I'm shocked. I've just read that Marlene Schiappa (France's 34-year-old minister for equality and the youngest member of President Macron's cabinet) has publicly encouraged mothers NOT to give their mobile numbers to their children's schools. "Give the dad's number instead, so when your child is ill, the school will phone him", she apparently urges. "My children's school knows there's no point calling me because I won't answer", an article in The Times states that she preaches.
Times are changing and perhaps the idea would appeal to a few of the growing number of working mothers. In fact, almost three quarters of women with dependent children in England are in full-time or part-time employment. The number of working mothers has risen from 3.7 million in 1996 to 4.9 million (ONS/The Guardian)
But as a working mother, who juggled my children with growing my business JoJo Maman Bebé from a kitchen table start -up to where we are today - trying and of course failing to 'have it all', I'm horrified. How can her stance solve the problem and which mother would NOT want to be the first one to rush to the school to collect a sick child?
I agree it's not true for all women, but MOST mothers want to be the primary carer. Whist exhausting, we love the close time with our newborns as we feed them at night, we don't begrudge the sacrifices and energy we put in, the doing without so our loved one have what they need. It is not sacrifice, it is what makes us mums.
I miss my mum so much. She died 4 years ago but I think about her daily - when I'm worried about my children, tired after a long day at work, upset or need comfort. We argued like mothers and daughters often do, but I never doubted she loved me and she would have done anything for me - including taking the difficult path of disciplining my behaviour and not spoiling me by succumbing to all my demands. More than anything I never doubted she would drop everything if I was in need.
Of course we women want equality and wage parity in the workplace, progression opportunity despite taking maternity leave and a partner who pitches in at home, is kind, helpful, understanding, generous and loving. If you achieve all that congratulations - you are unbelievably lucky - most of us settle for a great deal less in our partners and make compromises on our ambition. But it's all worth it in order to spend time with our babies and children.
All I can say is "Marlene - don't miss out. Your children are more important than your career and if Monsieur Macron does not understand that, get another job."