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Are working moms shooting themselves in the foot?

From Katrin Schumann, mom and co-author of “Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too,” for which she interviewed over 500 women to share tips about modern parenting. Do working moms whine too much about their responsibilities, expecting co-workers to pick up the slack when family duties call — or do they suffer from inflexible workplace regulations? Should we buck up and be uncomplaining “professiona

From Katrin Schumann, mom and co-author of “Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too,” for which she interviewed over 500 women to share tips about modern parenting. Do working moms whine too much about their responsibilities, expecting co-workers to pick up the slack when family duties call — or do they suffer from inflexible workplace regulations? Should we buck up and be uncomplaining “professionals,” or fight for legislation that will lighten our load? A recent article by British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman has mothers on both sides of the Atlantic crying foul. Shulman argues that legislation protecting working mothers risks sending the glass ceiling we’ve all worked so hard to breach crashing down on our heads. “Let’s not put that progress back,” the working mother-of-one says, “by creating a world where the next generation of women workers becomes too inconvenient and awkward to employ.” Though I work 30–40 hours a week, I am my own boss and make my own hours. If one of my three children calls, I can drop everything. Not so for most working moms. One woman we interviewed — a Hollywood player, no less — said she can’t even put up a picture of her kids in the office. Another mom negotiated a three-day work week, only to find herself working full-time hours at three-fifths of her salary. Quite rightly, many working mothers are fed up. We’re supposed to be everything to everyone. Surely decent maternity leave wouldn’t be too much to ask — like the Germans, who get 14 weeks paid leave and can take three years off and still get their old jobs back. I grew up in London, but had my kids in the U.S. There’s no doubt that Europe offers more family-friendly options where work is concerned. But, ask yourself this: How would smaller businesses manage if new mothers were to take years off at a time? Would such mom-friendly legislation help us, or hurt us in the long run? Shulman writes, “It’s a situation that is increasingly encouraging small businesses, individuals and employers in small rural communities who simply can’t work around an employee’s year off ... to look instead for women who won’t have more children — or indeed men.” Well, that certainly makes me think twice. So, what's the solution? The solution lies in the changes that will take place in the workplace of the future. They’re inevitable, and they’ll be radical. Remember back when telecommuting seemed too good to be true? Twenty years ago, IBM allowed workers a half hour of flexibility each workday; today nearly 50 percent of its employees work outside a traditional office — and that number’s up by 50 percent since 2004. That trend will continue to grow, to the great benefit of mothers. And the future looks different for fathers, too. One day, it’ll be just as normal for a dad to take his kid to the dentist, or to meet with teachers, as it is for a mom today. Let’s be careful not to demand so much special treatment that we end up shooting ourselves in the foot. What's your take?