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.