Women should take as much maternity leave as they want, Katie Hopkins

May 5, 2011

I have just watched Katie Hopkins – who you may barely remember from The Apprentice and her laughable performance on Question Time a few months back – argue that women should only take ‘three weeks’ maternity leave and that it is bad for business if they take longer than that.

‘Business is not about family planning,’ she said. ‘Business is about making profit.’

‘To be honest it’s beyond me why any working woman would want to take more than a couple of weeks off,’ she said. ‘Perish the thought of becoming some brainless, bloated version of your former self.’

The thing Katie seems to be forgetting – and I’ve seen it happen – is that women who return to work too early after giving birth don’t do themselves, their babies or their companies any favours. Their mind is always elsewhere, they aren’t focused on their work, and really, they would rather be at home with their children.

And you know what? That’s exactly how it should be. Mums and babies need time together, time to bond. I’m not saying that I think women should be entitled to endless maternity leave on full pay – I don’t; but I do believe very firmly that they should be able to take off as long as they want to, so that they are able to return to the workforce fully focused on their jobs, and secure in the knowledge that they have given their children the best possible start in life.

There used to be an argument that if women wanted to beat men at their own game, they had to act like men. But we’ve come such a long way. The idea that to be successful as a woman in business you have to be a ball-busting, hard as nails bitch is hopelessly outdated. Betraying all women by making irrational statements on the TV doesn’t make you intelligent; it makes you a laughing stock.

Katie Hopkins, if I was your boss, you would definitely be fired.

*What do you think? I’d love to hear your views

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  • Sarah May 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    I think it’s a case of what suits the individual, but to think it’s a good idea to go back to work after 3 weeks is bizarre – like other posters have said, it’s about the bonding process which sets out early childhood as much as anything.
    Personally, I decided to become self-employed when I had my twins so that I could spend more time with them, but I do understand not everyone has that choice.
    The way I saw it was that it’s pointless having children if you’re going to have to pay out a small fortune to NOT be able to watch them grow up.

    • Liz Jarvis May 8, 2011 at 9:02 am

      I think you’re right. Obviously it’s down to the individual/circumstances whether or not you can afford to take time off to be with your baby, but to actually make a point of returning to work as quickly as possible seems very bizarre to me.

  • Sister-to-one-year-rowan May 7, 2011 at 8:48 am

    I was googling to see what stay at home mums thought of her rant on the One Show as my mum (on a career break to look after my brother) was very upset about it. Your post is very true. she had no right to say what she did about mothers that stay home to love their children when she is probably away from hers all week and on her Blackberry when she is at home. She stated that stay home mums can only talk about their children and the only conversation they make is “what vegetable or fruit combo you have pureed this week”. I am not a mother myself but my little brother is 16 months and my mum took two years to look after me and is doing the same for my brother. Why should women who love their children turn in the work-crazy women? If you don’t look after them and spend time with them then they may not have any respect for you. We were very upset.

    Rant Over 🙂

    • Liz Jarvis May 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      Exactly – the way she underestimates SAHMs is shocking, IMHO

  • Ann Wright May 6, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    My son is three, and I now run my own business having taken redundancy at the end of my maternity leave. Far from having returned to work at three weeks, I could hardly get off the sofa three weeks after giving birth.

    None of my friends with children have gone back to the same job on the same terms as before. They’ve all either left, gone part-time, or been forced out.

    All Katie Hopkin’s comments do is put even more pressure on working parents – and anyone would pity her children.

    The current situation seems a great waste of experience and talent women – though for me it’s been a great opportunity to do something for myself, and work when I want to and do things with my son – like going to a birthday party as we did this afternoon!

    • Liz Jarvis May 7, 2011 at 1:03 pm

      I totally agree with you, Katie’s comments are so unhelpful.

  • Laura renton May 6, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    I actually attended one of the ‘soft play’ sessions that Joanne mentions. It was great to speak to other mums who were in the same boat. Since being on maternity leave, after having my first baby last May, I have set up my own small business making bespoke childrens wear and accessories, I never set out to do it to be honest, but I am so pleased that I did as it has gone from strength to strength after less than 6 months.
    I only sew during nap times/evenings, so that I can maximise the amount of time I get to spent with may daughter.
    Now my maternity leave is drawing to a close I intend on returning to my ‘day job’ part time AND running my flourishing little business as well. I can’t bare the thought of leaving her with a childminder, but unfortunately I do have to be realistic, and I just can’t give up my job to run my business after only 6 months… it could all go horribly wrong next month!!!

    I don’t understand why such a woman (i have no clue who she is), should even be allowed to comment on parenting matters….. We can only hope that the majority of people who would ever encounter her and the rubbish she speaks/writes would have the good sense to go right ahead and ignore her!

    • Liz Jarvis May 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm

      Hopefully the majority of people do disagree with her. Best of luck with your new venture and the return to work x

  • Sam May 6, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I was appalled by Katie Hopkins’ “performance” last night. I don’t care how many conglommerates she single-handedly saved from ruin this morning whilst applying her Touche Eclat, raising children is the still THE most important job anyone can do. Her unwillingness to accept another’s point of view is possibly her least appealing feature but then, there are so many to choose from! The worst kind of betrayal of women and feminine values.

    • Liz Jarvis May 6, 2011 at 8:19 pm

      I agree, the way she refused to listen to the woman who was trying to talk to her showed her ignorance, IMHO

  • Joanne Dewberry May 6, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    ARGH!! This woman should not be allowed to air her views on TV! I recently wrote a blog post after she was on Daybreak.

    I feel sorry for her children … I don’t understand why any woman wouldn’t want to spend time with them. She lives in her own little world if she thinks that most mums are chatting about organic purees! I co-own Networking Mummies (www.networkingmummies.com) we recently had 2 meets in the UK at a soft play area where the children played and we discussed hot topics such as PR and Marketing!!

    • Liz Jarvis May 6, 2011 at 8:20 pm

      I interview so many fabulous business mums it makes me very cross when someone like Katie dismisses them like that x

  • Sarah Bradley May 6, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I couldn’t believe my ears or eyes when it was on last night. I even rewound it to check what I heard was, well, what I heard!

    Her backlash at the poor woman who suggested to her that she wouldn’t know whether not being there for her kids will have an adverse affect on them for years to come said it all really.

    She is clueless.

    Business is about making a profit and having a balanced life whether you have kids or not.

    Good business is about retaining the skills of employees who happen to be mums too. Statistics show that those companies that do, succeed over those that don’t…

    I’m a working mum and have styled my business to fit around what I want to do with my kids and my hubby. I know I’m very lucky to have a good balance. It saddens me to hear that Katie Hopkins wasn’t able to and is justifying her decision because deep down I think she feels guilty about it…

    • Liz Jarvis May 6, 2011 at 8:18 pm

      I think you’re absolutely right, employers need to take care of their workforce. I wonder though if Katie feels guilt…

  • Muddling Along May 6, 2011 at 10:38 am

    As was clear from her performance on the Apprentice she doesn’t seem to think things through – not only is she missing the medium term costs to businesses of losing trained, skilled, motivated female employees and the subsequent cost of replacing them but she is also missing the wider benefits of a diverse workforce

    Yes it is possible to return to work early (I did at 3.5 months) and combine with breastfeeding and everything else BUT there are wider societal benefits of remaining at home for several months, not least that you don’t tend to sit on the train home crying in emotional and physical exhaustion which is unpleasant for your fellow commuters!

    • Liz Jarvis May 6, 2011 at 8:17 pm


  • Lisa Collins May 6, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I completely agree with your post. I witnessed Katie Hopkins blabbering on TV awhile back about this and was astonishedat her attitude.
    I had depression after having my son and I dread to think how that would have affected me at work had I gone back early. The maternity leave gave me a chance to bond with my son and after a short return to work I too decided to then work for myself.
    My company now has several staff all women with children and we all make sure we help with all the little emergencies that occur and make sure all sports days and nativities are covered.
    At the speed my son is growing up now I am glad that I spent the time with him as a baby because if you do regret that decison you cant get the time back, whereas you can work as hard as you like when they’ve up and left home.

    • Liz Jarvis May 6, 2011 at 8:17 pm

      you’re so right, you can never get that time back x

  • Carly Hardy May 5, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    This is a prime example of someone not thinking sustainably and is typical of so many self-styled ‘business’ people. Successful businesses think long term, be it about sustaining a key employee’s career over a long period or even helping to sustain a flourishing economy (these babies are future workforce and customers). Check out John Lewis and Accenture Maternity policies: they speak volumes. Katie, get a grip.

    • Liz Jarvis May 6, 2011 at 7:12 am

      Well said!

  • Amy May 5, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    (disclaimer: I tried really hard to word this in a clever, articulate way…..)

    What a load of arse.

    I’m mean, really?

    Is she for real?

    Katie Hopkins should be thoroughly ashamed of herself for the comments she’s made.

    Instead of promoting herself as the new face of feminism all she’s done is add herself to the antiquated boys club which seems to exist in the seedy underbelly of business that believe women should be able to give birth and return to work immediately and those who don’t are merely deadwood.

    I agree with you entirely – if a woman is confident, self assured and committed in her ability to do her job then it shouldn’t matter how long she takes off of work to raise and nurture her child should it?

    Katie smacks of growing up either an either an only child or a little girl who wasn’t cuddled enough when she was little.

    • Liz Jarvis May 6, 2011 at 7:15 am

      I think you’re probably right, and I’d almost feel sorry for her if her views weren’t so offensive.

  • Caroline Hare May 5, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    I was gobsmacked at her lack of knowledge about children, her being a mother of 3… I wonder if her kids know who she is anyway!
    I have three kids, single mum last 7 years, and what Madam Katie is suggesting all mums should just their kids at weekends.
    What sort of society would that give us Katie, with no love, no care or nurturing the future working generation.
    If your kids want to see you Katie, they could google you and find a great photo of you and some MARRIED man in a field.
    Go back to your kids and enjoy them.

    • Liz Jarvis May 6, 2011 at 7:14 am

      We should be able to enjoy our kids and our careers. I really don’t see why she thinks one has to come before the other.

  • Kim McCann May 5, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Far from becoming a “brainless version of your former self” more and more women are utilising their maternity leave to start their own businesses. I know I am. Having the flexibility to merge work and family life gives me the complete control to balance both.
    I returned to my corporate job after 9 months but it never felt right. I was switching between “mummy Kim” and “Corporate Kim” all the time. I didn’t feel I done either full justice.
    Running my own business I can completly merge the two. I can judge when the kids need more mummy time and focus a couple of hours on making a cake or painting in the middle of the day. I can check emails during night feeds. It means I never switch off from either and thats the way I like it. I have a very supportive employer who knows exactly what I’m doing and is happy as long as it is not in conflict with their business. I’ll return to work a couple of days a week while I build the business up. My employers know a happy workforce is a productive workforce and when you employ 100’s of 1000’s of people one size will never fit all.
    Judging what’s the right amount of time off is a very individual choice. How dare Katie judge anyone else for their decision. Her opinions are always focused on playing to the most base and macho views in society. She frames them to court as much controversy and publicity as possible. Which does work, we’re all talking about her even though we think she is dispicable..

    • Liz Jarvis May 6, 2011 at 7:12 am

      I’ve interviewed so many mums running their own businesses over the past few years and without exception they’d say their business was inspired by being SAHMs.

      And yes I’m sure she just wants to court controversy – but you’ll note I haven’t linked to her…

  • Liz Dawes May 5, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Women do not have children. Society has children. Society should organise itself so that children can bond with their parents so that both parent and child have the best opportunity to be well adjusted individuals. Then parents can return to work and children can grow into useful adults. If we do not provide this environment society is fractured, damaged, less productive. Ms Hopkins would do well to look beyond her balance sheet at the bigger picture of how wealth is generated in the long term before making such ignorant and short term observations.

    • Mama-andmore May 5, 2011 at 11:54 pm

      Hear hear! Excellent point, Liz, somehow women are isolated (often by the media or some small-minded people Katie Hopkins, that means you!) within the parenting category rather than society as a whole taking a share if responsibility in how a new generation is given values and raised. And to further create difficulties, our twisted society means that we often measure ourselves and are measured by others in terms of what we do workwise. Hence many women who have for so long defined themselves by what they do (myself included) need to race back to work, along with the financial pressures, in order to regain a certain social standing. The point of having extended maternity leave is that we have choice. We can choose to go back after a few weeks, or after 12 months, but we at least have a choice. The Americans I know are wildly jealous of us Brits for that. This woman is clearly a fame seeker. Go wear a meat dress instead Katie. Great post Liz, good conversation starter!

    • Liz Jarvis May 6, 2011 at 7:10 am

      Exactly – and it’s quite bizarre for a businesswoman that she doesn’t seem to grasp that, IMHO

    • Liz Jarvis May 6, 2011 at 8:16 pm

      Really interesting comment Liz, thank you

  • Kellie Whitehead May 5, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Actually, forgetting all the obvious media faux pas this woman has made, she’s actually a bit unhinged if you ask me – does anyone else remember the ‘set up’ shots of a topless Katie ‘riding’ a married colleague in a field ?…. Nobody with any kind of a business brain would stoop so bizarrely – actually, she’d make great politician – she shares the same self delusions of many of that lot…

    • Liz Jarvis May 6, 2011 at 7:09 am


  • ALISON TINLIN May 5, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    This makes me so mad, its a dog eat dog world and we already have to try twice as hard to be heard and then there is this idiot saying that.
    Why should we be forced to make choices, why should be forced to make sacrifices we don’t want to.
    I am a mum of 2 and I run a business, and its beyond challenging but i do it as I am passionate about my business like I am passionate about my kids.
    I take great offence at some idiot saying that I can’t be good enough or better just because I have a child,

    • Liz Jarvis May 6, 2011 at 7:08 am

      I couldn’t agree with more Alison – we shouldn’t be forced to make choices and sacrifices.

  • English Mum May 5, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Showing my age here, but when I was pregnant with my now teen, I worked for the police force – there was no special treatment for pregnant officers and I returned after 12 weeks to half-shifts. And I mean literally half-shifts – if the rest of my shift were doing 11pm til 7am I did 11pm til 3am! I thought things had moved on, but possibly madame would like to keep things in the dark ages?

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm

      I had no idea… and yes, I think she would!

  • Crystal Jigsaw May 5, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    I don’t watch The Apprentice and when I saw her on QT I was pretty glad I’d made the decision not watch her! She really doesn’t live in the real world at all. I suspect she’s had a difficult and somewhat unloved upbringing to be spouting ignorant comments such as these. I also suspect the hard exterior she portrays so well is a mask for a very insecure and naive member of the female society. Feminism or not, she is a woman and if this is truly the way she thinks and believes women should live their lives, I think she is in serious need of therapy. A lack of emotion does no one any good, even when you’re as arrogant as this woman.

    CJ xx

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 9:49 pm

      I think you’re absolutely spot on CJ – there’s definitely something not quite right.

  • I Heart Motherhood May 5, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Everytime I hear something about this woman it makes me so mad, she does women no favours whatsoever and all I can think is that I pity her kids. She is an attention seeing whatsit and the less attention she gets the better. Sir Alan had a lucky escape.

  • Jessica Chivers May 5, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    Hi Liz, as mentioned on Twitter earlier this evening, I shared a platform with Katie Hopkins on The Vanessa Show last month. I blogged about my experience a few days ago and share some thoughts from that post here. You can read the rest on my website.

    Actually, I can’t cut and paste from my blog so please do see my site for thoughts.

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      Remind me never to go on The Vanessa Show!

  • Pamela May 5, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    A woman like Katie Hopkins should simply not have children. It does make me wonder if she was born in a field while her mother harvested crops, slung her on her breast to find the source of sustenance on her own and continued her work.

    This is a common attitude of men who just cannot grasp the importance of bonding yet they see the “studies” regarding our society and future workforce being dessimated by the lack of good parenting.

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 9:23 pm

      I think it’s the neanderthal aspect of her comments that I find so offensive – she is a woman and yet she’s betraying her sex with every ill-thought out word that comes out of her mouth.

  • Jo Norman May 5, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    In my experience, of over twenty years working for the same company, I can assure you that the mothers that came back to work were more loyal and, dare I say it, more focussed with their time than the male staff.

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      And in my experience too Jo – really good point.

    • Jo Norman May 5, 2011 at 10:19 pm

      This is what comes of starting to write something and then bathing your children mid post! I meant to say “come back to work after a decent maternity leave” – I clearly can’t multi-task!

  • maggie May 5, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    That woman is a disgrace, she was dreadful on The Apprentice, dreadful on Question Time. She is clearly insecure, businesses will wait for truly succesful women, she must be worried about not really being wanted. I got promoted the week before i went on mat leave, took 10 months off, got a large pay rise while off and promoted again after being back for 4 months. Three weeks off would have made me, my baby and family miserable, and probably work, i would have been no good getting up every 5 mins for a small baby

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 9:21 pm

      I think the insecurity thing is really interesting actually – because if you’re really confident about your ability, and your position, it shouldn’t be an issue for you to take maternity leave if you can afford it, should it?

      • maggie May 5, 2011 at 9:31 pm

        Exactly, I just read Jessica’s blog about the Vanessa show and the talent shortage, it is very true.

        She is clearly insecure, she wouldn’t have been that rude about the other contestants if she was confident in herself.

        Good companies also let men take a break, I know companies where lots of people take career breaks, so a woman could have mat leave, or a man could go travelling for a year, the business will wait for the best people, and it makes people more likely to stay there

  • Nicki Cawood May 5, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Can anyone smell the faint whiff of a PR stunt? (Cynical).

    I’d love to know if she went back to work after three weeks.
    I actually can’t get too angry about this, because if she really believes that, then I almost pity her. She is very blinkered.

    On her own site it says she is described as “representing the new face of feminism”. I’m pretty sure making negative comments about new mothers taking their legally entitled maternity leave and insinuating you would not be as good a businessperson if you don’t return to work that quickly, is hardly supporting the rights of the sisterhood.

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 9:20 pm

      You know what Nicki, the sad/worrying/disturbing thing is I think she really does believe it. And yes, totally agree with you – who’d want her as a boss, or indeed, a colleague?

  • Kat May 5, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Who the hell is Katie Hopkins?

    *thinks sometimes it pays off being an American living here and unaware of some of the B list ‘slebs*

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      Try Z list Kat!

  • Emily May 5, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    There seems to be this issue within business that some women who have children feel the need to out-alpha the alpha males. In this position they are totally isolated; men feel threatened and other mums feel belittled.

    Much like the right to vote, the right to spend the first few months at home after the birth of a child was a long battle which was won. It seems ridiculous to spurn the legal right as unnecessary. It is vital that women and men protect this right by taking maternity and paternity leave.

    There is no prize for seeming tough enough not to need to spend any time with your newborn. But there’s a strong possibility of a Dusty Bin for those who belittle others who want to take up their legal right to spend time with their children.

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      Totally agree with you – and love the 3-2-1 reference!

  • Yummy mummy May 5, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    I heard the comments made by Katie Hopkins and I am a bit worried why some women would feel that taking a year out of work to love and nurture your baby is unprofitable.

    Clearly women like Katie are money driven and the trouble with that is, one looses their humanity all in the pursuit of wealth. I would like to think there is so much more to life than just profit, money and business.

    In a child’s life the first two years are vital to their development. I would rather be the one who helps my child develop during that crucial time, rather than a child minder or some nursery school. No matter how high profile they may be. If Katie did not like being questioned on the effects of her decisions then she should not preach to other women who have chosen to be with their children for a longer period. I think Katie should keep her views to herself and her household!!

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 8:42 pm

      You are totally right – in fact I know lots of women whose careers actually went into overdrive after they gave birth; productivity fuels creativity.

  • Notes to self plus two May 5, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    I had to stop listening to her! That is has a profile to comment on such matters annoys me beyond belief.
    She is vile. She completely misses the point that if men and women were considered equal in the workplace the issue of women taking maternity leave falls away. The fact that men can now take a share of a women’s maternity leave time helps this, but time is needed for this to actually start happening.
    Oh I feel a blog post coming on.

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 8:43 pm

      She misses all points. It does make you wonder how bright she actually is.

  • Mostly Yummy May 5, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    FIRED! What an infuriating woman! And I can’t help but think that it was a desperate attempt at another fifteen minutes of fame. I’ve never heard such rubbish and how desperately sad for her and her poor children.

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 8:43 pm

      So fired!

    • Baybury May 10, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      Mostly Yummy – I completely agree with you. How sad if she genuinely thinks that way (and its not a fame hungry soundbyte).

  • Gary May 5, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Brilliant blog, I totally agree with all the points you make. Women should be in complete control about how much maternity leave they take.

  • Helen May 5, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    I found when I was on maternity it was not a question of how long I was allowed to take off but more a case of how long I could afford to take off. With the usual mortgage committments the decision was made for me and I managed to scrimp and save and use the last of my holiday to manage four months maternity.

    At the start I had believed I would not want to go back to work, but soon realised that I needed to work not just because I couldn’t afford not to, but because it was something I needed for my self respect and mindset.

    I am now working for myself and probably wouldn’t take four months off if I had another child, but would work as and when I felt it appropriate to me and to my child, flexible working would suit me much more than a rigid maternity policy.

    As it is I enjoy taking an afternoon off when I choose to attend a school concert or afternoon at school where my daughter can show me the progress she has made. Taking an afternoon or day off in the school holidays or teacher training day to take my daughter out and participate in activities with her.

    It’s not just about the amount of time we spend with our children, its what we do with that time.

    It’s also about retaining your sense of self as well, it makes for a better family relationship.

    Lets not talk rigid times as being right or wrong, I would prefer a more flexible approach to maternity, perhaps this way it would make it easier for new mums to spend more quality time with their children without having to worry about whether they can afford it in the first place.

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 8:45 pm

      You are totally right of course and money (and the lack of it) is a huge consideration when planning maternity leave.

      I firmly believe that women should be supported to have children and definitely agree with you there should be a more flexible approach to maternity.

      My golden rule has always been never miss a Christmas nativity, or parents’ evening, or prize-giving, because that’s what they’ll remember. And I never have.

      • Sarah Arrow May 6, 2011 at 8:02 am

        I agree, I have always been there for those days, along with collecting them form school at least once a week.

        I personally think every woman is different and will determine how much or how little time she needs to get to know her new child and feel comfortable as they get to know “their brainless, bloated self”.

  • Lorraine Berry May 5, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Really begs the question why have children? If you have to. Back to work for financial reasons, I can understand this totally, but to plan toreturn the second the placenta leaves your body leaves no time for you to adjust physically, let alone emotionally, to the new challenges of parenthood. I don’t think you have to forgo your career entirely in order to raise your family, but for the sake of your babies, as well as yourself, maternity leave is a valuable time to adjust and make fully informed decisions about childcare etc, so that when, and if, you return to work, you can give your best to both your career and baby.

    • Liz Jarvis May 5, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      Absolutely – I realise some women are built differently but it is difficult to understand why anyone would WANT to return to work so quickly after giving birth. We’re not blimmin’ baby factories, after all.