The ‘Mummy Track’ To… A Tough Life?
Becoming a parent is something uniquely rewarding and unlike any other life experience. But does this mean that the parent who almost always shoulders the main day-to-day responsibility for family care should routinely also experience low pay and significant risk of chronic stress?
‘Even when their children have left home, the average hourly wage of their mothers remained at 72% of the male average,’ we are told today in The Guardian.
I imagine that no-one who’s actually considered this will be surprised. It’s part of the findings of a new large-scale research report, Newborns and New Schools (Brewer and Paull, Jan. 2006, Institute of Fiscal Studies / Department of Work and Pensions).
Having, and sharing life with, our own children is probably the most amazing and rewarding experiences most of us, men and women alike, can choose to have. But it’s not an equitable choice.
Stress is inequitable too
On another page of today’s Guardian we read that research on civil servants shows women are five times more likely than men to have the risk factors linked with stress in the office – and it’s most apparent in the lower-paid levels of employment. This study (Tarani Chandola, UCL), like the DWP one, was very large, so we probably need to take it seriously.
And my point is… the stressors identified in chronic stress, a condition which can damage the metabolism of sufferers in very significant ways, are gender-related, aren’t they? Lower employment status equals more stress; and motherhood, sadly, is linked with lower status at work.
The conditions which bring about these gender-related outcomes may be complicated, but we need to acknowledge and explore them more directly. For whatever reasons many people, women sometimes as much as men, are uncomfortable with the ‘gender agenda’. Maybe it’s threatening?
But ignoring patently significant work-related health risks is silly – and a lot more than just silly – by anyone’s standards.