Arabella Weir: Have it all? If only men would let us

Once the baby's born it should be a job-share with the child's father
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The Independent Online

So the headmistress of a private girls' school wants her pupils to realise they "can't have it all", ie a good career and a fulfilling family life. Actually, she's wrong, because statistically those girls are likely to end up with well-paid careers, meaning they'll be able to afford childcare having gone back to work after having kids.

We don't need wise counsel to the privileged few on the difficulties of being a working mother. But what is desperately overdue is a recalibration of what women are worth. Why on earth are we still debating whether women can have both a job and a child?!

Since we're the only ones with wombs, it's a given that we'll be doing the birthing, but after that it should be a job-share with the child's father. Why isn't that the debate? Because if you looked at any popular magazine or TV programme you'd get the notion that men and all they offer are still worth more than anything a woman brings to the party unless she's got a massive pair of tits.

It's not the dreams of having it all that's the problem, it's the pressure to be it and do it all that's making us depressed. If you used the popular press as your How to Be a Successful Woman manual then it looks like you've got to be a high-flying professional, have three kids, lose four stone within two weeks of giving birth, willingly give your partner blow-jobs every night and have the latest Miu-Miu handbag otherwise you might as well just admit you're a fat oaf who has just "let herself go". The portrayal of women by the media is still very deflating – apparently most young girls today want to be either Jordan or Paris Hilton. Shoot me now.

I've worked since my children were born, the eldest being nearly 12, and I'm so bloody bored with this debate. Why is it always focused exclusively on women's seemingly unrealistic expectations? Why aren't we talking about fathers and what can reasonably be expected of them? After all, last time I checked, it takes two to make a baby, so how come, and at what point, does the argument suddenly turn into a one-woman show?

If we want it all we can have it all – if by all they mean kids and a job. We just need to make everyone (and by everyone I mean men) realise that it's their responsibility too. Oh great, so that's yet another thing on our list of things to achieve in order to qualify as a Successful Woman – we've got to persuade men and society that just because we delivered the baby doesn't mean we should always end up holding the baby.

But that shouldn't take long. I'll get on to it just as soon as I'm back from picking up the kids, doing the shopping, writing this article and going off to the theatre to do the show. Not much for one afternoon, eh? Well, not for a woman but what would doubtless rank as a whole week's workload for most guys.

Arabella Weir is appearing in 'Calendar Girls' at the Noel Coward Theatre, London WC2. Her next book, 'The Real Me Is Thin', is out in 2010