Laura Wade-Gery, the woman predicted to be the next boss of M and S (and a woman who frequently speaks out about the lack of women in high-powered roles in the work-place) is all over the news at the moment. The reason for this unprecedented level of media interest is that she is 50, having her first baby and planning on returning to work four months after giving birth.
Let's get the age issue out of the way first. She's 50. That's quite old. But quite frankly it's none of our business to judge. She is quite obviously a driven woman with a lot of energy and she will no doubt channel a lot of this spirit and energy towards her new baby.
But what about the fact that a high powered business woman is planning on having a baby and being behind her desk within four months? Her decision has sparked the predictable outrage on social media forums and by the usual suspects in the papers with cries of "She can't have it all", "Why bother having a baby if you're just going to palm it off to a nanny after four months?" and "She'll never manage it. She'll miss her baby too much"......
Well for what it's worth, here's my view:
When we had Poppy I was petrified that all the work that I had put into my career for so many years would go to waste. I knew that there were laws to protect women but I also knew that taking a year out from my radio show might be detrimental to my career so I headed back to work after three months. In my case, it was too soon and put an amazing amount of pressure on both me and my husband. I'd go to work first thing in the morning, catch a few hours of sleep when I got home and then be mummy for the rest of the day. I was exhausted and was spreading myself too thin and my husband was equally exhausted after being up with Poppy in the night and then doing a full day at the office. However, we struggled through together and it paid off. Here we are one and a half years later and I'm so grateful to have a job where I can be with Poppy and continue doing what I love. I'm incredibly lucky and know that a lot of my friends who have gone back to work full time find it very tough. They feel guilty and miss their children so very much. However, whether it is for money reasons or because they love their jobs and don't want to give up the career that they have worked so hard for, they put on a brave face, work their proverbials off and somehow still manage to be great mums.
But what about the men? Does anyone for a moment consider how hard it is for them? They don't get three weeks with their new baby, let alone four months. They return to work and are expected to put on a brave face even though they are exhausted and most probably missing their new baby terribly. What about the growing number of men who get post natal depression? Has anyone considered that men may find it just as hard as women but due to cultural expectations are expected to just get on with it and put on a brave face while they return to their high powered jobs.
This leads me to my main point. If Laura wants to return to her job after four months then why the hell shouldn't she? I'm sure that it won't be easy and there will be times when, however strong she is, she'll cry in the work loos because she misses her baby so much. However there is no reason that she will do any less of a good job than a male counterpart in the same position. You see no parent can have it all whether male or female. We're all struggling to be the best we can be for our children and in the work place and it's bloody hard. Yes women are traditionally more emotional and they of course are the only ones who can produce milk, but apart from that is there really that much of a difference between men and women? Is it society that has created a world where women are somehow judged as being more vulnerable and emotional and therefore less likely to be able to handle the big jobs? Are the male bosses who seem so confident and able also crying in the loos because they miss their children so much? We'll probably never know because they'll never admit it. but it is very possible.
What I'm trying to say is that being a parent and having a career is hard but there is no reason why a woman will be any less able to handle it than a man. If Laura Wade-Gery wants to go back to work after four months then we must not judge her. There's no reason that she'll be any less capable or miss her new child any less than a man in exactly the same position.