Huffpost Women
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Anna Claeys Headshot

Maternity-Leave 'Mumtrepeneurs'? Get Real

Posted: Updated:

Just had a baby? Taking maternity leave? All that free time! Better learn a language, take up a hobby, or why not start your own business? That's what Stylist women do: their 'smart, successful, and sophisticated' female readership apparently uses their maternity leave to "reinvent their work lives" and become - wait for it - mumtrepeneurs. High-achieving women who successfully balance their work and family life should always be credited as role models. But to claim, shortly after childbirth, that this is attainable or even desirable for most working women is just plain crazy.

Above all, it's a class issue. Stylist readers must be the epitome of middle-class suburban mums; all four women interviewed are blonde Caucasians. The idea of lounging around during your maternity leave, spending the morning in coffee shops with other mums - having enough time to quit your job and create a business plan - just screams high-income husbands, supportive and available family members, pre-school daycare and nannies. In the middle of the worst recession of almost a century, you'd have to be extremely lucky to get that chance.

Single mothers, women claiming income support, or mothers in two-parent families struggling to get by, can hardly be in a position to leave a job - let alone take out a bank loan or conjure up the capital to start a business. Which, by the way, is the case for the vast majority of working women. Stylist needs a reality check.

Secondly, it's demeaning to motherhood that society should pressure women into having a high-flying career so soon after having children. Now I've never had a baby, but some people (and it's just rumours I hear) say the first few months are no easy feat. Something about sleepless nights, constant feeding, crying, hormones flying. Apparently not for Laura Tenison, MBE and business owner, both of whose children were born on Fridays, conveniently allowing her to return to work on Monday. Or Justine Roberts, co-founder of the successful website Mumsnet, who "wrote a business plan with one twin on each knee".

One comment remarked how inspirational these women are. These cases certainly are - but that doesn't mean non-mumtrepeneurs (I can make up words too) are not inspiring.

So yes, these women are amazing - but they're not the norm, and nor should they be seen as such. My own mum, certainly middle-class, suburban and with a careerist husband, recalls barely finding time to shower or go grocery shopping when she had twin babies and a two-year-old girl: anyone who thinks she spent those first few months pondering how to 'reinvent her career' must be mad.

Mothers who want to get back into work quickly should be given the full support to do so. Especially after the initial maternity period is over. But pushing a human being out of your vagina and subsequently protecting and nurturing it 24/7- 365 for its first vulnerable years is also a tough, admirable full-time job - and needs to be seen as such.

So if you manage to juggle starting a new business career with maternity leave, good for you. But don't let Stylist tell you that if you aren't a mumtrepeneur (and I think I speak for everyone when I want to vomit at that word) you aren't a smart, successful and sophisticated woman.