Since Keira Knightley welcomed her first daughter, Edie, into the world last year, she has become “unbelievably aware” of the problems facing working women in the UK.
In a new interview, the actress admitted that while she is lucky enough to afford “really good childcare”, she would otherwise have had to take a four-year career break to get by.
Knightley, who married former Klaxons musician James Righton in 2013, said childcare in the UK is "unbelievably expensive", and called for a change in the law to make paternity leave equal to maternity, as employers are still likely to discriminate against women.
Speaking to Harper’s Bazaar, Knightley said: “One of the things that is so shocking in this country is that childcare is unbelievably expensive. It should be, it’s an amazing thing if you’re good at it. It’s incredibly difficult, it should be well paid.
“But there is no option for a woman to go back to work unless she’s being paid really, really well and can afford full-time care before [her child can] get into nursery,” she added.
Knightley said current laws surrounding parental leave in the UK mean women are often left "desperately trying to figure it out".
“I think paternity leave should be the same as maternity leave. It’s shocking. Because you need that option," she said.
“And actually, when you’re thinking about an employer looking at a man and a woman thinking, 'Well, at some point you could take nine months or however long off, and the guy doesn’t have to.' Don’t tell me that that doesn’t come into it!"
She added: "You need to be a family unit, not just have the guy there for two weeks and then go back to work and the mother left desperately trying to figure it out. I think it’s archaic that there aren't better options.”
Talking about her own experience of motherhood so far, she said: “I’ve become unbelievably aware of that and how lucky I’ve been to be able to afford really good childcare, because otherwise it would be at least four years out of my career.
“I wouldn’t be able to get back to where I’d been if I’d taken four years out. I think that’s the same for most women. And I think that’s really hard,” she added.
Righton is “incredibly supportive” with Edie, who is now a toddler with the energy of a “ballistic missile", she said.
Asked about the pressure celebrity mothers face to bounce back into shape immediately after giving birth, Knightley said she had a very different notion of a "post-baby body".
“I actually went completely the opposite,” she said. “I went, ‘f---that, I’m not putting that pressure on myself in any way.’
“So it’s taken me a long time to get back into my jeans. I’m nearly there.”