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Is a Baby Your Ticket to Freedom from Work?

By Madeline Holler |

parents and children, work life balance

Is a baby your ticket to freedom from work?

The headline over at Glamour’s Vitamin G blog sounds outrageous: Growing Number of Women Want to Become Moms to Get Out of Work. And they’re having a conniption over at The Stir with the post “Women Who Get Pregnant to Get Out of Work are Clueless About Parenting.”

Seems a recent study out of the U.K. found that almost half of the 2,000 women surveyed by a “glossy magazine” were considering having a baby in order to take advantage of the country’s generous 52-week, partially paid maternity leave. Nevermind that the original report on this supposed growing trend is from the Daily Mail, a notoriously conservative publication. The Daily Mail article included this reminder from TV host and entrepreneur Alan Sugar:

UK maternity laws meant people ‘were entitled to have too much; everything has gone too far’.

Hard-pushed employers and over-worked colleagues will be among those who agree with his analysis.

The real outrage here is giving women the option of a  year off work to recover from childbirth and take care their kids. And enjoying a break from the grind that, at least for one of the women interviewed by the paper, was giving her insomnia and affecting her health, is utter foolishness, judging from Mary Fischer’s post over at The Stir. She writes, “… taking care of a baby and adjusting to being a mother is pretty much the hardest job there is.”

Honestly, that’s just not true. Motherhood, parenting, these are not the hardest jobs there are. It may be the hardest thing some of us have ever done, but some of us have had pretty OK work lives. Fischer is right when she says, “And in most cases, it’s a hell of a lot more work than anyone expects.” But not even the woman in the Daily Mail piece is saying her baby’s first year was harder than the job that was making her miserable. In fact, the same survey found that at least one-third of the respondents was working longer hours than they used to and experiencing stress-related insomnia.

So are U.K. women having babies just so they can take a year-long break from work? It’s doubtful. Are they taking advantage of a national maternity leave policy that gives them the option, even at a time when their jobs or careers no longer give them much meaning? That sounds plausible.

Is this cause for hysteria, lectures and talk of a push to scale back family friendly benefits? Of course it’s not. But it’s a good reminder to avoid drawing conclusions from studies conducted by glossy magazines and reported on by the Daily Mail.

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About Madeline Holler

madeline-holler

Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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11 thoughts on “Is a Baby Your Ticket to Freedom from Work?

  1. bob says:

    I wonder whether this coverage will help people to “avoid drawing conclusions from studies conducted by glossy magazines and reported on by the Daily Mail” as much as ignoring it would have.

  2. Suzie says:

    Can we please stop with the “being a parent is so hard” nonsense? It’s especially not that hard to parent an infant. All you have to do is feed them and hold them, really. Working at a job is definitely harder. Do I think people are having babies to get out of work? No, that’s just silly. The leave is only partially paid…

  3. CW says:

    Anyone who claims “it’s not that hard to be a parent” almost certainly isn’t being a good one. Sure, it’s not that hard to be a lousy mom, but to raise a child right takes way more effort than the typical paper-pushing office job…

  4. Madeline Holler says:

    Oh, CW. Really?

  5. Tiffany says:

    I agree CW.

  6. Suzie says:

    I don’t know…you just basically hang out and play with them and be nice to them and anything you teach a preschooler is like elementary and easy stuff like ABCs, 123s and all that. Can it be annoying? Can it be boring? Sure, but “hard”? Not so much. In an office you have to deal with all kinds of adult personalities, people who set meetings for 430, 5, 530!!! Egos, etc. With your own kids, you’re in charge (or should be) and you love them, so it makes it easier. You don’t mind humoring a 2 year old…you kind of do mind humoring a 45 year old who doesn’t know how to work basic Microsoft office apps, and such. I think many, many adults are far more annoying than my child.

  7. CW says:

    I used to work as a nanny back when I was in my teens so I thought that being a mom would be easy. I was SOOOO wrong about that. Babysitting is easy, but the responsibilities of parenthood go way, way, WAY beyond that. As a nanny, I only had to worry about the physical caretaking of my charges. I never had to worry about their upbringing. Sure, I’d remind my charges to use basic manners, but I didn’t have to worry about instilling a set of values in them. All the big picture stuff is what’s hard about being a good mom. After all, you cannot quit being a mom the way you can always quit some office job.

  8. Rosana says:

    I am with Suzie. I much rather be at home taking care of my kids than at the office dealing with ignorant adults. Even with a full-time job, parenting for me is not hard. Motherhood is actually the best thing that ever happened to me.

  9. Nursemom says:

    I’m sorry being a parent is hard unless you have “perfect” children. I have never slept less in my entire life…and the demands of 2 children under 3 can be very stressful on certain days. In Canada you can take a year off ( I did not ) I went back to work when both my children turned 7 months. Being at work has it’s own challenges and so does being a parent I did not have my children for a break from work but because I wanted a family :)

  10. anon says:

    I once heard one of those really annoying uber-conservative right wingers refer to maternity leave as “paying a woman to have a baby.” If he only knew how little the US gives to new mothers. Also, if he only knew how hard it is to give birth, care for a newborn and adjust to life after baby (not only after your first, adjusting to multiple kids is hard too!)

  11. Linda, T.O.O. says:

    To me the “difficult” parts of being a WAHM are the mind numbingly boring bits like the mountain of laundry and having to drive all over the place. I enjoyed my babies and I enjoy my kids now that they’re older. I don’t personally find it that difficult to intereact with my favorite people in the world. I don’t like it when they’re upset and such, but that’s a part of life you might as well learn to deal with when mom is there for support. I found each of my kids being 4 difficult. It’s such an obnoxious freakin’ age. :/

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