Working Mothers ‘Lie To Cover For Childcare’

More than half of all working mothers will lie about why they are running late or absent from the office if their childcare arrangements fall through, according to research.

The study indicated that 52 per cent routinely blamed heavy traffic or having overslept because those were seen as more legitimate excuses for arriving late than a sick nanny.

The report, which asked 1,500 working mothers about attitudes towards them in their office, concluded that women colleagues without children were less sympathetic to the pressures they faced juggling work and domestic duties than male colleagues. More than half of those surveyed (57 per cent) said that men appeared to understand more than other women the stresses they were under.

The survey, conducted by The Family Care Company, a nursery chain, suggests that office attitudes do not match the claim of many bosses that they want to make working life easier for mothers.

“It is rather worrying that a faulty alarm clock or heavy traffic is seen as a more acceptable reason for being late than having problems with childcare,” said Ben Black, director of the company. “It shows that many mothers are trying to hide the everyday problems working parents have.”

The majority of working mothers (94 per cent) said that having children had had an impact of their careers, but only a third said that the dual demands of work and family had affected their husband or partner’s job.

Two thirds said that asking for flexible working arrangements led bosses to assume that they were less committed to the job, even though their request could easily be accommodated.

The Government introduced the right for parents to request flexible work in 2003 and says that more than one million requests have been granted. However, the survey suggests that there is a price to pay, with fewer opportunities for promotion and progression. The research also suggested that employers were less familiar with the law that stops them asking prospective employees about their childcare arrangements.

More than a third of the women said that they had been asked about how their family commitments might affect their work. It is almost unheard of for a man to be asked this question.

Lisa Thompson, a corporate lawyer with three children, said that a generally negative atmosphere in her office led her to lie about absences and lateness if her childcare arrangements fell through. She said that colleagues took a dim view of her need to leave at 5.30pm every day, even though she worked at home to catch up when the children were in bed.

“There were times when our nanny was ill and another when she got bumped from her seat coming back from holiday. I felt I had to put as much distance between why I was late and the fact that I am a mother, so I would say I had a client meeting or was even ill myself,” she told The Times.

Mrs Thompson, 38, from Fulham, West London, returned to work full-time after having her first son, who is now 4, and then went part-time when she had her second son, now 3, but quit two years ago and now looks after her children full-time.

“It was very difficult to leave a City law firm at 5.30pm when your colleagues are all going to be there until 10 or 11, even if you are back online at 7pm. I felt guilty that I wasn’t giving 100 per cent to either work or my children.

“It was also stressful for my husband, who worried every afternoon that he was going to get a call from me asking him to race home to cover because I was stuck at work,” she said.

— 94% percent of working mothers say having children has affected their careers

— 31% percent say husband or partner’s job has been affected