#Parenting and work. Why we still haven’t got the balance right.
Both my children are now back at school after a nasty bug that meant they were at home for pretty much two whole weeks between them. I work from home so this wasn’t a problem, but it certainly got me thinking. For two full-time working parents this sort of situation is nothing short of a nightmare. But in this modern, digital world, surely we must be able to come up with a decent solution to the dilemmas which face working parents?
Providing flexible working hours and allowing men to take time off to raise children as well as women has gone some way to addressing the issue. However, the impact of the recession since 2008, which has resulted in widespread insecurity about jobs, and the stagnation of pay has meant that many families are reluctant to take advantage of these offers. The bread-winner’s career remains sacrosanct. That’s certainly the way it is in our house and the reason I gave up my part-time teaching job. My husband’s career requires him putting in very long hours during term-time and it became increasingly clear that I would need to be the one who took full responsibility for the childcare. This meant adopting a less rigid approach to work.
What I have discovered, as a result of this shift in my working patterns, is that I’m far more efficient now. My children being off school ill didn’t really put a dent in my schedule. In fact, it meant I was stuck at my desk with nothing else to do but get on with my job. So how might this observation translate into the wider job market?
Firstly, I think we need to debunk the myth that the number of hours you are seen at your desk or in the workplace equals how valuable an employee you are. Women need to rush out of the door bang on five, to pick up the kids from childcare or school. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t putting in another few hours back home later.
In certain professions, working from home just isn’t possible. Teaching and medicine immediately spring to mind. There needs to be one-to-one contact with students and patients. But having said this, the world of education is gradually changing. In a few years from now, it will be possible for students to follow an entire school or university curriculum remotely, needing a tutor’s feedback only through e-mail or Skype. Pre-recorded tutorials and seminars could be produced for a global market. This type of future would clearly benefit those in the poorest parts of the world and enable the primary carers who have an educational background to achieve proper, flexible working.
This example is just one of the many potential possibilities, but I strongly believe that as a society we aren’t giving enough thought to the issue, largely because we all manage to muddle through, just about. Some new and innovative thinking is required in this area. We aren’t utilizing our female workforce effectively by not taking this issue seriously. With a recent boom in the birth rate in Britain, it’s an issue which certainly isn’t going to go away any time soon.