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Where is a woman’s place?

The thoughts of Richard Osborne on many subjects over the years.

Where is a woman’s place?

What the hell, why not start my blog off with a nice and controversial post :).

I was playing golf with a client on Thursday, and one of the topics of discussion we had on the course was about our families and that his second child is due in a couple of months. My wife and I were also talking this weekend about her role in life, where she fits into our family and what her purpose is. I need to explain to those who don’t know that her mum died very suddenly, very recently, so generally she is finding things very difficult. She did the Race for Life last week which gave her something to focus on, a purpose, but now that is past she currently doesn’t have much to take her mind away from her loss. Despite everything else personal with this conversation, later on I did wonder about other Stay at Home mothers in comparison to Career Women, and even what I think of the difference. What about Back to Work mothers? This is a whole can of worms which I think are just ripe to be opened.

My wife used to run her own business, she owned a specialist expensive gift shop in partnership with her mum, selling basically rather expensive teddy bear’s and doll’s. I thought that was great and I enjoyed my wife having her own business. We shared thoughts and ideas for each others businesses.

Now I’m quite a traditional guy, and I can’t help but believe that when a child is born unless there is a significant reason why the mum shouldn’t stay at home with the child then they should. I realise this is very taboo in this day and age, and I know quite a few women who go out to work very soon after the give birth. In fact my brother’s wife did just that. I’m just very lucky that wife shares the same belief as me otherwise we would have had some very interesting discussions 5 years ago. But is there a right or wrong? My clients wife actually earned a higher salary than him before their first child, so I would have expected him to become the house husband and her to go back out to work, but instead it was the other way round. My brother didn’t earn enough to support the family so she had to go back out to work. Sometimes it is not possible to have what some may think is the perfect situation, what is the perfect situation?

This leads me back to the conversation with my wife. I do understand that her greiving will be affecting her thoughts, but I am sure that many women in the world feel what she is feeling. Do they all feel that their job is unimportant, unpaid skivvy, a constant uphill battle always running around tidying up the mess left by others (can sometimes feel like that in the office!). Perhaps feeling their role is not as important as the bread winners.

I explained to my wife that we both have an important role in our family. Yes I may be the bread winner as the expression goes but I only bring in the materialistic things, I pay for the TV, the electricity, all the things we can still survive without. Worst case scenario is that we could still have a family together living in a tent in a field with none of what I do for the family and still be a family. She looks after the hub of our family, the emotional aspects, she makes our home a home. She remembers the birthdays, makes the childrens dinners, she is the single biggest influence on our children and will determine what ethics and responsabilities our children will grow up with. She see’s more of them than I do, so this comment does stand to reason. It is really her that has the most important role in our family, it is her that is the glue that gells us all together, that holds the family together. She makes the home.

So is this the woman’s place? A home maker, a mother?

What about women who want a career? There are hundreds of organisations setup just to give women a chance in business, and I know a lot of women who have great careers. Do I think any less of them because they want a career and not be a mother? Of course not! Despite what may be interpreted from my comments above, I may be traditional but I’m not sexist. I agree with opening the door for a lady and I’d never let a my wife pay for a meal at a restaurant, but I’d never choose a man for a management position over a woman just based on their sex. In fact I actually think women make better people managers than men. There still is an issue that business owners need to take into account when employing women though, and no sexual discrimination act can hide this fact. There is a very strong possability that any woman who works for an organisation is probably going to take a year or so off work to raise a child, or two, or more. When this happens the company has to keep the job open for that person to return, and more often than not they get a phone call at the eleventh hour saying “I’m not coming back”. So after a year of paying their wages for maternity leave and not employing a replacement, they then have to recruit a replacement. It is easy to understand why some people will look at a (young) woman less favourably than a man for a senior position in their company when considering the future of the company.

Is this bad planning on that company’s part though? Should companies be allowed to plan for the highly inevitable that younger women will leave to start a family and then have the option to walk back into their same role a year later? Is it practical for small companies to do this? Probably not because a year is a very long time in business, but the law says they must so they must.

So where does this leave women, what is the women’s place? Personally I agree that women should have an opportunity to have a career and to get as far in business as they can until the time they wish to start a family with their partner. When that time happens it is their decision whether they wish to return to work and have their child looked after by someone else (nursery, family, nanny, etc). At that point I’m lucky my wife shares the same ideology as me and that we can afford for my wife to be a stay at home mum, but not everyone can. I dont think women should be frowned upon for returning to work and having their children looked after by someone else. For the businesses I also don’t feel it is fair on small businesses that the government expects them to hold the same job open for the women to walk back into her original position, but if they can then great. If they can’t then they simply can’t. When the women either returns to work, whether after the children are raised or before, then again she should have every same opportunity as the man. However there is no avoiding that bit in the middle, women are the only sex that can carry and give birth to children, they will almost always leave to have a family. So women are not the same as men, each sex has its own strengths and weaknesses and there is no getting away from that.

One Comment

  1. Jayesh Varsani
    Jul 6, 2007

    A gutsy first post. And a well written and thought out one at that. I congratulate you for discussing what many people feel is Taboo.

    I know people who will rant on and on about The Womans Right to Return and not give a second thought to the difficulties of the Company.

    Personally, I started considering this issue a few weeks ago, trying to work out the points for each side, the Woman and the Company.

    For my current employers (A large multi-national IT Consultancy) it is no problem and no real hassle to provide the option to return. But there are many other companies out there that will find such options to difficult to bear and are left in impossible situations.

    If I ever come up with a solution to this, I will be sure to Copyright it and then let you know.