Happy corporate motherhood is a lie. And its getting worse.
So I'm calling it. And some will hate me for it. But the truth is that most of the full-time, corporate mothers of small children I know are unhappy. Some are bloody miserable.
There are exceptions. Those than run their own businesses. Those that regularly work from home or have 'limited' hours; what in our parents' day would have been called full-time but now requires three months of UN-style negotiation so they can leave at 4.30pm to cook the kids' dinner.
Which isn't to deny that lots of full-time corporate men and women without kids are also unhappy. They surely are. But there is something uniquely painful about living in our high-stress, competitive, hours-heavy culture when you're the mother of small children.
Some will argue that this pain is middle class angst from those lucky enough to have good jobs and real estate and choose to breed. They may be right. But they miss the point.
For as long as we blithely say we want more women CEOs and on boards but are unwilling to confront what that looks like for those that have children, we are fooling ourselves. Unless anyone is arguing for a binary choice between a meaningful career and having a family – which I think even Nigel Farage is stopping short of – we have to be honest about the price we are asking corporate mothers to pay.
While few will say this publicly, day to day, it looks something like this:
First up is women realising, sometime after they have the baby, that they've stepped into a trap. The double income mortgage or rent means they feel they have to work and commit to it. Plus – of course – there is another mortgage in childcare costs.
So both parents are racing round the wheel but feeling worse and worse off at the end of the month and wondering what it is all for. As a friend said recently "I need to change my life so I can have one again."
Then comes the lack of support network. These are women who moved to a place to work – probably a city – from university and built their social networks through work. When they have a baby they are exiled into the suburb they live where they may know precisely no one.
Many then skip through maternity leave without fully engaging in their new world – their safe, happy place is work so they may as well dial into a few calls and do some emails to keep in the loop. This leaves them with no one to escape for drinks with on a Friday night and laugh – slightly hysterically – about the day they sent Alice on a school trip without her lunch or dropped Luke at nursery suspecting he had chickenpox.
Of course they'd love to go out with the father of those children but they can't afford to spend another £50 on babysitting.
Next up is the social judgment. Their mother-in-law doesn't think they should spend so much time at the office when "the children are just so little and they want their mummy". No she's not offering to pay the mortgage.
Other mothers who decided to change their work lives after their kids are watching them keenly. And whether real or not, they feel judged. And if they are not around of course they will be excluded from the school gate gang.
Then the frantic lifestyle. Sleep-interrupted nights followed by stressful mornings hunting down shoes, sponging paint off uniforms, battling with French plaits and globs of porridge. Before charging – late – into an office where they are expected to look calm and professional. And clean.
Followed by more social judgment from colleagues who think they're damn lazy because they haven't edited the document they emailed at 7am and that the client wanted at 9am. Compounded with rolling eyes when they get up to leave long before the others are due to meet a few mates at the pub for an early dinner.
Then they go home and the children say that they miss (insert name of the person who cares for them while they are working). Before the technology that was supposed to liberate everyone to work flexibly traps them back into working late into the evening.
After doing emails and getting out a report while also cooking, cleaning and the doing the food order and buying a present for Max's birthday and responding to messages from school about nit infestations, they fall into bed only to wake at 3am and churn with angst until 5am.
Worrying about work, the kids, money, how to get out of this mess. Before climbing out of bed so tired that they can taste vomit in their mouths and start doing it all again.
None of which is completely new – though house prices and technology are making it progressively worse. But we're fooling ourselves if we're unwilling to tackle this structurally while we bemoan how few women manage to endure this in order to get to the place where they can make decisions about how we organise the ways in which people work.
Christine Armstrong is a contributing editor of Management Today, author of Power Mums (interviews with high-profile mothers) and founder of www.villas4kids.com
She can be found on Twitter at @hannisarmstrong