Modern Day Living
Modern-day living has a LOT to answer for. I blame it for many of the stresses and worries I feel which have significantly increased since I became a mother. I’m also sporting the added wrinkles and grey hair to show for it! Yes some things are amazing such as the advances in medicine, technology and the rest (I personally wouldn’t fancy going back to the Victorian era). But other things are not. Living away from family and friends, London house prices, long working hours and commuting are just a few of life’s soul-suckers. In regards to family life, the problems are even greater with expensive childcare often being at the heart of financial strains and relationship issues. Mothers of young children may want to continue working or feel they’re expected to but it isn’t always financially viable. They therefore may have to give up their career or effectively work to pay for childcare. We all know the saying ‘it takes a village to bring up a child’ but most of us don’t have a village or even a local support network. And this isn’t just a female or mother issue, men and fathers are also on the receiving end of all the stress too. We just aren’t meant to live as we currently are and I’m convinced this is why our mental health is suffering.
Speaking as a now 4-day a week full-time mum, I have struggled with the same dilemma every mother has; to work or not to work. It’s not straightforward and it’s weighing up the importance of career and future job prospects alongside extortionate childcare costs versus a desire to look after Nella. I had to make the difficult decision not to go back to work at the magazine publishing company I loved because it wouldn’t have worked financially for the family. Plus, I’d have had to negotiate an early finish for the nursery pick-up meaning I’d miss crucial work events. I now work from home a few hours each week and Nella goes to nursery one day a week which gives me some of the balance I’ve been craving.
I was listening to Melinda Gates on Woman’s Hour a few months ago and she was saying how much she loved work and even though she also wanted to bring up her kids, she felt it was important she was able to work too. Bill Gates therefore started helping and began driving the kids to school a few times a week. Her message was that both parents should participate in bringing up the kids. If I’m honest I found listening to her pretty annoying because she seemed to miss the point that for most ‘normal’ people it isn’t that easy in practice. I very much doubt anyone will question Bill Gates when he arrives into the office late after driving his kids to school but the reality for most men is that they simply wouldn’t able to turn up late without putting their job at risk. Or even if their job makes allowances, it may be frowned upon and they therefore feel too guilty to take advantage of it. I’m also sure Melinda’s pay cheque at the end of the month is bigger than my annual salary and the cost of childcare isn’t exactly an issue in their household (me? Bitter?!).
There seems to be so much written about mothers going back to work and trying to strike a balance but there isn’t enough said about fathers (or partners). We are striving for equality but in order for this to happen, we also need to support men too. It’s only through Andy I’ve discovered that actually modern men don’t have it easy. They’re expected to do so much; predominately they’re still the bread winners but they also help at home and with the kids. And the thing is, many men desperately want to spend more time with their families but flexible working isn’t always an option. It therefore makes it more stressful for both parties. In regards to my personal situation, I’d rather not be solely responsible for Nella throughout the week, I’d also like a career and to contribute to my pitiful pension pot. I know Andy would rather not work long hours all week – we wish we could share responsibilities and both have the option of working and looking after Nella. But the reality is, it doesn’t work like that.
In order for mothers to have more of a chance of going back to work; their partners also need a degree of flexibility to help with things like the nursery/school pick-ups and drop-offs. Without supporting men (and partners) too, we’ll never get the balance right for everyone. Living in London is particularly hard as there’s the extra hassle of commuting which is time consuming and adds extra stress making it even harder to make the time for the school run.
I hope the flexappeal campaign gathers more support over the forthcoming years. It’s time things changed for all of us. We can’t continue living with all this mounting stress. Happier people work more effectively after-all.