She says, by @pols80:
It’s one of those hot potatoes, isn’t it? Few parenting issues create the same level of controversy as that age-old SAHM vs. working mum debate.
Notice how it’s always the choice of the mum that’s under scrutiny, though? I get that some families are single parent families from the get-go, for myriad reasons, but let’s talk families with one mum and one dad for a moment because that’s what this article relates to. Dads are pretty much allowed by society to do whatever suits. Dad goes out to work? Great. He’s being the hunter gatherer and providing for his family. Stay at home dad? Well, isn’t it WONDERFUL that you’ve swallowed your pride and given up work to stay at home and raise your children. Well done you. People will congratulate you for taking your own child to a toddler group. Yep, dads are pretty much left to their own devices work-wise. It’s a win-win. Or is it…?
Whilst dads are pretty much excused from guilt and judgement over their work choices, it seems like they’re often demoted to second class citizen level when it comes to the parental pecking order. Everything seems geared towards “mum and baby”. From adverts to baby products, to access to baby change facilities (although this is slowly improving), it’s pretty much assumed that mum is the primary carer of the child. Of course, in our society it’s likely that mum will be the stay at home parent if someone is going to stay home, but working parents don’t work 24/7. We all get a day off occasionally. Much is made of how much children need their mum around, and working mums will no doubt have been reminded of this by family, friends and complete strangers who feel the need to have a say. When people realise that Mr Pols is a SAHD, they make the assumption that I’m “just not maternal”. It seems that the assumption is that dad stays at home as a last resort.
It’s important for mums to be afforded time to spend with their children, of course it is. But surely dads are equally entitled to build that same kind of relationship with their children, to develop that same closeness? As a mum, I feel like my need to spend time with my children (and their need to spend time with me) is an absolute given. What irks me is that it’s often forgotten that dads usually want to do the same. Yes, I birthed our children but they are no more my children than their dad’s. My love for them is no greater than his; their love for me is no greater than their love for him.
What do you think? Is it a step in the right direction that we’re recognising the need (and right) of dad to be afforded the opportunity to parent? Is parenting a job for mum? And how will employers manage the logistics of it?
He says, by @adadcalledspen:
Me: “How was your paternity leave?
Friend: “Hell. I can’t wait to get back to work for some rest.”
That was a conversation I had once. With a friend who shall remain nameless. Jonty.
Dunno what’s more shocking about this. The fact that someone regarded time at home with his new baby as hell, or the fact that I actually know someone called Jonty. I asked him if he’d be cutting back on his office hours to spend more time at home with his wife and new child.
“No way. If anything I’ll leave earlier and get back later.”
Jonty is a bit of a dick at times.
I took the decision to quit my career to become a stay at home dad when our son was born. I’m careful to say career and not ‘work’ as being a full-time parent is work, and very hard work at times, in my humble opinion. Okay, I get it’s not a job job, per se, but really the only difference between being a stay at home parent and going to work work is that, if you’re a stay at home parent, there’s no Christmas party at the end of the year. Well, maybe there’s one at a toddler group or something, but you can’t photocopy your arse after a few drinks at the Baby Rhyme Time Christmas Party. I know. Believe me I know.
I think this country is still quite traditional. I guess there are a lot of families like Geoff and Liz, two people I’ve just invented. Geoff works for the local council in IT, and Liz works in HR for a prosthetic limb manufacturer.
I’m liking Geoff and Liz. You’d like them too. They’re a great couple. Both are 33 and were born three days apart. Geoff is quiet but funny, and Liz is more outgoing and loves karaoke and dancing. Anyhow, I digress…
Liz will take her full maternity leave as she’s paid less than Geoff and so he has to go back to work to balance the family finances. Geoff will take his two weeks paternity leave after the birth of the baby. Geoff will strive to find a good work/life balance as he’s often on call at weekends and evenings but he feels guilty and really would like to spend more time at home. Liz will feel guilty about going back to work at the end of her maternity leave and they’ll have conversations about childcare options. Liz might cut her hours back, so she can spend time with her child, and they’ll have the conversation about how her wages are basically covering paying someone else to look after their child. They’ll talk about her quitting her job for a few years, because she wants to look after their child, and maybe they might want another baby. But can they still have a decent life on the one salary?
Tune in next week.
I know people who are Geoff and Liz, and I know some families where Liz is a high-flying, well-paid neurosurgeon, and Geoff has taken a career break, like what I did, to be a stay at home parent.
I guess it’s a matter of economics, will and choice. Of having a choice or not having a choice because of economics. Some couples have to go back to work, both of them. Some simply want to go back to their jobs. Both of them. Some prefer to do the ‘one at home one at work’ ting. Or have to because they can’t find decent childcare alternatives. Many have a choice but equally don’t have a choice. If you see what I mean. A friend of mine who chose to be a stay at home parent while her husband worked overseas said ‘The thing I miss is the banter. The office camaraderie. The fact that you can talk to adults rather than a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old all day, every day. My brain is dying.’
I loved my time with my children. I know my ex-wife found it hard as I’d see them all day and see their first steps, hear their first words, and those milestones for any parent are important. To not see them because you’re stuck in a meeting about due diligence or working on a value proposition is hard on the heart.
I knew someone, called Rufus, who once told me about a woman in the team he managed who asked him if she could return to work after her maternity leave on a more flexible basis. She didn’t want to quit her job but the set hours could prove hard for her and her family, and could she work from home, come in earlier some days, work later on others, so she could keep working and have a life.
He didn’t like this. He didn’t want this. He stated her contracted hours, said how these hours were important for the team as a whole to work to deadlines. So she left to find a job which did offer more flexibility. Because she just couldn’t do it and wanted some time at home with her child, and an employer who would allow her to work around her family’s childcare arrangements.
As soon as his wife had their child Rufus put in his request for flexible working, going in earlier some days and working later on others, working from home etc, and this was granted by his bosses. So he could work and take time at home to be with his child, and so it would all fit around his family’s childcare arrangements.
I guess what it all boils down to is equality. I guess. Equality in pay, working arrangements, entitlement and Life. I think this country is a long way away from that. Still. Maybe we’ll never ever get there.
Thanks for reading. And please let us know what you think about parental leave, or your experiences and choices, via our comments portal.