Women don’t belong in the home, but mums can’t have have jobs. Sorry, what?
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Women don’t belong in the home, but mums can’t have jobs. Sorry, what?

According to the new British Attitudes Survey 35, the British public have some confusing ideas about the role of women – especially if they’re mothers

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By Emily Baker on

In Britain, it can sometimes feel like we’re slipping further and further back through the echelons of time, what with Brexit and welcoming in an accused sex offender who also happens to be the president of the United States. But this morning we have a sign that we’re still making small progress, straight from the pages of the newly released British Attitudes Survey 35 – traditional gender roles are being rejected by more people than ever, as 72% of people disagree that a woman’s place is in the home. Well, unless those women happen to be mothers.

Of the 3,988 adults surveyed between July and October last year, 33% believe that mothers should be stay-at-home mothers at least until their child goes to school, and 38% say that women with children should only work part-time hours. A measly 7% think a woman should go back to full-time work after having a baby. In other words, a woman must decide between a career and a child.

This seems like an outdated and, frankly, damaging idea. There are plenty of ways women can return to work without it affecting their role as a mother and doing their child a disservice, the most obvious of which is shared parental leave. Since the introduction of the government’s 2015 statute, parents can share up to share 50 weeks of maternity and paternity leave, and receive 37 weeks of pay. Unfortunately, the idea hasn’t been as popular as it could be, with only an estimated 2% of couples taking up the offer.

33% believe that mothers should be stay-at-home mothers at least until their child goes to school, and 38% say that women with children should only work part-time hours

Those surveyed didn’t seem too keen on the idea of an equal share of childcare duties, either. When asked how a couple working full-time should share their parental leave, four in 10 people said that while the father should take some time off, the mother should take the lion’s share of the leave. Just 30% of respondents said that the leave should be equally split, while a worrying 15% believe women should be the sole carer for their new child. Perhaps unsurprisingly, more men than women said that women should take all the maternity leave.

These attitudes don’t leave a lot of wiggle room for nuances in individual cases. What if the mother is the breadwinner and the family will be served better by her returning to work? What about single mothers? What about mothers who will lose their jobs or return to a lesser one should they take a whole five years off? Simply, the views found in the British Attitudes Survey 35 are insufficient in recognising the struggles faced by not only mothers, but women generally.

Mothers must be able to return to work – whether they want to or need to – without feeling judged. No one is a “bad mother” for wanting to continue their own career, no matter what the British public think.

@emilyrbakes

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