Man power

Flex Appeal flash dance at Trafalgar Square, organised by Anna Whitehouse aka Mother Pukka.


This isn’t going to be a willy-bashing exercise; if it didn’t sound so wrong, I’d say it was a willy-raising endeavour. Power to the willy, if you will.

But the time has come for our male comrades and business oracles to think about flex over sex.

In 2016 – a time when you can eat cheese out of a can; or perform keyhole surgery with a really cool robot – the burden of childcare remains heavily strapped, nay haphazardly masking-taped, to female shoulders. The official government stat:

Nearly one Dad in five who requested flexible work in 2015 was denied permission, while only one mother in 10 was refused.

“There’s still this reaction that when men have a child they’re a bread-winner so they need to earn more, whereas when women have a child they’re a carer so they need to work less,” says business psychologist Rachel Short from leadership consulting firm YSC.

It seems we are living in the 1937 edition of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. What was all the brave, new world blather of the 50s about? The reality is a mad old world – think a spangled Keith Richards – where someone’s extremities determine their career path. (No doubt bra-burning powerhouse Emmeline Pankhurst would be keen to grab some suit lurking in the House of Commons by the short and curlies and query the sitch).

So you have a spunk gun? That’s ace. I’ve got a cracking pair of norks. (Massive lie: they resemble a spaniel’s pillowy-to-the-touch ear). Hurrah for our biological quirks; celebrating difference is what the horizontal Hokey Cokey really is all about. But when those fun bags/ love rod comes to determining if someone is ‘allowed’ to continue a career they’ve sweated a lifetime’s supply of Red Bull over, then that’s the 21st century line crossed my friend.

It’s the branding of flexible working as a ‘women’s issue’ that gets my goat – a feisty lil’ fella who doesn’t take kindly to people (including women) being dicks. It’s a people issue – whatever is, or is not, dangling between your legs.

People make babies. I’ve even asked my sister who is engaged to a woman if I’ve gone of piste here with the LGBT community and she assures me, they’re people too and can, in fact, make babies. We’re all just lost little souls who bump uglies and are genuinely surprised/occasionally aghast that a human came out of places that shouldn’t see the light of day.

We’re human.

And life is messy for humans. Whether you’re in the gut-wrenchingly sad position of looking after a parent with Alzheimer’s or suffer from the misdiagnosed IBS. Whether you’re a productivity machine after a quick Downward Dog with requisite ‘Namaste’ happy ending; whether you’re a mama, a papa, a dog walker, a Facebook ex-stalker or someone who really likes taking time over the making of their cheese and pickle sandwich, it’s none of my business, really as long as the job gets done.

And that job can be done by anyone – regardless of the gender pool they splashed into. Men don’t instantly lose a chunk of their manhood/ business acumen the minute they look after that life spawn for a few more hours/weeks/months/years, so why aren’t their requests for flexible working abandoned like a soggy cucumber in the underbelly of a fridge? Why aren’t they then wanging that soggy legume in the faces of the HR directors who said no?

Flexibility in the workforce isn’t just the decent thing to do, it’s the eye-wateringly right thing to do. I’ll blast on about all the ways it benefits businesses in a separate post to give it the full, stat-focused attention it deserves.

It’s plainer than the need for X Factor to just stop warbling away on ITV; it’s clearer than Trump’s need for a proper coif; it’s clearer than Mary Berry’s Alpine-like crystal eyes.

But we can’t forge equal paths with mammaries alone. Because this is not a revolution, it’s evolution and for that we need all the people bits we can muster.

Willies, can you please stand up.

Let’s get digital

For a bit of light reading, here’s some stats from Digital Mums’ latest report on ‘work that works:

  • Almost 7 in 10 (68%) stay-at-home mums (SAHMs) would go back to work in some capacity if flexible working around childcare was an option
  • Over a third (37%) of working mums living with children would work additional hours
  • Businesses embracing flexible work could benefit from a total of 66 million hours more work a week – the equivalent of 1.76 million additional full time workers
  • This would provide the UK economy with an annual £62.5 billion boost to output
  • 6 in 10 UK working mums still don’t have access to flexible work.
  • Of those who do, over half (55%) feel they’ve had to compromise their work skills and experience in order to find work that works around family.
  • In total, over three-fifths of mums (64%) felt that their skills and experience had been compromised in some way in order to find a flexible job that fitted around childcare.
  • Only 14% of mums felt their skills hadn’t been – or wouldn’t have to be – compromised at all to find a flexible job

Anna Whitehouse

Founder of Mother Pukka, Anna Whitehouse likes super hero cape-making classes and dislikes the naming of celebrity couples (TomKat, Brange etc.) She tries (and often fails) to parent the shit out of life.



Turns out I’m not an afternoon person either.


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