I love The Apprentice but, to be honest, I had long forgotten who Katie Hopkins was until her, ahem, eccentric views reared their ugly head several weeks ago in a TV interview about how and why she judges children based on their names. I didn’t see it, but I soon knew about it because people were outraged and made it known on every social networking site they could find.
Tempting as it was to jump on the outraged-mums bandwagon and boost my Twitter hits, I resisted. ‘Don’t feed the trolls’ my husband wisely advised me. While at first I thought he was making some obscure reference to The Three Billy Goats Gruff (I’ve still not really go my head round Twitter), I agreed. As said before, I had totally forgotten who Katie Hopkins was (she didn’t even make the final did she?) and it seemed fairly obvious that this vile, judgemental diatribe was a calculated, and sadly successful, ploy to fling herself back into the limelight.
Clearly dismayed by how quickly her views were overshadowed by an infinite number of more interesting and important news stories, she’s bounced back and this time aimed her hate-rifle at family life once again.
This time she’s annoyed that we want to spend time with our children. She’s angry at mums who, rather than sucking their post baby bellies into a power suit and heading straight back to the office within days of giving birth, actually want to spend a few months nurturing and getting to know their newborns: feeding them, playing with them, trying to figure out how on earth to get them to sleep. Bloody hell, Katie’s right, we really are a right load of selfish gits us mums!
I refuse to give in and I’m not going to feed any trolls, figurative or literal. I may however inadvertently shed a few crumbs in their direction as I leave a Hansel and Gretel like trail in the hope that it may lead Ms Hopkins and others with similar opinions to a calmer, more humane and pragmatic view point.
So, here’s my very sensible, measured and unemotional response to her article (seriously, I’m trying not to feed any trolls).
1. Children are not a ‘luxury’.
You can’t equate a person’s right to procreate, the one thing we are all biologically designed to do, to owning a flat screen TV or holidaying in the Canary Islands. By all means people should be responsible when making the decision to start a family and try to ensure they can afford it, but that doesn’t mean if you don’t happen to have been born into a wealthy family with a personal nanny on tap, you should have to forgo your dreams of parenthood in order to have a job, or vice versa. Besides, to imply that all small business’ problems would be solved by abandoning maternity benefits and encouraging women not to have children is ridiculous: What about businesses that cater for babies, children and families? What about the people who own small businesses who want to have children? What about small businesses which succeed only to find they can’t recruit anyone because everyone stopped having children to avoid putting a burden on small businesses? It’s ridiculous. Though it might make a good basis for a modern dystopian novel.
2. Ms Hopkins claims that “women are effectively legislating themselves out of the game.”
This final statement implies that a working woman has only two options: go back to work within weeks of giving birth or give up work altogether to be a stay at home mum.
I love my job and am glad to have made the choice to be a full-time working mum. However, faced with these narrow options I’d have had no choice but to stay at home. Partly because I wanted the chance to bond with my new son, partly because I was his only source of food for six months and partly because I would have been crap at my job! With the pitiful amount of sleep I snatched in those first five months, I dread to think what would have happened had I attempted to teach GCSE classes. At the very least there would have been children screamed at for the most minor mischief, at worst I can fully imagine teaching entirely the wrong set of texts and only discovering on the day of the exam, then hiding in a cupboard wracked with sobs and anguish awaiting the onslaught of parents demanding my sacking. Legislating myself out of the game? If I hadn’t risked that I’d have almost certainly been legislated out of the profession for good!
3. I’m not a businesswoman, but have worked in more than enough different organisations to know that some of the most important things you need for success are stability, experience and motivation.
Certainly, having a colleague go on leave for 6-12 months with a baby will cause disruption, but if you treat that colleague well, she’ll return happy, grateful and willing to put her all into that organisation. Prior to my current job I barely stayed in any job for longer than a year, but 3 years into this job and I’m happy to stick around. There are the practicalities around being near to the childminder and having set working hours which I know fit around my life now, but there’s also the fact that they treated me so well before, during and upon return from maternity leave that I really appreciate my colleagues, work ten times harder as a result and am sure to be a committed worker for some time to come. Yes it’s a short term loss, but for a much longer term gain through staff retention and motivation.
I recognise that there are, unfortunately, a couple of key flaws in my response to Ms Hopkins.
Firstly, she does actually have a point. While I absolutely believe we should fight to preserve the maternity rights we have in this country, I can see it must be so devastating to be setting up or running a business which is so reliant on a few members of staff, only to discover one is leaving for up to a year, you’ll have to find a replacement and to worry that they might fall in love with parenting and not come back at all. Maybe more should be done to help. Perhaps the government could subsidise maternity on a sliding scale, offering more help to those in small businesses while allowing large corporations to manage it more themselves? I don’t know, but I do know the answer isn’t to just turn the clock back and prevent the vast majority of mums being able to work at all. That benefits no one.
Secondly, as I have probably just demonstrated in my suggested solution, I am not a businesswoman.
Thankfully as she’s put so much energy into propelling herself into the media spotlight as a rent-a-gob on anything vaguely related to business and or parenthood, Ms Hopkins isn’t likely to be seen by many as a serious businesswoman either, so I don’t need to fight my corner quite so hard.