THE BLOG

Mums: Damned if We Do, Damned if We Don't (Work)

30/04/2013 12:58 BST | Updated 29/06/2013 10:12 BST

Not a week goes by without seeing something in the media about working mothers. From the government's latest initiatives to help working mothers stay working (and the ensuing backlash from stay at home mums) to the controversy surrounding Sheryl Sandberg's suggestion we 'lean in', there is constant debate on this topic.

Everyone - male or female, with or without children - seems to have a very definite opinion when it comes to the topic of working mums.

Personally, I welcomed the news that from 2015 parents will be able to claim back up to £1,200 per child in childcare costs, as it helps to free up mums who want to work but can't because of the prohibitive nature of child care costs in the UK. As a nation, we have not given enough support to working mothers and affordable childcare continues to be a huge challenge for families.

At Little Dish, we are committed to providing support and flexibility to the working parents on our team and are therefore very encouraged by the prospect that those working for small business will be eligible for help. Equally encouraging is the eligibility for self-employed parents who are running or considering starting their own business.

Not everyone was as encouraged by the announcement. Stay-at-home mothers have accused the Government of forcing them to abandon their children and return to work. 'Mothers at Home Matter', a pressure group, has warned ministers that their policies are 'misguided' and risk the 'cohesion of society' by undermining the family. Somehow this support for working mothers has been perceived as lack of support for mums who are at home. I'm not sure why there is so much animosity.

I think it's a real shame Mums aren't more supportive of each other - there seems to be an invisible line drawn between those 'who do' and those 'who don't' (work). In my opinion there is no right or wrong here. It comes down to what works for each individual family. And we need to recognise that in many cases there isn't even room for personal choice. Many families need two incomes to cover the basic costs of living even if the mother wants stay home with her children. And many families decide the cost of childcare does not warrant both parents working, even if the mother would love nothing more than to return to her job.

And in the instances where women are lucky enough to have a choice, more often than not they choose the option which sets them up to be the best mother they can be. That might mean giving up their career (temporarily or permanently) to focus entirely on raising their children. Or that might mean returning to work because they are an infinitely better mother during their non-work time than they would be if they were home 24/7.

The point is that being a mum, whether you are working or not working, is no easy feat. Shouldn't we be supportive of each other regardless of our choice (or non-choice) about whether to work or not? At the very least, surely we shouldn't pass judgment on each other.