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Why heed these part-time mums?
If American writers Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober had their way, we women should be giving men scores for chores they carry out.
Get ‘em to do more around the house, they order in their book Getting to 50/50: How Working Parents Can Have It All, which is published in this country tomorrow. And make them change nappies. You’ll be much happier and fulfilled and so will he.
“Families thrive not in spite of working mothers but because of them,” goes the book’s blurb. “You can have a great career, a great marriage and be a great mother.” The man you married, they say, is “your best resource and most powerful ally”.
From one key thing they’ve said – “The most important career decision you make is who you marry. (and the deals you make with him)” – you can deduce that first and foremost these women are businesswomen, because they see their lives, both at work and at home, in terms of careers, putting their roles as wives second and as mothers last of all.
Does any of this apply to you? Because it sure doesn’t apply to me and my life, nor, I suspect, to many of you out there either.
Sharon Meers, mother of children aged seven and four, is head of sales and business development at a division of eBay, and sits on the boards and councils of a number of important organisations. Joanna Strober, a lawyer, is the MD of a private equity firm, and oh yes, she has a 10-year-old daughter and sons aged seven and two.
And Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, who’s written a foreword for the book, is of the same calibre: she’s worth £350 million and she has two children. She’s boasted about how she gets in to work at 8am, is home by dinner time, then works until 11pm. Shortly after giving birth, she was breast-feeding during meetings in her living room. And she’s confessed that she and second husband Dave “can afford exceptional childcare” and cleaners too. In 2010, she told women to put their career ahead of everything else in their life.
That “everything” includes children, presumably relegated to accessories to her life. The only time Sheryl spends with her children during the week is a couple of hours at dinner, bath and bed time. She rises at 6am, works out in the home gym and then is at work by 8am. She spends far more time at work than with her children, so her advice on family life and parenting is, as far as I’m concerned, redundant.
It’s the height of arrogance that these part-time mothers think they know more about being a mother than mothers who stay at home and look after their children full time.
I just have to listen to an interview Sharon and Joanna give on American TV (it’s on the book’s website www.gettingto50/50.com) where they say categorically that “there is no difference between the result of children between moms who are working and moms who are not working” to know how fundamentally wrong they are. They cite a 2006 study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, also on the website, that concludes “kids in high-quality child care had higher cognitive and language skills than other kids – including those with at-home mothers”.
But higher cognitive and language skills are not the be-all and end-all of child development. These are skills valued in business, but we’re talking about children here. What matters to them is emotional security, which comes from their bond with their mother.
Subsequent and different studies have shown that children who attend daycare show greater risk taking and impulsivity by age 15, may have abnormal waking stress hormone levels and a greater risk of excema. Another, published in 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that “children who were nurtured by their mothers early in life have a larger hippocampus [the main part of brain that helps a child regulate emotion and release of stress hormones] than children who were not nurtured as much... Having a hippocampus that’s almost 10 percent larger just provides concrete evidence of nurturing’s powerful effect.”
I look at the book’s subtitle ‘How working couples can have it all by sharing it all’ and I could weep for all those children who have simply been cut out of the equation. It’s all about how parents should fit their children into their busy, busy, busy lives, not how to fit their lives around their children.
Really, they’ve written the book for women like them, not women like me. And there are only a handful of women like them, while there are millions of ordinary women who will never head a multinational company but instead would like to give their children more than just money and a sound business brain.
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