Keeping mum

One of my friends is going back to work today after being on maternity leave for 11 months. She’s bought a couple of dresses, had her hair cut into a new choppy style, and can’t wait to start thinking about something other than the contents of her baby’s nappy or weaning again.

But mixed in with her excitement is the fear of how it’s going to work day to day – if her child is ill and wants her mum, for example.

Her boss is a man, but in my experience, it’s not men who make problems for working mums – it’s other women. If they haven’t got children themselves, you can usually forget any tolerance or understanding whatsoever. And if they have, they can be even worse.

One colleague insisted on blocking out every school holiday for herself, to the despair of the other mums in the office. A mum of two I know was made to feel like a leper by her boss (also a mum of two) after she took time off because her childminder was sick, making it impossible for her to go in to the office. And one of my former bosses gave me a hard time for being absent for three days, even though she knew that the reason I had been off was because my seven-year-old had been rushed to hospital after suffering a very serious asthma attack and I had been at his bedside the whole time.

In the current climate it’s difficult to simply walk away from a job. Which is why another friend – a single mum – is working increased hours and taking a month’s unpaid leave just to keep hers. It means her little boy will see more of her in the summer – but things will be much tighter at home.

Mums are a vital part of the workforce – it’s time all employers, especially other mums, treated them that way.

written by Liz Jarvis