The Brutal Truth Every Millennial Mum Learns: There’s No Overcoming The Sexist Childcare Chasm

New statistics about women being forced out of work by poor childcare provision will leave many mums feeling knowingly hopeless.

childcare chasm

by Rhiannon Evans |
Updated on

There were a lot of issues growing up as a woman as a Millennial - the toxic body image issues for starters. But there were some pros too - and the rise of Girl Power and the belief instilled within you (ironic given the actual reality of the world around us and the toxic misogyny that was everywhere) that girls could rule the world felt good at the time.

It's something a lot of Millennial women will still have hard-wired into them - and it echoes in every moment of their pop culture upbringing (from The Spice Girls to Buffy The Vampire Slayer to Beyonce). Yes, Gen Z have tried to tell us in a lot of think pieces that the idea of The Girl Boss was as problematic as anything else and that trying to 'have it all' is a myth that we should swap for Quiet Quitting and eschewing burnout - but for many of us that whole identity of shouty 'WE CAN DO IT TOO!' is hard to shift.

It's one of the many reasons I believe I - and many female peers I know - found the shift into motherhood so jarring and brutal. After years of being told the free world was our oyster, suddenly biology physically pins you under a 9lb weight. And then societal barriers come in once it can happily toddle off...

Because as that child grows, the chasm opens up even further when childcare comes into play. For many of us - fortunately blinded by our privilege no doubt, but still - motherhood finally teaches us that no, Girls Don't Rule The World. And one of the main reasons for that? The working world and the political and economic structures around the world don't support the idea of a working mother. And neither do the childcare options in this country. Many of us will remember our first experiences of sexism much younger - but for many of us the day you fear you'll never overcome it and feel broken by that thought, comes with motherhood.

This week,Totaljobs in partnership with the Fawcett Society produced another report that many women will have felt in their soul.

It found that while one in five mothers have considered leaving work because of childcare issues, when it came to dads that figure fell to one in 10. In short, mothers are twice as more likely to consider the ultimate workplace/childcare sacrifice - having to give up.

It's a story you'll have read and know - there's depressingly nothing new in this report. Most mums will have experienced or know a mum who has experienced: being the parent who is always called by nursery, being the one overlooked for promotion knowing why a man got it (even a father), not going for a better job or promotion because it's not flexible, not taking opportunities and fun work trips because nights away from the children aren't possible (or you worry you shouldn't), being afraid to ask for flexible working, staying quiet after hearing colleagues slag off other mums but longing to be home in time for bedtime instead of sat at your desk, being told flexible work isn't possible because 'other people would want it too', looking at your male partner when you kids falls sick/nursery closes/there's an inset day and knowing that they earn more and what's about to be decided, worrying about your job safety in rounds of redundancy because you're a mother, trying not to talk about your kids at work, being judged if you are able to make that progression and manage it - there's really no winning.

Even if you have a supportive partner and you try your level best to make sure things are equal, the world around you will not support that decision. Whether that's your workplace assuming as a woman you'll be the one doing pick up and therefore making a judgement or (as happened to me) even a nursery expressing shock (and even mentioning as a concern) that 'Dad does a lot of the pick-ups'.

I hope there are women reading this piece who think I'm wrong - I've not met them.

More stats from The Totaljobs in partnership with the Fawcett Society report: more than a quarter of a million mums have left their jobs due to childcare pressures, 27% of mothers feel uncomfortable discussing the support they need with their boss, 27% say they've had a negative reaction that stopped them asking again. Only 31% of parents surveyed had access to flexible working. 84% of mothers face challenges returning to work after maternity leave, 44% of mothers say they feel MORE ambitious after having a baby, but 79% face barriers trying to advance their career. 31% of mother feel stuck in their current job due to the flexibility it has, despite being able to earn more or advance in a different job. 23% of mums avoid mentioning their childcare responsibilities.

It goes on.

Joeli Brearley, CEO and Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed said: 'This data confirms what we have always known. Women face a penalty in terms of pay and perceived competence from the point that they become pregnant. It is a penalty that men don’t encounter when they become dads.

'Some of this penalty could be reduced by creating an affordable childcare system - something the Government has recently promised but separate data is showing it is unlikely to be delivered. But we also need properly paid paternity leave so that dads are enabled to do more of the caring, and stronger flexible working legislation. If we can end the motherhood penalty there are huge benefits for children, business and the economy.'

That makes it sound simple. Probably something we could've worked out. Definitely within the last quarter of a century since Girl Power supposedly reigned... And yet, here we are.

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