I don’t usually get angry watching XFactor because let’s face it, most of the time it’s pretty fluffy TV. But last night Cheryl Cole and Gary Barlow made me very cross indeed. One of the contestants, Melanie Masson, is also a mum. Before she’d started singing Cheryl asked her how old her kids were, even though she hadn’t asked any of the others about their personal circumstances. ‘Cute,’ she said on hearing the ages, in a voice that said she didn’t think it was cute at all. And after Melanie had finished singing and Gary and Cheryl were on their own, they both started worrying about ‘how she’d cope’ if she got through ‘because of the kids.’
This is hogwash. Not just because some of the world’s most successful entertainers are also mums – Madonna, Beyoncé, the Spice girls etc – and Rebecca Ferguson. But because it’s just an excuse. It’s discrimination.
It is the same reason contestants gave on Celebrity Big Brother for nominating Coleen Nolan and Jasmine Lennard. Not that they were annoying, or irritating. ‘They’re missing their kids.’ ‘They need to be with their kids.’ ‘I think you’re missing your kids.’ No wonder Coleen became incensed and declared that this was ‘just an excuse.’
Of course working mums miss their kids when they’re at work, whether they’re on the XFactor, in Big Brother, in an office, factory, wherever. But they get on with it.
Most of my working life I have encountered antiquated attitudes towards mums, ranging from talk of ‘baby brain’ to concerns about potential employees who were then discounted in favour of childless women. And yet all the women I’ve worked with who are also mums have been outstanding professionals and actually, more driven than many of their childless counterparts.
Personally, my career went into overdrive when I became a mum for one reason: the need to provide. Forget tiger mothers, working mums are lionesses. They’ll do whatever it takes to bring home the antelope for the family’s supper. I’ve interviewed all sorts of women, including celeb mums, for whom this is the case. And guess what? They raise happy, healthy, well-balanced kids too (shocker).
And women also, in my experience, become more ambitious when they are mums. In some cases this may be because they feel they need to prove themselves, but in the majority it’s simply that they become incredibly creative, with amazing ideas – this is certainly true of all the mums I know who run their own businesses.
It is 2012. You would have thought discrimination against women because they are mums had died out, but apparently in certain industries it’s still rife.
It’s a huge mistake to underestimate a woman because she’s a mum. Mums are an incredibly important and vital part of the workforce. And really, it’s time everyone was able to recognise that.