Skip to content

Article: What Lily Allen’s comments about children ruining her career reveals about motherhood

What Lily Allen’s comments about children ruining her career reveals about motherhood

What Lily Allen’s comments about children ruining her career reveals about motherhood

Writer Kat Romero on the juggle of managing a baby with a career, and why we need to be more honest as a society to overcome the challenges

As a working mother, I was shocked by Lily Allen's recent admission that her children had ruined her career. But only because she'd had the guts to say it.  Growing up, I firmly believed that a woman 'having it all' was the ultimate sign of feminism. We could be hitting all bases at home whilst quickly working our way up the career ladder. Pushing a stroller with one hand and sipping on our coffee to go cup with the other. 

Afterall, women are the masters of multitasking and to suggest that it was an impossible fantasy felt like giving in to a toxic narrative long enforced by misogynists.

But with almost 18 months under my belt as a working mum, I now realise that Lily's admission is the kind of refreshing honesty mums need to be hearing. And the notion that we can easily 'have it all' is the real toxic narrative.

My son River is two and a half and in the 18 months since he started nursery full time, he has racked up a total of 35 sick days. Plagued by numerous coughs, chest infections and one rather fun bout of gastroenteritis that took us all out, I now dread when I see his nursery number pop up on my phone in the middle of his day.

Of course, I'll rush to pick him up and I understand that he needs comfort. But my son's sick days never seem to tie in with a long weekend or a quiet week. I can have a super important meeting or an impending deadline in the diary and you can guarantee that the toddler sickness Gods will secretly start conspiring about what wacky new bug they can throw my son's way. And it will definitely be one that involves projectile vomiting, explosive nappies and sleepless nights.

As a freelance writer, I often feel like I'm spinning a million plates but add a toddler into the mix and I'm now spinning plates whilst jumping on a pogo stick in 7 inch heels. Everything is teetering on the edge and I feel seconds from a huge crash.

My partner is a huge source of support but as the main breadwinner and with a job that requires him in the office five days a week, it often makes more sense for me to take the time off. Plus, I'm the one my son wants when he’s ill. 

But that leaves me manically typing on my keyboard into the wee hours, fuelled by buckets of espresso and the sheer determination to power through. I'm fortunate to work with a lot of understanding clients but knowing that I may be up against child-free competition who can offer more flexibility and reliability leaves me constantly uneasy.

I've been offered fun projects or lucrative opportunities that I've no choice but to turn down. I realise now that my career has limits and it has been a hard pill to swallow. On the other hand, my partner is like most dads. He's had to make adjustments to his life but his job has been largely unaffected by parenthood. More like a gentle ding to his career car bonnet compared to the full speed crash into a brick wall of mine.

Lily - who is a mum to daughters Ethel Mary, 11, and Marnie Rose, nine, with ex-husband Sam Cooper - made her admission about motherhood last month during a radio interview, insisting her children had 'killed' her career. She said it whilst laughing but added, "I get really annoyed when people say you can have it all because, quite frankly, you can’t.” 

Her comments reassured me that I’m not alone and certainly not a bad mother for recognising the sacrifices I've had to make. In fact, I just wish this was a narrative more widely discussed and not a reality women have to discover for themselves when they’re stuck in the thick of it all.

Alongside chats about what stroller or next-to-me cot to buy, or what essentials to pack in the hospital bag, we should be arming pregnant women with the best advice on how to return to work after maternity leave and adjust to this new chapter and reassuring them that it’s ok to struggle with the monumental shift. Afterall, there’s no medal for trying to achieve it all. 

But sadly, our society is set up to make women believe they have to parent like they don't have a job and work like they don't have kids. We think nothing of a father working 12 hour days, 5 days a week but god forbid a mother miss bedtime. Men get praised for helping out with the nursery or school pick ups but for mums, it's the bare minimum. I won't even get into the trenches on the new admin and emotional load involved in running a household. 

Children are referred to as dependents for a reason, but most full time jobs require set hours that don’t always take the school run or terms dates into consideration. Parents can't easily access sabbatical for when their child goes through a sleep regression or growth spurt. According to Pregnant Then Screwed, a campaign organisation set-up to support the rights of pregnant women in the UK, some 54,000 women a year lose their job simply for getting pregnant. In addition, 390,000 working mums experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each year.

Lily's admission also shows that it doesn't matter what your net value or how much access to help you have. You'll still feel pulled in a million directions and it's that unbearable stretch that leaves you near breaking point.

The response to Lily’s comments were largely positive, with many mums glad to see some real honesty surrounding the topic. 

“She's not blaming her kids, she's absolutely right,” one mother wrote online. “There are only so many hours in the day.”

“What she said IS true though,” another added. “You can't be top in your career and be the best present mum for your kids.” 

Hopefully, Lily’s words will encourage other mums to open up about the realities and struggles of motherhood without constant fear of judgement. I’ve found that once I admitted my battle to my mum friends, the flood gates opened and we realised we were all in the trenches together. Despite how things had appeared on the outside. 

Earlier this month, there was also some positive news in the UK with the introduction of the Flexible Working Bill that means employees now have access to flexible options immediately and employers have to offer alternative solutions if a request is denied. 

It’s by no means a miracle cure but hopefully a sign we’re moving in the right direction. Albeit, very very slowly. It’s a first step in acknowledging how difficult it is for mothers to juggle a career and what is involved in raising children in the current system. 

And it’s important for all expectant mothers to remember that whilst motherhood does come with sacrifice and challenges, there are so many wonderful moments that make life seem so full of joy.

With motherhood comes more balance, and as cliché as it sounds, a huge evolution does take place in our lives and aspirations, and we do often find ourselves on a different journey…something we want to explore a little further here in this lifestyle blog in the coming weeks.


More from the blog...

#BumpStyle: New Mama on Duty
new mother outfits

#BumpStyle: New Mama on Duty

Trying to figure out what to wear gets a little more challenging as a new mother, especially when your new fashion accessory is always stealing the show! Now you need to factor in so many new cloth...

Read more