I have noticed a new phenomenon over the past few months: the emergence of a woman called Mummy. Everywhere you look online, there are mummies coming out of the closet.
I did a quick scan of my Twitter follows/ers - lots of the women describe themselves as a 'mum', 'mummy' or 'mom'. There is something significant about using the word mummy as opposed to mother - it implies (and publicises) a more intimate relation with your children.
Even those who don't choose to brand themselves as mummies employ descriptions such as 'bedtime-story reader' (again proof of maternal intimacy) or proudly list their children by name. In this age of information, Twitter asks us to define ourselves in a capsule and all of these woman see motherhood - or mummyhood - as an important part of their public identity.
I suspect we have the website Mumsnet partly to thank for this latest zeitgeist. In the last UK election, the site was courted by politicians seeking to bag the mumsvote. Facebook, mummy blogs and social media have played a part too. They have helped to unionise mummies and give them a coherent voice beyond the confines of the school gate.
|Kept out of the picture in days gone by Credit: Tim Bevan|
Against this backdrop, a friend of mine recently expressed a dilemma on her Facebook page: how should she cover a gap in employment due to starting a family? Her post attracted at least 10 comments from men and women, and the response was generally unanimous: any decent company in the 21st century shouldn't see a child career break as a problem.
Even Mumsnet advises us, "Remember... being a mum looks good on your CV." Just think of all those new attributes - patience in the face of extreme provocation, negotiation skills, time management... the list goes on.
But let's not get too carried away. I have another friend who freelances in the advertising industry. Her experience is very different and she is often exasperated by her colleagues' unwillingness to accept that she has a toddler to pick up at the end of each day. Despite the changes, there are still bastions of prejudice to storm.
That's why I loved the pictures last week of Licia Ronzulli, the European member of parliament who took her toddler to work. In a room of grey-suited men, there sits a little girl with bunches, playing with a pencil on her mum's lap. A potent symbol of change. For too long, women in the public sphere have been forced to keep family life in the shadows.
Post a comment below. Have you felt someone looked down on you for being a mummy? Should employers be more family-friendly? Or should there be a clear divide between work and your identity as a parent?
Emma Clark Lam is the author of A Sister for Margot