In 2017, runner up in the French election, Marine Le Pen, caused controversy when she suggested that as a parent, she was the better candidate to run the country. Although Le Pen had become known through the election season for her controversial views, she was relatively slow off the bat with this particular comment. Used in previous political arguments, including between our own candidates here in the UK, the ‘parent card’ has been played more often than the Ace of Spades in a rock bar.
In 2016, when Angela Leadsom insinuated that motherhood gave her a more sympathetic nature and a real “stake” in the community, the press weren’t long before they were snapping at her heels. Possibly being the driving force behind her loss in the race for prime minister to Theresa May, the effects of her comments didn’t just affect Leadsom. Along with the focus which was pressed upon May’s private life, forcing her to divulge personal details about her fertility, was the general discussion of political member’s family lives. Outrage was caused when The Sunday Times published a woefully misjudged infographic of “childless politicians”, a list which it’s worth mentioning didn’t feature any of the male MP’s who are also ‘childless’. A fact which Labour MP, Chris Elmore, was quick to pick up on, “I’m a childless politician too. Guessing because I’m a man it doesn’t matter.”
Women have generally had a hard time with the media, regarding their personal and professional lives colliding, with films like Cheaper by the Dozen and I Don’t Know How She Does It, suggesting that a woman cannot be a good mother whilst juggling a career and/or promotion. With childless women being vilified as hard and uncaring and the well outdated worry that a mother will be too preoccupied with dance recitals and lunch boxes for her to focus on her work, have we really come that far at all?
A survey taken by law firm Slater and Gordon, found that a 3rd of women found it impossible to climb the ladder after returning to work after a pregnancy, and whilst the pay gap in general gets smaller every year for women, for mothers, who’ve taken their legally entitled maternity leave, the gap has stayed steadily high.
The most common complaint by those who’ve either chosen to not have children or who are unable to is the misconception that those with children are more entitled to work-life balance. Having children is a choice, not a sacrifice and yet for both male and female ‘childless’ workers, their time is often seen as frivolous, compared to the quality time a parent is spending with their child.
'Every childless woman I know has experienced some sort of tension in the workplace with working mothers. It's impossible to argue that your life outside work is as important as the needs of a small child, and complaining about it seems “unsisterly”.'- Jody Day, Gateway Women
Birth rates have been declining steadily and the number of adults choosing not to deal with diapers and bottles has doubled since 1970, meaning that equality between those making separate choices, should be getting steadily higher. However a study by Indiana University, has found that childless adults are seen as less fulfilled by the general public, even with a lack of further information about their social lives.
As we move into the future, it’s important that we tackle this issue, with respect and compassion for others’ lives, and there are companies doing this. Moving away from traditional ‘parental leave’ policies, companies like Lloyds Banking and John Lewis are creating processes in which workers are able to manage their time in a way they see fit, limiting any feelings of discrimination.