With more women in full-time employment than ever before, the role of the woman in society is undoubtedly changing. Changes in legislation, such as a greater degree of equality in the workplace, in addition to more widespread access to education and a broader societal acceptance of the working woman, mean that women now often choose to pursue a career as well as being a mother and a partner. Moreover, the average age of giving birth to a first child is now nearly 30, an age by which women two or three generations ago would generally have had multiple children and been married for nearly 10 years. Being a career woman and a mother can be extremely difficult and several issues arise from trying to achieve success in both roles.
Issues Facing Modern Mothers
Firstly, taking a break during pregnancy and then after a baby is born can signify a considerable decrease in earnings for some mothers. In addition to this, employers can often become frustrated by employees who leave to go on maternity leave and subsequently, after a child is born may have to leave work if that child is ill or if childcare arrangements fall through. Added to this, there are very few jobs that offer school-time hours and therefore finding employment tailored to caring for a child can prove almost impossible. Furthermore, many mothers often feel they are neglecting their children and missing out on valuable time spent together if they put their children into full time childcare.
Many psychological concerns identified in young people and adults are also connected to feelings of neglect in their childhood and therefore finding a balance in essential. In order to compete with their male counterparts women often fear taking time out from their careers to start a family and this has undoubtedly lead to a greater proportion of women giving birth to their first child in their 30’s. There are, however, risks associated with this decision. In terms of health, older mothers face the possibility of being less fertile and are more likely to miscarry, give birth prematurely and give birth to children with birth defects.
Finding a Balance
The Government has addressed these concerns with legislation regarding longer term paid maternity leave and more flexible working hours; for those that want to return to work, the working tax credit system is a financial aid offered in addition to wages. The Government’s equal opportunity scheme insists that employers must not discriminate against any individual on the grounds of their race, age or sex. In the case of young mothers, who may not have the life-skills or experience necessary to care for a newborn child, the Department for Children, Schools and Families offers help and support as well as encouraging attendance at parenting classes and guidance on issues such as getting back into work, training or education and finding affordable childcare.
Single mothers are often extremely vulnerable and those most at risk are monitored closely by social services as well as being offered extra financial help through the child support system and practical guidance from local authorities. Charitable organisations such as Gingerbread also offer help lines as well as organising events and raising money to support single parents. Local authorities also offer advice in finding Government funded housing for those most in need.