Saska Graville Deputy editor of Red magazine
THERE is, it seems, a war going on in my office. Right under my nose, women are being pitted against other women in an angry clash of moms versus non-moms.
Those of us without kids are, apparently, bitter and resentful about the lazy slackers who log off on the dot of 5pm to do the school run, bag all the good holiday slots and leave the rest of us picking up the slack. Any of it sound familiar? Well, maybe just a little bit.
The trouble is that, as with all good scaremongering stories, there is a kernel of truth in the reports of "mummy wars".
There is an undercurrent of tension in many workplaces – my own included – over the varying hours worked by those with and without children.
The Red magazine team is packed with moms and yes, many of them are in a bit later and out the door earlier than the rest of us. Yes they are fairly regularly not around because of sick children/nannies/snow days.
And yes, the rest of us have muttered that we are due "me-ternity" leave to make up for the lack of maternity leave on our CVs.
In the spirit of transparency, here are just a few dark thoughts that have crossed my mind in recent years (and I don't admit these with any pride, but because I think honesty is the only way to create a healthier, happier workplace):
ý"Why does the school run make it OK to leave at 5.15pm every day, even during busy periods? If we all did that, the magazine would never come out on time."
ý"Is your child really sick again? Can't the school ever ring his dad to come and get him?"
ý"You say you log-on late at night to make up time, but so do I."
As I say, I'm not proud of my mutterings, but I'm not a lone voice of discontent.
Red's Generation Juggle survey of more than 5000 women has uncovered some startling facts – and not all of them make for pleasant reading.
Only 4% of working moms think there is any tension over their office comings and goings – while a whopping 41% of their colleagues rage at the unfairness of it all.
Four out of 10 non-parents claim that they work harder than their colleagues. How can a workplace ever be functional if all these resentments are bubbling away?
The answer is: it can't be. What we need to do is get all of the issues out in the open and discuss them like grown ups.
And we need to start by banning the word "mommy" from the conversation. Setting women against women is not going to help anyone. The minute we stop making it just about the moms, we'll be getting somewhere.
This needs to be about the challenges and juggles faced by parents and non-parents alike. How many times, for example, is a man asked about his work/life balance? Never. A working woman? All the time.
We're not going to get anywhere until companies acknowledge that these tensions exist. The longer they remain as taboos, the more the utterly unhelpful mommy-bashing will persist. Far better for employers to understand that all of us are busy, all of us have commitments and that flexibility is a luxury that should be offered to everyone. Not just those with a school gate curfew.
Flexibility is a privilege, but extend it to all and I am confident that a happier – and less under-breath-muttering – workplace will ensue.
The less taboos, the better. Let's all be grown ups about this.
Me-ternity leave would be nice though ... – The Telegraph