum.

You may be ever so busy, but you put aside enough time to come here and give us the benefit of your views grin.

Bonsoir Mon 27-Jan-14 09:12:55

I don't agree at all that people don't think it is a good thing to have women (and, importantly, mothers) in positions of power.

What matters to most people is the freedom to arrange their own lives in a way that suits them. So mothers who don't want to work, or work FT, don't feel supportive of women in power who argue for policies to support FT working for all women to the detriment of policies that are supportive of other models.

Bonsoir Mon 27-Jan-14 09:14:37

What I find immoral is when families who have choices and education neglect their children.

noviceoftheday Mon 27-Jan-14 09:23:04

I completely agree with word's posts.

As someone who is probably a power mumhmm I don't need society's support but it would be lovely if some women didn't judge or make huge and silly assumptions about my children's welfare, whether I am raising them or my nanny, whether I spend any time with them or whether I pay my nanny peanuts.

Seniority, power and money gives me flexibility and choices other women don't have. I don't spend loads of time doing the mundane bits of running a house but employ a housekeeper, cleaner/ironing lady, gardener, handyman and home PA for those things. Each gets paid substantially more than NMWhmm.

I can dictate my work hours which means I try and work from home once a week. Dh or I do school drop off each day and I pick up once a week. I do get home 95% of the time to do bath and stories and have breakfast with the dcs too.

Being a senior woman with dcs means I am able to ensure my team benefit from my presence and experience. It's incredibly important to me that women who work for me are able to receive every support, particularly when they have young dcs. My PA has changed her working hours 3 times in the last 5 years. I have agreed with each one because she's amazing but also as I always say "I didn't get to my position not to support other women".

I don't need society's support, there are far better causes. Some women are too busy judging to see the truth but thankfully, their narrow-mindedness doesn't personally bother me so much, but I do think it is that judging that harms society as a whole.

stealthsquiggle Mon 27-Jan-14 09:39:09

Bonsoir, clearly the "power mums" (God I hate that phrase) are clearly doing a better job than they do round here if they are getting the world to revolve around them. I, by contrast, feel that everything is arranged with the assumption of a SAHP existing and that my DC are made to feel strange/pitiable because there can't always be a parent there for school stuff. I am also acutely conscious that because I cannot do playdates, coffee mornings, WI meetings, etc I am not in the "inner circle" and my DC therefore get less invitations than they would otherwise.

Maybe I need to move to your world....although actually I don't think I could take the judgement.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 09:44:35

wordfactory. Because most of us women are bothered about the time both parents spend with their children. Even if the parents involved are not.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 09:45:09

A nanny's love and time is not the same as a dads or mums. And never can be.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 09:48:09

wordfactory. Agree that some women need to be in higher positions in society. But if it has to be the mainly single ones [and there are many of them], then so be it.

noviceoftheday Mon 27-Jan-14 09:54:06

I agree, a nanny's love is no where near the same as a parents love. It still doesn't mean I have to be there 24/7. Also, it is easy to judge looking in from the outside without knowing specifics of how things work. Sahm is not the norm. it's a luxury only a few can afford so really most mums work.compared to most other mothers power mumshmm have the ability to outsource household things and have more quality time with the children. Ie don't assume high earnings = always "neglected" dcs.

wordfactory Mon 27-Jan-14 09:58:47

So commander you think society should be run by white middle class men?

That society is better for that?

Because when you start to peddle sexist crap in the guise of concern for DC, you ensure that society remains as it is.

And I'm not up for that. We've seen what happens when institutions all speak with one homogenous voice. And it aint pretty.

I'm as far from a power mum as its possible to be. Today my list of things to do includes finding a roofer, baking a cake for a charity sale at DD's school and collecting a spare tyre for KikFit. I'm typing this from my kitchen. Rock and roll it isn't grin.

I'm happy with that. I don't want to be a power mum.

But I'm intelligent enough to see that we need them. We need women in positions of influence. Positions that impact on all our lives in far more meaningful ways than the timing of the odd school meeting.

stealthsquiggle Mon 27-Jan-14 09:58:50

Wow. So much judginess. Do you direct this sort of spite at the "power dads", I wonder hmm ?

stealthsquiggle Mon 27-Jan-14 10:01:13

"Because when you start to peddle sexist crap in the guise of concern for DC, you ensure that society remains as it is"


The day that you judge "power dads" in the same way then you might begin to get my sympathy. Until then, it's just nasty spiteful sexist judginess. Should only single men rise to positions of power as well?

Ubik1 Mon 27-Jan-14 10:02:31

Commander6 A nanny's love and time is not the same as a dads or mums. And never can be

Of course it's not the same but the evidence is that a child needs a nurturing and responsive care giver - and that doesn't need to be mum and dad.

As I said before, I think 'power mums' (aaaaargh) are actually better off than many women in that they can buy in good quality care - and that's absolutely great, it means both parents can go on using their intelligence and creativity to service the needs of capital or improve the lives of others.


Women in a lower earning bracket are struggling with punitive childcare costs and with childcare that isn't always very good. Who can blame them for chucking in the towel when work stress and financial demands coupled with the demands of small children make it all too much?


The question is about 'mums' but really it should be about all parents/carers...reallt any sort of campaign should be aimed at men, trying to change a corporate culture which prizes presenteeism - it should be encouraging men to take parental leave, ask for flexible working etc to make the playing field level.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 10:04:54

Where did race come into it?
Do you have a chip on your shoulder?

And some people appear not to get that a nanny's love is not the same as a parent's. So I thought it was time to mention the elephant in the room.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 10:05:45

stealth. I have been very careful to include both parents in my posts, if you care to look back at them.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 10:07:32

I have also said that we need some high flying women.
If my posts are not going to be read properly by several posters here, there is no point in posting. As several of you, at least 3, now seem to have hidden agendas, and are not really reading properly.

So goodbye for now.

fairisleknitter Mon 27-Jan-14 10:11:54

Agree with Commander, I don't think fathers working in a long-hours, presenteeism culture are worthy role models. My husband has opted for a different career path as have many fathers.

stealthsquiggle Mon 27-Jan-14 10:14:24

Commander - so this: "Agree that some women need to be in higher positions in society. But if it has to be the mainly single ones [and there are many of them], then so be it." wasn't you then hmm? Because that sounds pretty bloody sexist to me. I haven't, I had to admit, read every single one of your posts.

Ubik1 Mon 27-Jan-14 10:15:25

I'm not a power mum either, I currently work part time nightshifts in a public sector call centre while studying for a second degree. I'm one of the crap non achievers no one gives a toss about grin

tobiasfunke Mon 27-Jan-14 10:16:14

From my observations things like maternity leave (up to a year)seem to have less effect on those women who are at the top of the tree. They tend to come back and slot back into place fairly easily. Usually because they have one person who has repaced them on a temporary basis.

It is those people (both men and women) who are a bit further down the tree that struggle as a year is a longtime in a workplace and oftenwork gets reallocated, projects finish and new ones start. I know quite a few ambitious women who are horrified by this and spend hours telling everyone how unfair it is for women. I am always surprised they haven't noticed before as they spent their childless years taking the advantages offered when other women went on maternity leave- it's like they were just amazed it happened to them. Secondly it's just as difficult when men are off for extended periods- sabbaticals, illness whatever - they too find themselves out of sync when they return. Once both men and women can get shared leave then things will be more equal and it will be just as shit for men returning to the workplace.

Ubik1 Mon 27-Jan-14 10:16:25

But if it has to be the mainly single ones [and there are many of them]

Is a really, really depressing view

wordfactory Mon 27-Jan-14 10:19:51

Race comes into it because it is as important as sex. We need the voices that impact upon society to reflect society.

At present, they don't.

Those voices are overwhelmingly white male middle class.

And no chip. I'm not one of those pesky uppity chippy black people!!!

But again, I am not narrow minded enough to think that it isn't important to have people who aint white in power, even though it probably doesn't affect me personally.

Bonsoir Mon 27-Jan-14 10:20:40

Men can try to be role-models for better working practices and it doesn't mean the women in their organisations pick up on it. My DP, whose business employs many more women than men, and has a majority of women in his senior management team, always leaves the office in time to get home for family dinner, has lunch with his DC, leaves the office for school meetings etc. But he has a hard time getting all the women (including mothers) in his head office to follow his lead - some do and others are seemingly hard-wired for presenteeism.

CMOTDibbler Mon 27-Jan-14 10:22:55

I don't think I qualify as a power mum, not working in the city and no nanny/housekeeper, but I do have a squillion air miles (all earned in the back of the plane), work ft (with conference calls at weird hours), travel lots, and took a relatively short mat leave.

I don't expect anyone to support dh and me, we don't have any family help at all, and a cleaner (who works for herself, chooses to clean as she likes to pick and choose when and who she works for) 3 hours a week.

What I would welcome is not getting negative comments about my travel, and the automatic question of 'but what about your ds' when I'm away, and 'how does your dh feel about you travelling'. No one ever asks dh these things when he's away

wordfactory Mon 27-Jan-14 10:26:39

CMOT my DH is most definitely a power dad.

And he says he has never ever been asked how he manages it, whether he misses the DC when he travels, whether he feels guilty yadda yadda.

In fact he is roundly trumpeted by all the mums we know as a Good Father.

Yet women in his position are treated with suspicion and judgement. It's sexism pure and simple. No two ways.

stealthsquiggle Mon 27-Jan-14 10:35:32

Snap, CMOT. In every respect.

Bonsoir Mon 27-Jan-14 10:42:31

Maybe in France people are so accustomed to sending their DC away for long periods (to grandparents or residential holidays) and have been doing this forever that the idea of children being apart from their mothers when the mothers travel for work doesn't seem to raise an eyebrow here (provided that the DC are being cared for and aren't left alone).

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 10:43:19

strealth. Was my post sexist? No idea. But if you say it is, then perhaps it is.

Ubik. I care about what you are doing.

But yes, if it is mainly single women who become high powered, or those who are married or who have partners who do more childcare than the other one, then that is ok.
That seems to be what the majority in society think.

What I so just really want to write throughout this thread is
"think of the children. And that does not mainly mean materially".

noviceoftheday Mon 27-Jan-14 10:46:28

If women think that presenteeism is important then they must be getting the subliminal message that it is true in that culture/environment. The group of us who run our team/ business have a view of we don't care where you do your work from as long as it gets done. Hence all the parents work one day from home, others have a day off to a degree and one girl is doing a yoga course on the side. We have one person commutes in from 200 miles away, 3 days in London, Mondays and Fridays working from home. When my admin assistant was struggling with childcare costs I let her work from home in a way that was timed around her child's naps until the 3yo funding kicked in. All these are examples of successful and well regarded people, many of whom have had promotions while having the atypical working patterns. This happens primarily because the leadership in my team are female, we work with great guys and are very opinionated about the culture and "feel" of the team from a diversity perspective.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 10:46:30

I know of 2 doctors married to each other. [this may out me but who cares].
Both the male and female work 3 days each at the same surgery. They have childcare for the overlapping day.
The arrangement suits them both fine, and the child or children are looked after by one or other parent except for 1 day a week.
Genius all round if you ask me.

noviceoftheday Mon 27-Jan-14 10:51:30

What CMOT said. I am in the Far East in a couple of weeks time. I have crammed my diary so that I fly Monday late night and back at dawn on Friday. Dh is immediately off to the US for the week. The timings of the visit is such that there will be a parent in the country both weeks. Yet, some women will more focus on my dcs welfare the week I am away but not the week dh is away. Just sexism, pure and simple.hmm

Ubik1 Mon 27-Jan-14 10:54:22

But commander - your conception of what constitutes good childcare - biological parents caring for children, is really based on 20th century western conceptions of 'the family,' this 1950's ideal came about because women were supposed to return to the home so that men could have jobs after the war.

Research shows children need a nurturing environment and a consistent carer in the very early years but this does not need to be the parent. Certainly there are different models of care shown throughout the world.

This is probably rather pedestrian but if you watch Danish drama like 'The Bridge' you will be constantly struck by how many women with children in positions of power are depicted with no song and dance about it. It is really, really refreshing. And that country has a very good childcare system which promotes equality.

Basically if I had had access to affordable good quality childcare I would not be working in a call centre now. It is a long road back to a career.

Bonsoir Mon 27-Jan-14 10:56:04

People are not only subject to the culture of their organisation - which is why you can get people reacting quite differently within the same organisation, especially when it is large and/or multi-sited. They are not all subject to the same forces. You can have someone in your senior management team who is working with suppliers in an industry where long hours and lots of out-of-work socialising is the norm, and that person to some extent will need to meet the demands of their suppliers' industry. And then you can have a commercial director who is working internally and has more leverage to set their working patterns according to the company's culture.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 11:06:12

novice. I do think that people are beginning to see your point.

Ubik. I am afraid that I amd proably others have instincts that we take more notice of than research.
The op is asking for opinions. I am giving them.

mindosa Mon 27-Jan-14 11:21:41

Women at the top of their professions are not supported because it goes against societal norms. Many people prefer to keep women in their place and whole industries have been built around this.

In my experience the least supportive are women who have decided not to attempt to climb to the top of the career ladder. They can be the most vitriolic in criticising others choices and its hard to understand why. I can only guess that its insecurity. On the other hand I know very few mums who are as critical of the choice to stay home.

tomverlaine Mon 27-Jan-14 11:29:08

I don't think its necessarily how society reacts that is the problem but natural instincts. I find it hard to go away for long periods of time without DS. My work requires that I do. I try and reconcile the two - i work out my travel very carefully to maximise useful time away and minimise disruption to DS. It is difficult not to find your self judging other people by the same standards- even though I know that it is not a logical standard- so if I know another woman is on a business trip and maybe staying an extra night I find myself thinking that it is odd/not desirable - and although I try and think it is good that she is relaxed enough to do so that is not my immediate reaction. Equally I don't instinctively feel the same about a man doing it.

Madmartigan Mon 27-Jan-14 11:32:20

This issue is ruling my life at the moment. I earn more than DH so I can't just stop. Reducing my hours, if at all possible, puts me in the box labelled "next years saving". DH works unsociable and unpredictable hours, so its me that has to rush everywhere slightly late. I am not hugely concerned what other parents think, but school give no ground whatsoever. That irks me a lot. They could offer an alternative to "popping into the school office at 9 o'clock", they could stick DS's water bottle in his bag when he has forgotten for a week, he is 5. They need to give a weekends notice if we need to bring stuff in, I can't go shopping during the day.

I would like to get in crawler lane for a few years but stay with the same employer. Stupidly, they are very short of people at my level, but I feel like I'm going to have to leave, my options at work are very limited.

CMOTDibbler Mon 27-Jan-14 11:37:04

Other countries do have to have sorted this out better for sure. My Finnish colleagues have no culture of presenteesim, and male and females equally will announce that a meeting has a hard stop as they will be leaving to pick up children.

I was in a meeting in Sweden last week where a senior, male, consultant brought his (mildly) ill toddler with him. No one commented at all, and it was treated as completely normal.

Dh thinks its hilarious that school mums think he's amazing for having weekend play dates when I'm not around btw. Or that, he can manage to get ds to school with the correct things everyday hmm

stealthsquiggle Mon 27-Jan-14 12:19:46

tomverlaine none of that is "natural instincts" - it's all societal conditioning.

wiltingfast Mon 27-Jan-14 13:33:17

I thought this was an exceptionally thoughtful article and actually hits the nail on the head.

Until men are equally responsible for what happens at home and children, women will continue to fail to achieve their full potential.

BoffinMum Mon 27-Jan-14 13:44:05

One thing occurred to me. Both my parents worked. But in the 1970s and the 1980s it was primarily my dad who did the school run for us, and he was also perfectly capable of cleaning the house, cooking supper, and doing the laundry (although it shrunk more often when he was doing it). The only thing he was less good at than my mum was blow drying my hair, and making special porridge for us when we were ill. Both my grandfathers were pretty domesticated as well. I suppose the fact I was at the receiving end of dual care like that makes it really astonishing to me that a generation on we are carrying on as though these things are gendered for a reason. They are not. We are just not very good at organising the workplace here in the UK.

annieorangutan Mon 27-Jan-14 13:47:21

Here working parents are respected whereas sahmdsarent at all. Regular stuff I hear about sahm is they are freeloaders, drain on society, lazy, she sits on her ass, no ambition, cant be bothered etc and thats from men and women and is extremely ingrained in society

LauraBridges Mon 27-Jan-14 14:02:14

Boffin, same here. My father drove us to school every day until we were 18 (no easy school bus route). he hoovered at the weekends. He emptied the hins round the house on Saturdays. He took us out. He also did bed time stories just about every night of the week with one of us and our mother with the other two. He did the night feeds when my siblings were bottle feeding to give my brother a break, not once in a blue moon but night after night. Decent men have always been like that.

ProfondoRosso Mon 27-Jan-14 14:05:03

My dad was very involved in the domestic side of things too, Boffin, and this was in the 90s. Even when both him and my mum worked outside the home (he's been working from home since '96), he was always the one who did me and DSis's hair in the mornings and laid our uniforms out (said hairdos made for some interesting school photos). This was maybe just down to the fact that my mum took much longer to get ready for work than my dad, but I don't remember it being a 'big deal,' like 'isn't your dad wonderful' or 'isn't your mum an evil fiend who doesn't love her children?' It is ridiculous that so much is still regarded as 'women's work' when it isn't.

Here working parents are respected whereas sahmdsarent at all. Regular stuff I hear about sahm is they are freeloaders, drain on society, lazy, she sits on her ass, no ambition, cant be bothered etc and thats from men and women and is extremely ingrained in society

I've heard people saying things like that, annie, and it's very sad. Ambition and achievement are not always quantifiable by pounds earned, thus validated by someone else.

Paintyfingers Mon 27-Jan-14 14:14:52

My dad was pretty amazing too - 70s/80s - worked flexi time and came on school trips. Did a lot of cooking as well.

Paintyfingers Mon 27-Jan-14 14:16:39

Yes I agree with the pp that sahm should not be denigrated either.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 14:19:25

How did you find these men by the way? Serious question. Uni? Golf club? Where?
Round my way, those sorts of men would pretty much be ridiculed to a degree. Or constant weekly digs at least.

And yet again, the focus is on women - what they need to sacrifice to be able to achieve a career, but again everyone spectacularly missing the point is that women have now run up against a brick wall. There is nothing more we can do to make it easier for women to be able to balance work and home life. We're all balancing as skillfully as we can.

What needs to change now is for men and for employers to change their tune so that the wifework is not also always left to the women. Men need to be taking off parental leave and be just as likely to take long career breaks as women to raise families. Men need to be just as responsible for that ticker-tape of things to remember like PE kits and paying for Brownies. Employers need to be more flexible, with an end to presenteeim and more job-sharing, home working, part-time hours etc.

As I've said before, most families can't survive without two incomes so the current set-up has nothing to do with women wanting to "have it all" - but instead everything to do with women still being expected to do it all.

CMOTDibbler Mon 27-Jan-14 14:28:55

Commander - what sort of men? Do you mean the ones that consider that household and children are joint efforts and responsibilities?

I met mine at university, and if anyone ridiculed him or took a dig about it I would love to be a fly on the wall because they would get very short shrift.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 14:34:05

I would agree with that Annie. But the op asks "why is society so ambivalent about power mums?"
The answer lies in the mum bit not the power bit.

And tbh, I think that is where mumsnet can do its bit properly.

Have a decent dadsnet. And monitor it properly.
At present, they can barely cope with a bunch of women. I shudder to think how they would manage 30,000 men on their site.
They would have to be prepared to invest in a lot more staff.

And the reason they would not do that? Money.
They assume, probably correctly, that they would not get enough revenue from advertising to men.

stealthsquiggle Mon 27-Jan-14 14:34:57

Commander - why - where did you find an intelligent man who doesn't think that his children are his responsibility as much as they are their mother's? The 1950s? (which is also where the notion of "finding" men at the golf club belongs, FGS)

I met my DH through work, as it happens.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 14:35:58

Yes CMOT. Those sorts of men. Thank you for that answer.
I live in a part of the country where there are jobs for men. So many do not venture more than a few miles out of the area. And certainly do not go to uni.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 14:36:28

which type of work stealth?

Christine I think you had it right with your first thought ... "UKIP madness as usual"
I'd be happy to debate some of these issues but I really can't start from here (with a chance remark by a fringe politician who's thought about the issues for what, 3 secs ?)

On a related matter do we have to have this guest blog illustrated by a suited woman with a bottle of milk in her hand. BTW where's the baby ?!
I thought we were a breastfeeding friendly forum?

ProfondoRosso Mon 27-Jan-14 14:40:50

My mum met my dad at uni, Commander. Though, in total honesty, I'm not sure how he turned out so enlightened about sharing domestic work/childcare. His dad, my grandad, was lovely but very much a man's man. His mum was a SAHM and it was just accepted that she would do the wifework. Dad's brother turned out quite 'traditionally' masculine/macho in terms of gender roles and responsibilities (but was still a good, kind man), but my dad really didn't. Maybe he got infected (positively) by all the feminist activism that was happening at the uni in the 70s?!

Ubik1 Mon 27-Jan-14 14:40:52

Yy to Annie - This is what needs to happen, not just for 'power mums' but for all women in the workplace.

Unfortunately this government is not concerned about lower paid women, it presides over the disgusting erosion of rights for low paid, part time workers who are generally women, it allows zero hours contracts and erodes workers rights.

I get that 'power mums' feel hard done by, I really do, but there are a whole lot of women lower down the food chain who are dealing with much, much worse.

Ubik1 Mon 27-Jan-14 14:41:44

christ its just a bottle of milk

noviceoftheday Mon 27-Jan-14 14:44:20

I agree with Boffin. My dad did all those things too. Mum said he could use as iron as well as him so she never ever ironed his shirts when he was working. Only when sick.

My nanny said that we were the first parents in 20 years to tell her that she was to call either dh or me and not just me automatically. First time she called to say dd was sick, dh got there before me. Its important these things happen. Interestingly, dh works for a much more traditional culture organisation in the City. All the senior management are men and I think other than dh, only one other person has a working partner. It put a lot of pressure on dh (who works in a deal environment) when I was insisting he came home for bed and stories each night. After 4.5 years, I realised how much it was stressing him out and I have had to compromise.

stealthsquiggle Mon 27-Jan-14 14:45:51

Does it matter what sort of work, Commander? Male dominated, as it happens, but not coal mining smile.

Toddler on hip being dropped off at nursery (with changing bag) better image that's all Ubik?

Paintyfingers Mon 27-Jan-14 14:48:31

Do you know what juggling - I'm so glad you said that about the bottle! Not all of us who work in the city ff.

Thanks Painty thanks

CMOTDibbler Mon 27-Jan-14 15:01:11

For me, I did wield a bottle - but of EBM. I expressed milk all over the world, in airplane loos, in hotel rooms, and during conference calls. Everyday for a year (went back to work when ds was 16 weeks) and then for another 10 months when I was travelling.

noviceoftheday Mon 27-Jan-14 15:01:12

Good point juggling although it is just an image. As painty said lots of mothers who work in the City bf. The first year on returning to work after each dc is forever ingrained in my mind as having to pump twice during the day. On my first day back a meeting overran and eventually I had to tell my colleagues if we didn't stop I would be leaking milk.grin Everyone knew I took 2 pumping breaks for 30 mins at 11.30am and 2.30pm and scheduled around it. After the grotty room I was given after dc1, I made damn sure we arranged a special breastfeeding room with a fridge where everyone had their own key to their bit of the fridge where the milk was stored and a nice chair and a sink. It's little things like that, ie taking a perfectly normal thing and normalising it in the workplace, that I think it's important to have senior women in the workplace.

Though I will admit, while my DH is mostly as domesticated as me, he just didn't realise how much "ticker-tape" stuff there is (did he think fairies got everything organised for the DC? hmm) and I let the responsibility fall on me for too long. It's only recently when additional pressures from work meant my mental health was being damaged that I made sure DH took some of the burden off me and started thinking about it all too. And he really id doing his best.

We women do need to make sure we're not being martyrs. The entire societal mindset that men's jobs "matter more" so they shouldn't be disturbed with having to worry about domestic issues needs to change for everyone.

Wow, very impressive novice and Dibbler - working in nurseries I've given babies EBM from their Mums, but I could never get on with it myself (managed it once so DH could feed her, but for me not a sustainable thing to do - but then I guess necessity is the mother of invention or something)

LauraBridges Mon 27-Jan-14 15:32:47

Where are the non sexist men? All over. My parents were in the NE, but they met at university, my father was a doctor, his aunts worked so the culture there was women do well in exams, go to university and have equal marriages with women and do as much at home as women do. My daughter has just married - she works in the City. Her husband's mother has always worked full time as a GP so that culture she's married into as well is both parents always work full time and men do as much at home as women.

We can also do something to help this with our sons too - bring them up to be like this.

LauraBridges Mon 27-Jan-14 15:36:54

Annie, I agree. Also don't martyr yourself at home. I find the longer I've been a parent the more I've realised doing something for myself makes me much nicer for clients and the children. It might appear selfish to take time out (and impossible with very small babies of course) but it can make you much happier and a better person.

Yes, I expressed all over although I didn't choose to tell anyone. I just found an isolated clean disabled toilet and took a freezer bag to work. I doubt it was any longer than a cigarette break would have been and I was not in a job where I would be monitored every second of the day. One said breastfed daughter now plays a sport of England and is a City lawyer (despite my sharing a room with a chain smoker when pregnant - those were the days... and it was such early days of pregnancy that I did not want anyone to know I was pregnant so just tolerated it... at least some things have changed for the better).

wordfactory Mon 27-Jan-14 16:03:46

I was once commissioned to write and article about why successful people are successful, what habits they all share etc

And it was fascinating.

But two things struck me.

One, these people didn't over analyse. Yes, they considered things in depth, but there came a point when enough was enough and further analysis was bringing no return.

Two, these people didn't make a hard job out of an easy one. That propensity just wasn't part of their make up. Or if it was, they consciously acknowledged that it was a trait they needed to get way under control in order to achieve to a high level.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 16:13:24

stealth. Yes it matters what kind of work for my question of where are these men. Are they at uni as 2 posters have said.
So eg, was he educated degree level for instance. Actually there are now 3. So I am seeing a pattern emerge.

Those are two very interesting traits wordfactory (not sure how naturally they come to me, but worth thinking about)

Paintyfingers Mon 27-Jan-14 16:27:54

I also think not minding too much what others think is very important. Basically being robust.

And my answer to the thread question "Why is society so un-supportive to high-achieving Mums" (I'll take the "power" word out as it's a bit rubbish)
would be .....

because we made a start with feminism, especially throughout the 20th century, but still have a long way to go.

In other words, is anyone really surprised?

BoffinMum Mon 27-Jan-14 16:37:33

I just feel the need to join in the EBM convo with a comment or two.

I have expressed in the House of Commons and then managed to lug 24h worth of milk around with me in an electric cool bag, during a two day conference, and insist on it being hand searched rather than put through the security scanner every time I went in or out of the building. My goodness, the look of shock on the security men's faces. And the joy in mine when a fellow member of the bf community who also happened to be a security guard told them to stop messing me about and of course the bag couldn't lie down in the scanner and subsequently be shaken about by them. Like <duh>, fellas. Get with the programme.

Also did you know there is a 'pump room' in the British Library? That's because they tried to stop me taking a cool bag and pump in and out of there as well, arguing that it was 'fluids' and therefore banned. I stropped about BIG TIME and now everyone has the right to ask for a place to go to pump quietly, minding their own business, and you can take your milk around with you while you do your work. You do not have to sit in the toilet to pump and you do not have to leave your milk in a locker near a radiator.

The management guru Charles Handy calls this sort of thing 'lighting small bonfires in the darkness', having these arguments. Do I wish I didn't have to expend energy on arguments about breast milk? Yes. Do I think it is important to stick it to the authorities every time they put hurdles in my way as a mother? Probably not, but breast milk is something I feel strongly about, and is none of their business and all of mine and my baby's business. Do I think these hurdles are insurmountable? Not at all. I decide what's important to me and get on with it.

But you don't catch me fretting about baking buns for school bake sales (that is what shops are for, unless you genuinely feel like baking something for fun), clean PE kits (I taught my kids to wash their own), sending Christmas cards (that happens every 2-3 years), and some of the other things on the average women's mental to-do lists. In fact I blogged all my mental lists and if someone in my house wants to know how to do something, I direct them towards that. There is also a family handbook on all that stuff as well. I am not the only person in the world who needs to think about all this stuff, I do not derive my sole identity from it, and I do not think it is my job to worry about it endlessly. And nobody can make me.

We all need to be a bit clearer about what we are prepared to do, and what really matters, and compromise on the bollocks around the edges. It is perfectly possible to do that and still have a job you enjoy, an intact marriage, normal children and a pleasant home, trust me. But not if you wear yourself out baking silly buns at midnight to be sold for less than the cost of the ingredients.

LauraBridges Mon 27-Jan-14 17:01:19

Exactly or as Shirley Conran put it back in the 1970s I think it was - life is too short to stuff a mushroom.

I don't over analyse. I am very robust. I've never cared or thought about what other people think. All that helps.

wordfactory Mon 27-Jan-14 17:14:18

Yes, the people are interviewed were all quite tough in their own ways. And flexible. And optimistic.

stealthsquiggle Mon 27-Jan-14 17:19:18

Commander - yes, as it happens, he has a degree - from a Polytechnic, FWIW. However, he was the first person in his extended family to get a degree (or indeed to stay at school beyond 16), and yet his mother worked FT and his father has always done domestic stuff without a second thought - so to what would you like to attribute his non dinosaur "enlightened" attitude? To the example set by his non-degree educated parents or to his degree? I don't think your sample size is statistically sound yet hmm.

KatnipEvergreen Mon 27-Jan-14 17:35:53

You see, things like baking and sending Christmas cards I find relaxing and not pressurised.

I've never wanted to "get to the top", (whatever that means) in my chosen profession- I just couldn't be doing with all the responsibility and that would make me feel under too much pressure, and ill. Success for me means having life in a nice balance, earning a reasonable amount of money so I can tick off and enjoy the wide variety of things I actually enjoy. Like baking the odd cake, running, tending my orchids, playing with the cats, looking after the chickens, doing an illustration course, writing a bit, spending time on MN, having coffee with friends, spending time with the kids, spending the evening with DH, catching a film...etc. You know, just human stuff really that a job with long hours gets in the way of.

I can understand being really into work if it's something you love and are passionate about. But not everyone can find that and it's just a way to make money to fund doing all the things you actually like.

I actually did do cooking/baking for my work once and felt out of love with it because it was work. So I now keep hobbies and work separate.

KatnipEvergreen Mon 27-Jan-14 17:37:16

And I bloody love a stuffed mushroom. No-one else in the house even likes mushrooms, I would just be stuffing one for my own enjoyment!

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 17:44:39

I dont think my sample size is statistically sound yet. But 4 out of 4 isnt bad!

Ubik1 Mon 27-Jan-14 17:44:42

But in the end how you feed your baby is a side issue, has nothing to do with womens equality in the workplace, people give formula or bf for all sorts of reasons.

I do alot of shift work and find working class men do all sorts of childcare because they have to.

Perhaps 'power mums' should be more prepared to say to their partner that they have to be home for so-and-so or, indeed, "the PTA stall needs some muffins, it's 11.30pm but get your pinny on darling" grin

KatnipEvergreen Mon 27-Jan-14 17:57:04


My dad did a very male-dominated job- making steel! Retired now- age 76. He always shared things with my mum domestically and my mum was the main breadwinner at certain points, and more career oriented.

I think it was a mixture of three things:

1. His mum died of breast cancer when he was 16. His dad went to pieces and he had to look after his younger brother and sister.
2. National Service- taught him self-discipline and how to look after himself, among other things. I bet it was a nice escape from home as well. He seemed to really enjoy himself and spent a lot of time playing football and cricket!
3. He was made redundant several times and ended up being out of work for a time and changing career. And even before then he did shift work which meant he could often collect me from school and make tea etc.

KatnipEvergreen Mon 27-Jan-14 18:01:24

the PTA stall needs some muffins, it's 11.30pm but get your pinny on darling

I would never say that to my husband though. He would never say it to me either. One time he did ask me if I would mind baking some cakes for a charity cake sale at his work, but very nicely and with plenty of notice. He can bake (he made some cakes with DD1 at the weekend while I was away actually) but he knew I have a bit more experience so would find it easier than him and actually enjoy it.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 18:03:21

Katnip. Thanks for that. Yes, I should imagine that all those points helped shape the domesticity.

Can I ask if he was degree educated! grin Just for my study?!

[though has made me wonder when unis began. Or were they ever thus?]

LauraBridges Mon 27-Jan-14 18:10:34

(Universities - Oxford was been around since about 1067)

Ubik1 Mon 27-Jan-14 18:11:52

Yes but it's amazing how women feel obliged to take part in this sort of late night carry on when you know a man would think 'fuck it' and go to bed grin

KatnipEvergreen Mon 27-Jan-14 18:13:07

No, he was educated to the equivalent of A-Level. HNC I think they called in then (a bit like BTEC- HND now)

KatnipEvergreen Mon 27-Jan-14 18:15:03

Yes but it's amazing how women feel obliged to take part in this sort of late night carry on when you know a man would think 'fuck it' and go to bed

That's what I'd do. Though I've been known to get up early and bake. And make soup for lunch to take to school that day. I'm a morning person.

LittleBearPad Mon 27-Jan-14 18:24:48

Commander your posts make me sad. Do you honestly have so little expectation of men.

Although 'think of the children' was absurd.

stealthsquiggle Mon 27-Jan-14 18:28:30

LittleBear I have concluded that Commander is a refugee from the 1950s when one met nice chaps at the golf club and men were "ribbed" for admitting to any actual involvement with their offspring.

BoffinMum Mon 27-Jan-14 18:40:31

Ultimately I think successful people work out what's important to them, and let the rest drop off the bottom of the list, or delegate it. They don't agonise about trying to have everything on the list, and they have a clear sense of direction.

If they are faced with a problem, they immediately pin down the easiest solution - for example clutch goes on car, ring taxi firm, ring garage on way to work in taxi, get them to pick up car and deal with the problem, put it out of their mind until time to either authorise a repair or collect car. so it's had five minutes' attention and energy, not 35 minutes.

Multiply that time and energy saving by the amount of small irritations in a day and it adds up to quite a lot of career progress and mental space. You do end up throwing money at problems though. You can't run the UN if you are always on Money Saving Expert attempting to print out supermarket discount coupons, or clicking on special offers for Body Shop bits and pieces you don't really need every 5 minutes. It's about priorities, focus and direction. However if you like clicking around on MSE and special offers, and finding the best repair deal for your car, and baking buns, then that's fine too, but at some point you need to make a choice to rule certain things in or out.

annieorangutan Mon 27-Jan-14 18:41:02

Dh took 3 months off when dd1 was orn, he doesnt do work on one day as hes at home for childcare, he cooks, cleans, can care for as many children as necessaey and I have no qualns of leaving him with 6+ kids, he

stealthsquiggle Mon 27-Jan-14 18:42:04

I like baking. It's what I do for fun and relaxation.

DH is a far better cook than I am, but he doesn't bake.

If there is bake-sale type requirement when I am away or busy I say fuck it and go to bed shrug my shoulders and say "sorry, not this time". No one dies and there is still far too much cake.

CMOTDibbler Mon 27-Jan-14 18:44:10

If I'm able to, sometimes I make cakes for the cake stall (I like baking). Sometimes its a pack of fairy cakes from Tescos and a tub of Betty Crocker. If dh is in charge, he buys a packet of cakes, or just leaves a donation.
No worries either way tbh. I'd certainly never be up at all hours doing anything for school, and I'm fully up with minimising extraneous stuff.

BoffinMum Mon 27-Jan-14 18:53:11

What Stealth says.
if you haven't the energy or inclination, FFS don't do it!

annieorangutan Mon 27-Jan-14 18:54:19

Posted too early but Commander my point is dh is a working class man through and through. Only works with men in a hard, manly job and lots of his colleagues have taken time off for babies, leave early for school pick ups and have flexible working arrangements. The more working class you are the more it happens ime as the wives work. He does everything with the children even volunteers at the school, he can organise anything and takes all the sick days for the children.

merrymouse Mon 27-Jan-14 19:13:32

(Re: cake sales, you need a few bought cakes so that that you have the flexibility to store rather than bin left over cakes. Never feel guilty about bought cakes. Also, cake sales are there to raise money so no harm in cutting out the middle cake and just giving money).

funnyvalentine Mon 27-Jan-14 19:39:06

wordfactory that article sounds interesting! I've noticed that the most successful people I know just get on and do stuff, without overanalysing how it'll work, whether they're doing it quite right, whether now's the right time etc.

A while back I had the choice between two career paths; one less well paid with fewer hours, one very well paid with more travel and more work. I chose the latter. One of the things I thought about was that with a well paid job it'd be easy to pay for stuff. Not just outsourcing the domestic chores, but also spend less time bargain hunting, worrying about whether to get thing A or the cheaper thing B, taking advantage of discounts and promotions, searching out exactly the right present in the right budget etc. That sort of thing takes a lot of mental energy to do. I think if you can afford to spend more money, you free up more time to spend with your children when you're not working.

Another thing that occurs to me is that I find it really hard to let go of the social conditioning that I should be in charge at home and of the kids, and let DH take on the responsibility too. Don't know if that's just me, or something that other mums find too?

scottishmummy Mon 27-Jan-14 19:50:33

My potential,isn't dependent upon a man whether or not nan us equitable in domestic tasks
If you run about like a BAF working and doing all domestic tasks you're daft
Divide tasks up equitably split responsibility or source an external other to undertake task

handmedownqueen Mon 27-Jan-14 19:53:24

I find there is a real contrast between women in high powered jobs and ordinary women in both how they are judged and more importantly how they judge themselves. Im lucky enough to earn a good wage, have done well in a career and enjoy it, both Dh and I work almost full time. yet I feel very judged by the non working women at my Dcs schools, the more affluent the SAHM the more judgemental they are. Yet i work every day with loads of women in much lower paid roles than mine who work FT and dont seem to agonise or feel themselves judged in the same way. My DH often says women are the biggest critics of other women and sadly I think its true
How does it work for me? Dh fully involved and a true partner in everything, pay for a cleaner, bake for the school fair when you have time, dont agonise about it when you dont. be proud of what you do and see it as worthwhile.

TeaAddict235 Mon 27-Jan-14 19:55:33

Society is so unsupportive of high powered women because it is fearful of the effemination of men; men are scared that women will rise up and accomplish a great many things. Society (middle aged white men, more often than not) do not like the possibility of them being toppled from the "top" of the world hierarchy.

They are fearful of all the sociodemographic groups that they have oppressed for centuries and eons. Let's look at this from a bigger picture, as long as there are wars in the middle east and Africa, then those lands will pose little economic threat to Europe and the US; now apply these same considerations to the 30+ aged group of males.

annieorangutan Mon 27-Jan-14 19:56:01

I definitely dont feel that funnyvalentine abd find it utterly bizarre when women say it on here. My is and always will be more important than as I have so many ambitions. I cant possibly do as much as I do without him doing so much.

I do wish schools could be a bit more imaginative about raising money - such as holding an art exhibition of children's work (framing their best efforts) and parents could buy afterwards (I have seen this once or twice)
as opposed to the ubiquitous bake sales (where I've always thought it was slightly crazy that parents worked so hard and they were sold for "less than the cost of ingredients" - which I think is how this whole tangent started.
Not that I don't love a real village (or good school) fete or a nice piece of cake as much as the next woman smile

annieorangutan Mon 27-Jan-14 19:57:51

handmedown - Its because society sayd if you are on lower paid family who has a mum that dpesnt work then you are lazy whereas if you work full time your amazing. Its very much the view here.

KatnipEvergreen Mon 27-Jan-14 20:03:20

Schools do things like art exhibitions as well. We did that recently at the Christmas Bazaar. Cake sales are very easy to organise and cakes actually do sell like hot cakes, funnily enough, ours make £150+ a time so we have several a year, each year taking a turn to do one.

Usually parents who say "Schools could be a lot more imaginative about organising xy or z" or "Why don't you do a School Disco? are strangely absent when it comes to actually pitching up at, helping or running said event themselves. These things are not done by the magic pixies.

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 20:04:03

I think it is probably a give that Laura, Boffin and scottishmummy met their spouses at uni, or are uni educated.
So 7 out of 8. I am definitely seeing a pattern.

annie, what about yours?

fwiw, I know very few men who are uni educated. Probably only young men if I stop and think about it. No, perhaps I know 2, and 1 of them definitely does do his share of work at home.

KatnipEvergreen Mon 27-Jan-14 20:06:25

Less than the cost of ingredients is neither here nor there. You aren't running a business, there is no base cost to the PTFA. You have to pitch the cost at a level where people will a) Buy the cakes and b) Not feel pissed off by their efforts being sold at such a low price, which at our events is 40p a cake or 3 for £1. Big cupcakes are 50p each.

annieorangutan Mon 27-Jan-14 20:09:06

Met at 18 we met in the forces as I said he has no uni educated friends and every single one does 50/50 childcare. They do building, labouring, warehousing, lorry driving, carpentry etc.

They have arrangements for flexible working, took paternity leave (dh took over 3 months), volunteer at the school, do full days/weeks childcare

Commander6 Mon 27-Jan-14 20:13:27

Were those friends in the forces too?

Bonsoir Mon 27-Jan-14 20:14:13

Actually, I have a new hypothesis. I was reading another thread today, about boarding schools, and how former all boys boarding schools that have gone co-ed maintain a boys:girls ratio of 60:40 because otherwise the girls take over.

That is why society is so unsupportive of more women in senior positions.

annieorangutan Mon 27-Jan-14 20:17:48

No my friends or dhs colleagues have never been in the forces. We only did it for a couple of years and came home. Just your average working class men married or going out with nurses, accountants, social workers, managers etc.

stealthsquiggle Mon 27-Jan-14 20:19:36

Bonsoir I challenged a boarding school head on that very point. They were adamant that 60/40 ish is the point at which they reach parity of competition for places - so supply is matched to demand. I am not sure I believe them

Well, just for the record on school fetes, I've always supported by going with DC and spending, and quite often by helping out too, but I've never yet donated any cakes, though am happy enough to buy one and sit down in the school hall with a brew

KatnipEvergreen Mon 27-Jan-14 20:23:31

Good for you, Juggling.

annieorangutan Mon 27-Jan-14 20:25:30

I buy them to as when

annieorangutan Mon 27-Jan-14 20:27:08

I buy them as when I was at school if your mum used to cook them people used to bully you for being a poor family and npt having shop bought. Thats always stuck with me I would never bake cakes for mine.

Good for you too, Katnip - sounds like you also make a contribution to the life and funds of your DCs schools

Ah annie, that's sad to hear. I think home made are a bit rarer these days, and certainly highly prized, as they should be. Shop bought OK too if there's enough chocolate involved!

laterthanuthink Mon 27-Jan-14 20:33:41

This partially explains why Norwegian children do much better than British ones in the international PISA tests. The other reason is that they pay teachers better and the government doesn't interfere in the curriculum.

I know this opens up a different discussion, but it also shows that Norwegian children seem to thrive in a culture where the family is at the heart of society and people are helped and expected to live a balanced lifestyle.

Ubik1 Mon 27-Jan-14 20:48:21

it's interesting you bring up Norway. up here in Scotland the SNP wants to make it compulsory
Nicola Sturgeon said an SNP government in an independent Scotland would bring in laws to force big firms to keep 40 per cent of their top jobs for women.

Norway has a law requiring at least 40 per cent of public limited company board members to be women. The Government has already attempted to ensure that 40 per cent of public board appointments are reserved for women.

However, Ms Sturgeon said the move could be extended to private firms to boost female representation on private company boards as well.

She said: “We are still underrepresented in the governance of companies and public authorities.

“A stronger voice for women at the top table will help ensure that the policies that flow from these boards challenge inequality rather than perpetuate it.

Ubik1 Mon 27-Jan-14 20:49:35

Sorry...compulsory for 40 per cent of public limited company board members to be women...

dsteinway Mon 27-Jan-14 21:26:05

I'm a biologist and I personally think society struggles with the concept of women going back to work etc because it seems so anti biology. Not saying that's ok, just that it is a hard wired response. I mean we carried our babies for 40 weeks and we literally can provide a source of food for them, so why would we want to leave them. Babies are biologically more bonded to their mothers, it's just a fact. I'm a very career oriented person though so I totally get that it's mind numbingly boring for some to stay at home etc. I personally don't see how women return to work so quickly by choice because I was so exhausted all the time. I could not have worked, my kid didn't sleep through the night until 18 months. I was a zombie. So I say kudos to the high flyers, I think they make us look brilliant. You go girlfriend, etc

BoffinMum Mon 27-Jan-14 21:54:11

LOL I met my DH in a tapas bar and he didn't have a degree. grin

Bonsoir - that is a really interesting point. Locally we have mixed independent schools which were previously either boys or girls schools. I feel uncomfortably about sending DD to one that was a boys school due to the continuing imbalance in numbers. Though I am not quite sure why that bothers me, I just feel it might not be the right environment for DD (or maybe any girl). Perhaps my own fantastic education at a girls school makes me wary of DD being in the minority. However the ex boys school has far better facilities than the ex girls school. I still remember my mother's disgust that my school fees were substantially lower than the fees at the next door boys school.

While I am sure that the debate about a handful of independent schools might seem irrelevant to the issue of high achieving/long hours working women, I bet that a disproportionate number of them went to all girls schools. Though whether this is causative or a reflection of the options for selective education, whether fee-paying or state, I'm not sure. As education becomes increasingly mixed, we may possibly miss out on creating confident, hard working women.

While I don't particularly want DD to become a "power mum" as it doesn't appeal to me, I am attracted to the ability of a school to produce women who can see it as an achievable choice for them.

BoffinMum Mon 27-Jan-14 21:54:32

He had a great arse though gringrin

BoffinMum Mon 27-Jan-14 21:55:44

Breatheslowly, a lot of us are saying that in relation to the demise of single sex education, yes.

crazzzzycat Mon 27-Jan-14 23:48:28

Young mum was interviewed by Forbes last week. Talks about balancing being a mum with being a lawyer AND running a number of businesses (UK girl but headline was "Mom entrepreneur" or "Mompreneur" or something like that. Maybe someone can find link (I'm on my phone). Hugely inspirational but essentially I think she concluded she couldn't do it without her stay at home husband...

emmyloo2 Tue 28-Jan-14 02:34:40

I think "power Mums" aren't supported because, as someone has said upthread, it goes against societal conditioning. We are conditioned to believe that women should stay home and look after the children, particularly babies and toddlers. While there has been some progress, we still have a long way to go and to be honest, I am not sure we will ever get there.

It's a really complex issue because ultimately I think both women and men have to make choices and have to make sacrifices. It's not simply a female thing. Men also have to make choices concerning their careers. I see so many men in these senior roles, particularly in legal private practice, who work incredibly long hours, would never be home for bedtime with their children, and have SAHM. It will be these mothers who then judge me because I work full-time and have done so since my children were tiny babies. They don't seem to apply the same judgment to their husband though, who does about 10% of the parenting.

My DH and I really do "have it all" as that term applies to us. We both work FT in quite senior roles, but very much work only 9-5 in the office (and then from home in the evenings or early mornings if required). We completely share the parenting and domestic duties. It's a partnership. I don't consider myself a "power mum" at all. I am just like my DH - work full-time with two children. We are just normal people. Neither of us would want to have a role which required excessive travel or long hours at the office because we value our time with our children. But I certainly did not want to stay at home and look after the children full-time, nor did he. So we have a good balance. I hear all the time "I don't know how you do it?" yet no one asks my DH the same thing.

Until men share an equal load at home, things won't change. It's needs to change at the ground level. I hope we are setting a good example for my DS and DD by showing them both Mum and Dad work and have careers and both Mum and Dad clean and cook and make baby food. My husband was making baby food yesterday. That's completely normal for us but I can imagine it is a rareity in a lot of households. That's where the change is required.

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jan-14 08:05:28

"As education becomes increasingly mixed, we may possibly miss out on creating confident, hard working women."

I'm not sure about that - I don't think it stands up to international comparison. Many countries abolished single sex education a long time ago and women have flourished since.

LauraBridges Tue 28-Jan-14 08:50:09

emmyloo, similar to many couples who work full time. In fact I think that's the norm where both work full time. You usually try at least one of you to get home on time.

Someone suggested above it could be hard to understand women going back to work quickly full time wanting to. We do exist (just as men who go back quickly exist). We aren't forced into it. It's not that in an ideal world we'd be a home. We just want to get back quickly and think that benefits us and the family.

stealthsquiggle Tue 28-Jan-14 08:57:59

Bonsoir - we will do if we don't get it right. There is something going on in the UK education system that causes girls to opt out of STEM subjects between 11 and 14. When I talk to women across Europe (and, interestingly, especially the Middle East) about this a lot of them look at me blankly as STEM courses are >50% women in their experience. I don't know what it is that is different, but there is something sad

wordfactory Tue 28-Jan-14 09:05:16

stealth from the perspective of having boy-girl twins going through their GCSEs at different single sex schools, I can only say that the style of teaching is very different.

In those early teen years it seemed to matter a great deal (and this would chime with your observation about girls dropping out between 11-14). Years seven and eight were key, I think, for the girls.

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jan-14 09:12:42

stealthsquiggle - that trend has nothing to do with single sex or mixed education and everything to do with the fact that children are allowed to opt out of core subjects in the UK whereas most of the sane world doesn't let them!

stealthsquiggle Tue 28-Jan-14 09:21:30

The fact that all DC are allowed to opt out (wrong, I agree) doesn't explain the gender imbalance in which subjects they opt out of, though.

Slipshodsibyl Tue 28-Jan-14 09:50:10

I disagree with the reason for 60/40 boarding proportions being that girls take over. I believe heads would be happy for girls to take over if it helped their exams results along, which is part if the reason they started to take girls in the first place. I do wonder if too many girls might be seen by some to over feminize the traditions and values of the old boys' schools, though I don't see this is the case.

I think the reason is because parents are far less keen to board girls than they are boys. It is reported that parents see boarding as fostering independence and that they prize independence in sons far more than in daughters.

I know a significant number of families where the boys have boarded and the girls have attended day schools or where boys are paid for and girls not. The reasons given are several (each child is different etc etc) but even if one believes them entirely, there is still an idea that girls are different and are better cared for within the family.

I know quite a lot of people my age from various economic and educational backgrounds whose parents have explicitly and confidently expressed the idea that the education of boys is more important than that of girls. Times have changed but There is a part of me that feels that that idea is still implicit but unspoken or explained away by the notion that their needs somehow differ.

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jan-14 09:53:26

The gender imbalance shows up in the same way in every country as soon as DC are allowed to make free choices.

It's called innate biological preference.

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jan-14 09:56:23

I think that boys and girls do not have identical needs (on average) and that, perhaps, it is harder to cater to boys' needs at home than it is to girls' needs, particularly in restrictive urban environments.

wordfactory Tue 28-Jan-14 09:59:58

But if it's innate Bonsoir why do we not see the same trend in single sex schools.

In single sex schools we do see girls choosing and excelling in STEM, and boys choosing and excelling in MFL etc

Slipshodsibyl Tue 28-Jan-14 10:01:01

Quite possibly Bonsoir. But this would explain the imbalance of girls/boys at boarding to schools and suggests the heads are telling the truth about parity of applications wouldn't

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jan-14 10:03:15

Because single-sex schools are a form of social engineering to promote ends that counter biology.

When those single-sex pupils get out into the wider world, they revert to type (this might take a while - mid-life crisis anyone?). As humans tend to!

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jan-14 10:05:47

It would support the heads' position, slipshodsybil.

Slipshodsibyl Tue 28-Jan-14 10:09:20

That is an interesting point. But if single sex promote social engineering against biological bent, can't mixed schools be said to exaggerate the effects of biology?

wordfactory Tue 28-Jan-14 10:09:58

Oh come on Bonsoir the world is bursting with co-educated mid life crisis sufferers.

The divorce courts are full of them grin.

stealthsquiggle Tue 28-Jan-14 10:15:53

Actually, I think given that we are talking about a tiny sector of the education marker (independent boarding schools) there is another possible explanation. There are very, very few boys-only boarding schools left, whereas there are a relatively healthy number of girls-only ones. I think the 60/40 could be explained by the fact that more parents choose single sex boarding for their daughters than do for their sons. I am not sure the numbers add up, though.

The head I was talking to acknowledged that it used to be the case that there was more competition for girls' places than for boys', which had all sorts of impacts (because the girls were then, on average, more able than the boys) but said that he thought they had now reached the point that the 'cut off' levels for boys and girls were pretty much the same, leaving the school more balanced, and that was with a 60/40 balance. To be fair, changing the proportion takes a long time for these schools - we looked at one school which is running with a boarding house at 20% of capacity because they are "emptying" it to change it to a girls house. That's a huge sacrifice of revenue and something which takes 5 years from decision to being able to start using it as a girls house.

Slipshodsibyl Tue 28-Jan-14 10:17:19

'When those single-sex pupils get out I to the wiser world they revert to type'

This suggest seems to that they haven't been allowed to play to their strengths while at school but have been encouraged to study against their natural talents. I have several daughters who attend/ed mixed, and from mid teens, single sex schools. None of them or their friends were pushed into areas against their inclination - and mine have their strengths in more traditionally female subjects. They are encouraged to see themselves as very competent in all areas though and I acknowledge that stem subjects are encouraged for those who have the aptitude.

Slipshodsibyl Tue 28-Jan-14 10:17:47

Sorry, 'this seems to suggest...'

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jan-14 10:21:39

Calm down, wordfactory. I wasn't suggesting that there was a single reason for mid-life crises. You need to work on your logic!

Slipshodsibyl Tue 28-Jan-14 10:29:50

But Bonsoir, if it takes until mid-life for this crisis to occur, who is to say what is the cause? societal pressure maybe? If you are suggesting that single sex schools are press ganging students into subjects that don't suit them, only for biology to express itself years later, I don't agree.

wordfactory Tue 28-Jan-14 10:40:39

Oh Bonsoir you do make me PMSL grin.

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jan-14 10:52:13

That is exactly what I am suggesting, slipshodsybil. Not that I think for a second that there are easy answers.

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jan-14 10:54:58

You can never ever admit to slipping up, can you, wordfactory? wink

wordfactory Tue 28-Jan-14 11:23:14

Bonsoir I think you mistake the importance of MN.

It's just a place to shoot the breeze. It's completely anonymous and no one cares what anyone thinks of them. There's no winning, losing or point scoring.

We come here for entertainment and you always entertain me massively, albeit I know you don't mean to grin...

pickledsiblings Tue 28-Jan-14 11:28:01

As usual Bonsoir's prism of self-justification contorts her own reality.

I'm a STEM graduate and postgraduate and remain utterly fascinated by such subjects. No mid-life crisis looming either despite being educated at an all girls school.

LauraBridges Tue 28-Jan-14 12:09:37

I have ensured all the children of both genders go do single sex (day) schools.
Boys boarding schools take girls because girls do better in exams and plenty of parents pick schools on the basis of exam grades these days.

stealthsquiggle Tue 28-Jan-14 12:21:37

pickledsiblings - same here.

Trouble is, people keep asking me why girls give up STEM subjects - and I have to point out that there is not much point asking one who didn't why most others did - they need to go and ask them hmm

stealthsquiggle Tue 28-Jan-14 12:23:10

(although apparently I have the answer now - I didn't give up because I was pushed, against my nature, into continuing maths and physics because I was in a single sex school. Only issue with that explanation is that out of 30 girls in my year I was the only one doing physics A level grin)

KatnipEvergreen Tue 28-Jan-14 14:04:30

There were a core of boys who were always pratting about in science lessons, especially chemistry so it was all about crowd control rather than teaching. We had to wait outside science labs which always meant loads of moshing and fights. Also dual award science is shit anyway, as anyone who went on to do A-Level in any single science subject soon found out.

Maths teaching was patchy. I was good at maths when I had a good teacher and not when I didn't. For the last two years I had a rubbish teacher who couldn't explain anything and I barely scraped a C. After getting 97% in a test prior to starting GCSE studies.

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