Cherie Blair has attacked “yummy mummies” who focus on raising their children at the expense of their careers, suggesting their children lack a sense of independence.
The wife of the former British Prime Minister also accused some young women of seeking to “marry a rich husband and retire” instead of working.
Mrs Blair, a QC and mother of four, criticised women who “put all their effort into their children” instead of working. Mothers who go out to work are setting a better example for their children, she said.
Addressing a gathering of “powerful” women at one of London’s most expensive hotels, Mrs Blair said she was worried that today’s young women are turning their backs on the feminism of their mothers’ generation.
Some women regard motherhood as an acceptable alternative to a career, Mrs Blair said. Instead, women should strive for both.
“Every woman needs to be self-sufficient and in that way you really don’t have a choice – for your own satisfaction; you hear these yummy mummies talk about being the best possible mother and they put all their effort into their children. I also want to be the best possible mother, but I know that my job as a mother includes bringing my children up so actually they can live without me.”
The term “yummy mummy” is generally used to denote a woman whose husband’s wealth allows her to devote herself full-time to her children and her appearance. Both real and archetypal incarnations are the subject of regular abuse on internet discussions forums.
In fact, despite Mrs Blair’s worries about non-working mothers, official statistics show that the proportion of mothers who work has actually risen steadily in recent years.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 66 per cent of mothers are now in some form of paid work. In 1996, the figure was 61 per cent. The number of working mothers is now around 5.3 million, up from 4.5 million in 1996.
Speaking to Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women event in Claridge’s, Mrs Blair appeared to accuse some young women of lacking professional ambition, focussing on their prospective partner’s career instead of their own.
She said: “One of the things that worries me now is you see young women who say: “I look at the sacrifices that women have made and I think why do I need to bother, why can’t I just marry a rich husband and retire?” and you think how can they even imagine that is the way to fulfil yourself, how dangerous it is.”
Mrs Blair said her view was informed by her own experience of her father abandoning her mother when she was a child. But she insisted that all women should make sure they can provide for themselves: “Even good men could have an accident or die and you’re left holding the baby.”
Often in the headlines during her husband’s premiership, Mrs Blair has taken a more active public role since he left office in 2007, setting up a charitable foundation to support women setting up their own firms in developing countries.
Mr Blair earlier this month told the Leveson Inquiry that his wife had been subjected to a “vendetta” by parts of the media, partly because she had attempted to maintain her career during his time in No 10.