Monday, 26 May 2008

Women's Rights?

Have recently been reading an interesting article in the guardian about women’s rights not to be questioned about their childcare arrangements or plans for future pregnancies when applying for a job (It has been illegal since 1975 to ask this question of women).
Whilst I wholeheartedly support this, I do think that the whole question of ‘Family Friendly Hours’ and the rights of pregnant women have totally made the world of nurse midwifery and maternity a crazy place to work in. A busy maternity unit has to supply safe, effective midwifery care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every week of the year without break in any shape or form. The work force is traditionally predominately female and the age of the work force is mainly of child-bearing age.

Where I work at the moment there is always at least 10 midwives pregnant or on maternity leave at any given period in time. These midwives always return from maternity leave on very reduced hours and usually demand to work set hours. There is never any cover available for them whilst they are on maternity leave so you can imagine this leaves a very depleted work force.

This impacts very heavily on the work-force left to keep the place going and it usually falls very heavily on the shoulders of the older, senior full time midwives who have their own set of problems at home i.e. looking after elderly parents/husbands/partners etc. These midwives never ask for leave or time off to fulfil these demands and often leave at the end of a busy shift to start another shift at home.

Is this equitable? If women really want to have equal rights then surely the men should be involved more in the care of the babies and have time off from work as well to enable the woman to come back to work earlier than a year. And, are the women who are having a year off from a ‘with woman environment’ really being supportive of the profession that they profess to belong to and what about their colleagues? Are they being fair and equitable to them by insisting on having as much time off as possible and then coming back on reduced hours? I don’t think so and trying to manage a service that provides care for a 24 hour period is a total nightmare with continually reduced dwindling resources.

I never thought I would find myself thinking this but I wish sometimes that we could just employ midwives that had completed their families or had no intention of having one in the interest of providing a truly first class maternity service for women.


Style Police said...

This post really angers me. I am a midwife who has not yet started a family. I work full time. I do not get lunch breaks. I leave late off shift - every shift - like all/most midwives. Now you are suggesting that midwives should either remain without a family or complete one prior to training. Are you quite mad?? Do we not sacrifice enough for midwifery? Everyone else has maternity leave, why not midwives - are our babies any less important than the ones of women who are transient in our lives? You can dress midwifery up to be whatever you like, but we are transient in those womens lives.

Isobel Martin said...

I have read your blog with interest up until this point. I wholeheartedly agree with the previous comment. Why should midwives be offered less rights than all other women? We are in no way martyrs (well, certainly I am not). It is just a job after all. If I had to make a choice between Midwifery and motherhood in a heart beat I would choose to be a mother. My home life is far more important. Midwifery is how I earn my money. Full stop.
At a time when we are trying to attract people into the profession I think we should be looking at ways of making shift patterns more conducive to having a family. Not less so.
I think being a midwife and being a feminist comes hand in hand and I think your views are blatantly not in line with feminist thinking.