- Isabella Lenarduzzi

Should we celebrate Mother’s day?

In France the ELLE- IPSOS survey found that 57% of 30 to 40 year-old working mothers believe that having children is penalising their careers. 61% of women never even think of going up in the hierarchy. To grow professionally without sacrificing your personal life remains a challenge. How can one do it?

Nearly one in four women has already refused a promotion because of organisational problems encountered with child custody. Such problems mean that they do not seek new responsibilities (38% against 19% of men) and actually try to avoid some companies (38%, +18 points compared to men). Nearly a quarter of women have even chosen not to emphasize their professional skills (23%) to avoid promotion.

Falling fertility rates continue to threaten prosperity. Most birth rates are now below the necessary replacement levels — the number of children that need to be born to replace the adult population. The steepest declines happened first in wealthy countries like Japan, Italy, Germany, and Spain, but many developing countries have also seen their fertility rates decline. Today, women in more than 60 countries are not having enough children to keep the population growing. This all means that our economies will continue to suffer in the long run.

Avivah Wittenberg Cox explains that in Germany, which has the lowest birth rates ever, working mothers are chastised and called “rabenmutter” or “crow mothers” because they leave their children with carers instead of looking after them.

Elsewhere, it has often been the case that women who take time off to raise a family derail any future employment opportunities. In the Netherlands, 75% of active women are working part-time. By doing so, they hinder their whole career and financial independence, reinforcing the traditional model of being the second earners of the family and the biggest caregiver. Working part-time for family reason isn’t a shame if it is consciously negotiated within the couple without stereotypes and accompanied by a financial agreement that will protect the “second earner” in case of divorce or death.

Sweden however has the highest percentage of women in paid employment, at around 79%, and the birth rate is among the highest in Europe. As Ms Wittenberg-Cox pointed out, France has the highest participation rate of women in Europe as well as some of the highest birth rates. She says that birth rates are low in every country where women are pushed to make a choice between work and family. She warned governments to think again: “If you want your country to keep growing and have any future at all then you’d better help your women keep working.” (Watch her interview here).

In the US, more and more women are freezing their eggs in order to reschedule their motherhood! Elizabeth Richards wrote about her experience: “We are witnessing an unprecedented time in history. Women have enjoyed more opportunity in nearly every area of their lives, except the ability to have children. We undoubtedly will be trying to navigate this mismatch for generations to come, but if technology can temporarily compensate by adding another layer of choice, that is a reprieve indeed.” Watch here the JUMP position on the topic (in French).

Perhaps if more men were to take over their share of the childrearing and be able to take up parental leave without feeling stigmatised for doing so, we could create a more egalitarian society where women would feel happier and more supported to have children. A recent study in France showed that 60% of men say they share the housework, while 65% of women say they do all alone.

So, Dads, dare to join the adventure!