A Search for That Perfect Balance; the Increasing Number of Women Who Choose to Combine a Career with Motherhood Has Been Blamed for a Rise in Family Break-Ups. Madeleine Brindley Spoke to Three Women about Their Decisions to Either Stay at Home with Their Children or Become Working Mothers and the Impact on Their Families
Byline: Madeleine Brindley
A LANDMARK inquiry into childhood included the conclusion that women's increasing economic independence from their male partners is contributing to family break-ups.
This breakdown of family life is in turn damaging children, according to the Good Childhood report.
More mothers of babies under 12 months old now work than do not and their children are being looked after in childcare rather than by their parents.
The report highlighted two major changes to society and motherhood - the fact that more women are now working and that family break-up is more common.
It said that 70% of mothers of nine to 12-month-old babies now do some paid work, compared to 25% 25 years ago. In most cases the children are cared for by people other than their parents.
And compared to the start of the 20th century, more women now work outside the home and combine careers with motherhood.
The report, published on Monday, added: "The second change is the rise in family break-up.
Women's new economic independence contributes to this rise - it has made women much less dependent on their male partners, as has the advent of the welfare state.
"As a result of family break-up, a third of our 16-year-olds now live apart from their biological father."
And the outlook for children whose parents do split up is bleak, according to the report.
"From over 90 studies we know that an average of 50% more children with separated parents have problems than those whose parents have not separated. This is true of a wide range of outcomes.
Academic achievement, selfesteem, popularity with other children, behavioural difficulties, anxiety and depression."
In a bid to find out what reality is like for mothers who either chose to stay at home with their children or combine work and motherhood, the Western Mail spoke to three Welsh women - the full-time mother, the working mother and the part-time businesswoman - about their lives.
The part-time businesswoman
KATE MATTHEWS is managing director of her own business, freshbaked Training, and mother to two daughters - Isobel, who is two-and-a-half, and eight-month-old Rosie.
Married to husband Richard, managing director of the freshbaked Group Ltd, the 33-year-old, from Newport, is office-based three days a week and combines work and motherhood at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Kate said: "We set up the business five years ago and, at that time, I worked full-time, I was really full-pelt - I didn't have weekends or bank holidays as we were trying to build the business up.
"Having a family made me rethink my whole way of living and, having had two children, it does get easier as you get more used to it.
"I have childcare three days a week and I go into the office then, but I only work from 10am to 4pm so I can drop the girls off and pick them up.
"On a Tuesday it is a working day with the children - I have an office at home and laptop for e-mail. When they have a nap or if they are doing activities I'll do some work.
"On a Thursday I try not to do so much work although my phone is always on but I am very strict about not working on the weekend.
"I also get work done in the evenings.
"I have a very good support structure - two days a week the children go to their grandparents and once a week they are both in nursery.
"I think they benefit because they are with other people and it helps them to become a bit more independent and develop their social skills. If I was at home with them all the time, I don't think that I would be doing all the different activities that other people do with them.
"I don't work because I need to earn a living but because I enjoy it and it's important to me. But I wouldn't want to work full-time either - for me the balance is really important. …