Are Working Mums Just Lazy?

Poor Kelly Brook!

She’s been talking about how annoying it is when women she works with use their kids as an excuse when they can’t make it to a meeting or meet a deadline. As a non-mother herself, it must be very frustrating to work so hard and show up 100% of the time, only to be consistently let down by women who have children.

“I don’t have children, so I don’t always understand,” she said on ITV1’s Loose Women this week. “But I do work with some women that if they can’t make an appointment or can’t do something, or there is a deadline, and some people will always say, ‘Oh, it’s because I have to wash the baby or feed the kids,’ or, ‘I’ve got to do the school run.’” She continued, “Others have kids and you never even hear about the kids. They are very professional and I love that.”

Of course, the implication that talking about your children makes you seem unprofessional provoked a very large eye roll from me. It seems crazy that in 2018, we’re still in a place where childcare is deemed as something which should be swept under the carpet in the workplace – Don’t mention the kids!! – when it’s seen as perfectly reasonable to tell your boss or colleagues that your pipes have burst / your trains have been cancelled / you’ve got a migraine. All of these things are ‘personal’ issues, so why are women being discouraged from talking about the personal issue of motherhood?

During the same Loose Women episode, Ruth Langsford chips in and admits that when her son Jack was small, and poorly, she’d tell her boss that she was unwell, rather than risk looking unprofessional by talking about her ill child. She’s not alone in her thinking – I recently saw a conversation unfold on a Facebook group for female journalists where people suggested it would be a bad idea to tell an editor that you needed to know asap about whether a potential piece of work would be happening because you had to arrange childcare. It was fine to mention travel concerns, apparently, but not appropriate to bring family into the conversation.

But in reality, being a parent brings with it a bunch of logistical challenges – yes, Kelly, things like the school run or getting home for bath time – that need to be overcome on a daily basis, and this shouldn’t be viewed as being any different to the other logistics in our lives. Kelly’s views feel like yet another example of motherhood being a diminished status, with less value in the world, than non-mothers have.

Writer Samantha Brick agrees with Kelly Brook, and takes things even further by declaring that working mums don’t work as hard as women without children. “Us women who don’t have children are sick and tired of working mothers using their brood as an excuse,” she writes. “They turn up late. They leave early. They spend an eye-popping amount of time of their working day on the phone organising their offspring. They refuse to go to meetings away from the office. If their kid is sick it is as though the world has tilted on its axis and they too have caught the ailment. Ladies – it’s about time you put your big girl pants on and left your family outside of the office.”

I think I can safely speak for most working mums and say we’re already wearing our big girl pants – in fact some of us are running businesses making and selling big girl pants. Of course, in this world, you will always come across people who are just a bit lazy. We’ve all worked with someone who rocks up late, takes longer lunch hours than they should (especially on a sunny June day), comes in a bit hungover achieving next to nothing and can often be found in the office kitchenette taking a rather long time making that cup of tea with a colleague… no one’s denying that these people exist. And yes, some of them will be mums. But let’s not conflate the two issues – to say that working mums use their offspring as an excuse to be lazy is a huge misunderstanding of what it is to navigate parenthood and working life.

There’s a reason that ‘work/life balance’ and ‘juggling’ are over-used, tired clichés in parenting articles and conversations between mums – it’s because the vast majority of parents are desperately trying to be brilliant at both their job and bringing up their children. Many see it as an (admittedly tough) challenge, keen to prove to their employer that they’re just as committed and hard-working as they ever were. It’s common to hear mums talking about dashing home from the office at 5pm, collecting their child, making tea, doing bath and bedtime, then when others are kicking back with a glass of wine and Love Island, they open the laptop and catch up on a couple of hours of work.

Let’s think about the word ‘mumpreneur’ for a second (sorry for making you think about it, I know, it’s a horrible word). Would that word even exist if there weren’t thousands of mothers up and down the land all applying themselves to the working world in a very serious and committed way?

Samantha Brick does make a good point when she says that everyone has lives and commitments outside of work. “What many mums forget is that all of us have lives and family commitments outside the office,” she says. “Our responsibilities are just as important as yours.” Which is why we shouldn’t be pointing the finger, telling others that they’re lazy and coming up with excuses. Everyone has a life outside of work, and at one point or another, we’re all going to have to be late / leave early / miss important meetings because of something that life throws up at us. Is it helping anyone to play the “My personal life is more important than yours” game?

So Samantha and Kelly, all I can suggest is that you surround yourself with less lazy people – there are so many hard working people out there, mothers and non-mothers, and I can only assume your hiring selection process must be flawed if you keep finding yourself working with lazy types. Give me a shout if you need pointing in the direction of some truly inspiring, dedicated working mothers.

 

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13 Comments

  1. June 13, 2018 / 2:15 pm

    OH god the long lunch breaks for shopping, wine-drinking, on the pretence of a meeting?! I swear I was more lazy without kids than I ever have been since! And I’m not lazy. It’s utter nonsense to suggest that it’s mums that are the problem. As you say, everyone needs to flex their work schedule for different reasons, not just parents. Plus, most mums I know who also work, fire up the computer at 8pm when the kids are in bed to fit in those 3 hours they weren’t in the office and make sure they nail deadlines. People without kids generally have no idea how productive it’s possible to be late at night – or indeed at 5am!

  2. June 13, 2018 / 2:50 pm

    This is such a great response to an opinion that is clearly very narrow-minded! As a new mum who will soon be returning to work, I’m very nervous about juggling work and motherhood and the last thing I need (or anyone needs) is to hear non-mothers complaining about working mums. Thanks for writing this post!

  3. Sarah
    June 13, 2018 / 5:28 pm

    Great post and so glad to see you writing it. At some point whether we have kids or not we all have families and personal responsibilities come into play. I know friends with and without kids who have had to take personal time when parents get older and are sick. Life happens an we can’t pretend it doesn’t, nor should we. The thing I can’t bear is one point you make so well here – there is no need in this day and age to be restricted by office or hours for anyone – flexibility is so possible and you can guarantee the parent – not just mother!!! – who made the nativity or assembly or worked from home to cover a child’s sick day is more than making up their hours post-bedtime. My husband who is a father and works (shock!!) certainly seeks flexibility to be there for his kids and imagine, no one goes on TV to talk about his unprofessionalism. I. Can’t. Even.

  4. June 13, 2018 / 6:38 pm

    Love this post. I’m disappointed that mums in the workplace are viewed like that by some. And just because non parents are present at work later or whatever- it doesn’t mean their actually working anyway. We just need to be supportive of each other at work whoever we are!

  5. June 13, 2018 / 7:12 pm

    Absolute perfection, to the point that I shall not bother writing my own response to these ladies’ ill-informed and defamatory comments, I shall simply share this post everywhere instead. As a mum of two small children (both under 4) with a blog, a business, a home, a cat, a husband, I take every single element of my personal and work life very seriously. I worked full time from last June until January of this year and attitudes like this – including from parents themselves sadly – were instrumental in my decision to leave. It’s not on and it’s about bloody time it stopped.

  6. Grace Bench
    June 13, 2018 / 9:41 pm

    Awesome blog post, Alison! As a mother to an 11 month old, I’m about to go back to work (sob) and I am wondering how on earth I will fit everything in (drop offs, pick ups, eating, y’know). On the other side of the coin, being on maternity leave has made me much MUCH more efficient with my time in general (having a cat minute napper helped hone this talent). I don’t think I’m unusual in this; so here’s to all the working mums who are not lazy, but who might even be more efficient at work than some of their counterparts without children.

  7. Simone Gibson
    June 14, 2018 / 12:35 am

    Great post Alison!
    I am a full time non-Mum and I am responsible for a team of over 2,000 people made up of men and women. Since I took over this role 3 years ago I have actively recruited women into my direct report team and into my wider team I now have a balance of 40% women to men ratio in my direct reports and I have 44% balance of women to men in my wider team. This is in the manufacturing and supply chain sector so to be honest I am very proud of these results.
    I am not looking for a pat on the back for this but I wanted to make the point that not all non – Mum’s share the same view as Kelly Brook. I have introduced “Mummy shifts” which start at 9.30am and finish at 2.30pm to allow for school pick up / drop off. I have introduced flexible working – which means many different things to many people – in some cases that means taking additional unpaid holiday each year for school holiday time, working a 3 or 4 day week, working from home, working flexitime so you can do a drop off or pick up and work early or later. This is open to men and women, Mums Dads or non parents.
    It makes me mad when there is an assumption made that you have to be female and have kids to understand what Mums go through.
    My workplace is a better place for having that male: female ratio and my team appreciate the steps we have taken to make the work place “family friendly” and I do mean that “family” word, not just Mum friendly.
    However, as with all arrangements there is a debit and credit. My expectations are that people keep to their commitments – whether that be deadlines, meetings, arriving in time for their shift and that they have a back up plan in place. Of course there will be the unplanned emergency of a child falling ill at kindergarten or an elderly parent having a fall, or your partner having a medical appointment that requires your support. But in all honesty I have found these to be few and far between when you provide an environment that encourages personal accountability and trust is at its heart.

    • Anon
      June 15, 2018 / 1:25 pm

      You make such an important point that we need to approach this focusing on both mums AND dads. The pressure won’t be properly taken off women until dads are given space to take their responsibilities as well. My employer, for example, worked from home when his children were preschool aged and is very supportive of members of our staff doing the same. Too often men are left out of this even though they want to be (or are) more involved in parenting.

  8. June 14, 2018 / 8:21 am

    Fantastic article, thank you. I have been blessed with work that understands the family life and if I need to work from home, leave earlier, have flexible hours, it’s given, nothing to be embarrassed about or scared to ask. I also started my own business, so 4 days in the office, evenings and weekends own business. Does that makes me lazy? On Mondays and Wednesdays I come to the office at 11am and leave at 8pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays I come in at 9and leave at 2:45pm to pick up the kids. Oh I am soooo lazy!

  9. Gail
    June 14, 2018 / 9:48 am

    Ha ha I bet if Kelly Brook ever has kids she will be gabbing about them all the time and being unprofessional. Just shows what a bimbo she is to think that to talk about your children is unprofessional. She is probably late for things because she likes to pose in a mirror too long.

  10. June 14, 2018 / 4:40 pm

    That really is shocking. I work super hard in and out of the office and do not let my kids interfere with work and vice versa unless it has to. I don’t get in until 7pm three nights and finish early to do the school run two so I can do homework, it is a about balance and certainly not being lazy x

  11. June 15, 2018 / 9:35 am

    Comments like those of Kelly and Samantha absolutely baffled me. Did some of them not have mums who were working themselves? Or friends who are working mums? Imagine if we took all the mums out of the workforce – would it be a more productive workforce? I sincerely doubt it – working mums know the value of time more than anyone.

    On a less related note, I feel really privileged to be in an industry (family blogging / content creation) where it’s so much more legitimised to mention childcare planning. If I were in another industry I know I would be more inclined to state travel arrangements / my illness not my child’s like some of the examples you mentioned.

  12. June 25, 2018 / 9:33 am

    I totally agree with you. Lazy people are lazy people, being a mum has nothing to do with it. In work, I don’t think I’m any different to people without kids, except on the occasion I use my flexi time to do parent things at school vs the others who go to the pub early instead or have longer lunches. Nowadays more people do flexitime and flexible working than just mums as well. I work with people who’s kids are grown up or don’t have kids and they work 9 day fortnights, and others who don’t have kids who’re always late or going off for appointments. I would always book mine outside of work or in my lunchbreak. Also, part timers (often mums) tend to do a full time job in part time hours so spend more focused time working.

    I think those women mentioned need to get their facts straight and stop accusing people, and maybe just avoid those people who aren’t pulling their weight.

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