Woman returns to work seven hours after giving birth – but is that a good example for us?
There have been innumerable studies over the past few years about women returning to work after having a baby.
Some focus on the guilt that many women with babies feel when they have to leave their precious bundle for the first time; others look at the support they receive in the workplace.
Then there are the surveys that examine the adequacy or otherwise of maternity/paternity leave; the issue of parental leave and parent-friendly hours when the babies start school.
So, how did it make you feel when you read that the headmistress of private school St Mary’s Calne School, Wiltshire, returned to her desk just SEVEN hours after she had given birth to her third child?
Dr Helen Wright tells The Daily Mail (February 7, 2010) that she believed she was setting a good example by taking her hours-old daughter Jessica to the office with her.
“Most mothers want their daughters to have the exhilarating excitement of a career they love and the joy of a family,” she tells the paper.
“I have that and I want to show the girls at St Mary’s that that is not an impossible dream.”
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But what example has she actually shown the girls, by returning to work so soon?
I have to admit to reading the report with a heavy heart, especially when she makes the remark: “Why can’t there be a third way – taking your baby to work with you?”
Now, I appreciate Dr Wright is cosseted in the world of private education, but is she honestly advocating that we all turn up to work with our babies, nappy bags and a truckload of toys?
I wouldn’t even dare ask the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses, Chambers of Commerce – or the HSE for that matter – for their opinion on this nugget of wishful thinking.
Women have a difficult enough time anyway when it comes to returning to work after a few months’ away from the office.
A survey by The National Childbirth Trust in November last year revealed that 39 per cent of those questioned admitted they found going back to work after having a baby “difficult” or “very difficult”; 31 per cent claimed their relationship with their manager had deteriorated once their pregnancy had become known.
There is a raft of legislation and policies that protect women back into the workplace, but many of the 1,500 mothers who were surveyed said they still did not receive the support they needed.
There is no easy solution to this: many women are happy to return to work full-time after having a child, while others may want to reduce their office hours or become a stay-at-home mother.
But Dr Wright has done nothing for women who are wracked with guilt over returning to work. We can’t all be super mums. Many of us are torn daily as we drop off our children at the schoolgate or nursery as we troop off to work, relying on others to pick them up at 3pm.
We might want our careers, but many of us (me included) have realised we cannot have it all. Something has to give for a while.