Imagine a world of work where you could slip out for the equivalent of a fag break for a quick squidge with your kid?
Smoking bad; babies good.
The massive 9-5 cock blocker that I faced when I left my previous job at the L’Oreal Group was daycare. The inflexibility of it, the gargantuan cost of it and being sat on one of those tiny primary-hued chairs to be told off by the manager when I was 1 minute 37 seconds late. (That’s not to mention the galling £1 a minute after 6pm charge).
I was the sweaty, rasping family Labrador galumphing into those childcare realms at 6.01pm with the life enthusiasm of an old sock. I was gone; this wasn’t a rat race, I wasn’t even in those rodent starting blocks – and then as I wondered where everyone else was, I was accidentally run over by a rusty lawnmower driven by David Cameron.
The current system is not set-up to retain maternal (and increasingly paternal) talent. There’s absolutely no doubting the ace people working at our daycare. They are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, some of the best humans on this Earth; patient, too, in the face of 32 children ‘on the turn’ at 4pm. Hat’s off to them, Mae is a better human because of them, not me.
Even when it slightly creeps my husband out when he’s called ‘Daddy’ and I wonder how they keep their minds in the face of a 113th rendition of The Gruffalo, this is a place we trust our life project to.
But they are saintly puppets in a hulking great theatre that simply isn’t performing. The crucial time for a parent returning to the workforce is the day after maternity/paternity leave ends – when boob (or moob? One must remain equal) feeding might still be on the cards and separation anxiety packs a mighty punch.
It’s here where a bit of financial relief wouldn’t go astray. It’s from two years onwards that the government stumps up childcare funding (15 hours a week) but by then, it’s often too late. By then you’ve done the light maths and it dawns on you like a glaring LED office light that you’re almost paying your employer to be Sellotaped to that skanky office chair – away from your spawn.
It’s a no brainer. And that’s where the swathes of eye wateringly-talented women scarper from the workforce. That’s the juncture. I said it once and I’ll say it again, how can we smash through those glass ceilings if we’re not there?
This isn’t prattle about staying at home or working away – I think we all realise we’re simply papering over the cracks in the best ways we can – it’s simply about choice. It’s about having worked really hard in that excruciating Physics GCSE only to get a door slammed unexpectedly in your face the minute the swimmers run free.
I was not alone in my frantic Triathlon-worthy dash across the city to make that 5.59pm curfew. All around me were women twitching and nervously snorting like a pre-race Seabiscuit (that underdog thoroughbred who kept on going despite people’s disbelief) in the race to pick-up their kids. The rampant, all-consuming stress was palpable – and still is when I dip a toe in those commuting waters.
In the face of businesses being unwilling to flex and daycares etching draconian lines in the sand, is it not time to consider the benefits of a crèche at work? Is it not time for the big boys to follow Goldman Sach’s perfectly-pressed suit and offer on-site childcare (20 free days a year and a month to transition back to work).
Is it not time for smaller companies who can’t offer these facilities to allow some light flexibility here and there – the productivity rewards you would reap could deliver bounties aplenty.
Surely, a world where a fag break can be replaced by a cuddle break is only a good thing?