International Women’s Day 2023
It is International Women’s Day (8th March 2023). The theme this year is Embrace Equality. Today is a day to celebrate women’s achievements, increase visibility, while calling out inequality. In this blog, FLiP’s in-house therapist, Andrew Pearce, highlights the juggles a woman may face when returning to the workplace after maternity leave.
A risky business……or so it feels having been asked to write this piece as a man!
I’m pretty sure it also feels like a “risky business” in many ways for women returning to the workplace after maternity leave. That is what I was asked to write about by a woman who has recently done just that.
In many ways I don’t feel particularly well qualified to comment. My wife and I have 4 children, the youngest of whom is now fast approaching 22 (I feel SO old!). However, reflecting back to when we started our family, I was working for M&S and I was the 1st ever male job-share which I combined with retraining as a Psychotherapist and being Dad. So perhaps I have some insight into the juggling of multiple, simultaneous, conflicting demands. I was very fortunate to have good support at home and work and, in addition, professional support when needed.
In some ways the world has changed a great deal in the last 20 years. We are becoming far more culturally open and inclusive of parents regardless of orientation, gender or sexuality. 50 years ago much of that would have been unheard of. There is legislation, work practices etc. all of which have evolved to facilitate a better balance between work and parenthood.
In many other ways the fundamentals of motherhood have not changed in millennia. At a physiological and emotional level, nature is oblivious to 21st Century culture and this is exclusively a female phenomenon. Motherhood includes things that I can never experience such as the maternal bond and adjustments to physiological changes. There is also a long legacy of directly or indirectly penalising women who have taken time away from work to care for children.
Then there are the practical concerns of returning to work after any prolonged period of absence such as lack of confidence, re-evaluation of priorities, logistical dilemmas regarding childcare, being overlooked or discriminated against in one way or another.
Undoubtedly there is more to do to support returning parents regardless of gender, sexuality, relationship status etc. I was talking to a client in Holland recently who was telling me how much further on we are in the UK. There is no room for complacency and yet it is important to recognise the progress that has been made in my lifetime. Legislative and childcare cost reforms are largely out of most of our control.
What we can influence is supporting, celebrating and valuing the importance of raising children and the challenges that brings in our modern world. Also, when we are in need of additional support, be proactive about seeking it out to ensure we look after our own needs as well as everything else!
Given enough capability and motivation:
- Being a success at work is reasonably achievable.
- Being a success as a parent is reasonably achievable.
Perhaps the greatest challenge remains being a success in both contexts.
Today of all days let’s celebrate the women who are striving to do both.
Equality & diversity is key to everything we do at Family Law in Partnership. We strive to provide a work place in which all contributions are valued and differences are cherished. This applies to the team at FLiP but also to the people we come into contact with on a day to day basis whether they are clients or others.