Ok, so this one is pretty hackneyed. Everybody’s been talking about it for years and years, nobody’s got a clue what’s to be done, and to be quite honest I believe everybody’s a bit sick of the whole issue!
I’m talking of course about the eternal question of what women are going to do about the fact that they may want to have simultaneous family and career development.
Also known as “what the frick am I going to do when I want to have kids???”
This one is particularly pertinent to SK Chase, as with the exception of Dean and the one fish Marvin that has escaped the SK Chase curse of death to date (see Poor Little Gerald, we’ve been cruelly robbed of another 3 goldfish and an algae-eater since then, pesky white spot…) we’re all girls here at SK Chase. In fact, we’re all women of childbearing age.
So what’s going to happen?
In a room-full of intelligent, entrepreneurial women, why is it so difficult to come up with a satisfactory answer to this one? Kaye, Steph and I were sitting round a table a few days ago debating the issue, each of us in turn sharing our sketchy plan for how best to “have it all” when the time comes.
The first thing we agreed on was that the phrase “having it all” was actually pretty offensive. It immediately illustrates the inequality of opportunity between men and women – why is having a successful career and family life “having it all” for women, but completely a matter of course for men? The thought that our respective husbands might sit round a table talking seriously with each other about “having it all” had us all chuckling wryly…
That’s not to say that we’re embittered feminists, whingeing about our lot as mere females, we were thinking about the issue more from a problem-solving perspective – and it really is a problem!
Firstly, there’s the issue of maternity leave. Imagine if Steph, Kaye and I arrived in to work one morning and announced that we were all expecting; what on earth would we do at the realisation that all three of us were due to take nine months off at the same time? Would we teach the one remaining algae-eater to take strategic decisions, update the websites and answer the phones? What would happen if he too succumbed to the dreaded white spot?
Then there’s the likelihood that one or more of us might want to reduce our hours in order to spend more time with our new families; does this mean that our respective careers would stagnate and we’d stop developing as businesswomen because it’s not feasible to carry a senior role through into reduced hours without reducing the responsibility accordingly? (Not to mention the salary…but don’t get me started on that!)
At one point I suggested turning the boardroom into a crèche, with each working mother taking one day out of the business each week to care for all the bambini; great idea until we need the boardroom for a meeting and our guests have to clear baby wipes and rusk crumbs from their seats before getting down to business. Mmmmm – professionalism!
As completely launched as this idea may sound, I suspect that the answer we eventually come up with will sound similarly barking. This is not a new problem, if the answer was easy then somebody would have thought of it by now. There are universally embedded cultural barriers to what we’re contemplating, and these won’t be done away with in a moment.
Maybe there will come a day when it’s in no way inappropriate to bring your baby to work, and a generation of career women will strap their young on to their backs and carry on with more or less what they were doing before – with the exception of a play, a feed and a nappy change at regular intervals.
I can now imagine an army of militant mothers protesting at this, and insisting that no matter how well you prepare for motherhood, you can never assume to go on as if nothing has changed. I fully accept that, and completely agree – children are certainly not a lifestyle accessory that you can pick up and put down as dictated by you career. However, as far as positive role models go, a loving and attentive mother going about her business in business without having to sacrifice time with her child to do so is about as good as it gets in my book.
Who knows? We’ve already more or less done away with the cultural stereotype that required women to wear funereal black power suits to be deemed credible in business, why not do the same for a shoulder-full of baby spew and a rattle? As Steph said the other day “As soon as you catch yourself saying ‘but that’s the way we’ve always done it’, you know there’s something wrong.”
And I couldn’t agree more!