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>Why is it the women who have to find a work/life balance and not the men?


As part of the thinking I’m doing about returning to work one thing has suddenly struck me – Mr Muddling has never even had these wobbles or worries.  For him its clear, despite our relationship being an equal partnership, he has taken it as read that he will continue in work and we will be here to support him.

But why should that be?

Why has it not occurred to him to think about part time work, to think how we could both have a shorter working week, to consider taking some paternity leave (this is the man who took off two days when Babygirl was born)?

Why despite us being at roughly the same position in our careers and earning about the same is it taken as read that I will let my career take a back seat for a while.

Why am I the one who is going to have to leave work to come home for bedtime?  To make sure we have childcare for when we’re both working late? To juggle hours with Super Nanny so she’s happy and we get flexibility over being late at the last minute?

Why did it not occur to me before that its strange that, despite all my so-called feminist views, I quite happily stepped into the role of supporter rather than supported?  That I took over the role of mother and housekeeper?

And now having found myself in this position, is it the right one for me?  And is changing it the right thing for me, for him and for us as a family?

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22 comments to >Why is it the women who have to find a work/life balance and not the men?

  • Working Mum

    >I am sure this is our nature; men are the hunter gatherers and women are the nurturers. Whatever equality women have achieved in the workplace, it usually comes down to the women doing the bulk of the housework and childcare in addition to her job – we take that responsibility because the men don't. Even working full time I end up looking after daughter far more than my husband and do most of the housework – he does a share, but seems to think I should thank him for it, not that he should do it anyway because he lives here! Men take on the roll of providers and seem to work even harder and are therefore more absent – madness!

    It just seems to be a mindset that we can't change.

    I do have one friend who has done it differently; her and her husband sold their large house, bought a small one and each went part time at work so that they could both be hands on parents. There is hope!

  • mummywhisperer

    >The reason it's different is because we are all ruled by our values (the things that make us tick, the things we love to do or get, and our 'big purpose' in life).

    When we become Mums our values shift (I found this very uncomfortable!). Some of it is due to hormones – the way that humanity ensures it's survival! Some of it is because 'society says so', these are injected hormones and can make us feel very uncomfortable if we listen to them. Others are purely because we suddenly find that our kids are more important to us than work.

    Most of the time, a guys values take longer to shift, and change in different ways. But of course there are occasions where it is the guy whose values point to them staying at home and the wife would prefer to go out to work.

    The important thing is to not worry about what you should be doing, or what hubby should be doing, but find a solution that works for you, and then find a way to sell it to the rest of the family in their language/value system.

    Hope that makes sense!

  • Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy

    >It's a question I ask myself all the time. The other commenters are leaving proper reasoned and intelligent answers. I'll just say that after the day I've had today with the boys, I would pay someone to work for them. There are some days I am so envious of my husbands certainty about his role, what he does and how he is judged.

  • mummywhisperer

    >Another idea – when I'm trying to make a decision, I think about looking back on my life from my old age. So for instance, I love my MW business, and would totally be up for it to be really successful. It would be great if I can get the balance right and get time with the kids and change hundreds of thousands of lives. HOWEVER, I'm not willing to sacrifice my relationship with my kids for this (in my type of job, I could easily work all day, evenings and weekends!).

  • mummywhisperer

    >LoL – totally understand what you mean Brit in Bosnia – I would go mad if I was a stay at home mummy, I just don't have the value system for it. Hence – back to the work/life/family/fun balancing act pollava ;o)

  • vegemitevix

    >Oh hun truth is I don't know. When I had Son I earnt twice as much as my husband. Yet I was the one who had to make it work, not him. Part of that was me – I actually wanted to be involved in raising him and not delegate it – but it was also societal expectation. I wish it were different but when we divorced there was no recognition whatsoever of the downsizing of my career (and income) to accommodate three kids. Three years after his financial position is back to normal, mine is still languishing just above dire.

  • The Moiderer

    >I am the opposite. My hubby is the one who stays at home and I work. However, I work from home so am responsible for everything including get the little ones jabs, making sure there are enough nappies etc and the house and dinner. I love my hubby to bits but it does my head in how he is doing me a favour if he does any of this stuff even though I am the one at home all day!

  • It's a Mummys Life

    >Sadly it seems to be the law of nature, we make so much progress in equality but at the end of the day we are programmed differently and have maternal instincts. That said there are some men who buck the trend . I blogged about this a while ago and the comments supported this theory. Try and do what's right for you and your family, if you don't want to work for a bit, take some time out (if you can afford to, I can't sadly). Good luck with it though, I know how tough this is. x

  • Mummy's Little Monkey

    >Don't. Get. Me. Started.

  • Metropolitan Mum

    >If only I knew…

  • cartside

    >Somehow I've got a feeling that this is something that'll never change. I'm the higher paid one at the moment and yes, it's me who's reduced hours and does most of the housework and child related stuff (not all mind you). But it was my choice too, and my husband's choice to take on the role of breadwinner. We make these choices, both women and men. Maybe it's in our nature, maybe in nurture, maybe a bit of both – whatever, it won't be changed overnight. I'm happy to work a shorter week, I love the Friday off with my daughter and happily take the paycut. I really thing it's hubby who's losing out.

  • Sandy Calico

    >I have no answers.
    It isn't always the big things that women tend to look after, it's the small things too. Funnily enough I was thinking about this very thing this morning. It's Andy's sister's birthday tomorrow. I bought and wrapped presents, made a card, wrote in it and gave everything to Andy's mum in good time. He has no idea it's even his sister's birthday. Harumph.

  • Crystal Jigsaw

    >This is by far the most thought-provoking post I have read for a long time. I'm a bit of a feminist too and get really annoyed with the lack of support men give when their wives/partners have just given birth and have had to put their lives more or less on hold. Yet the man carries on as normal, coming home to a happy baby, all changed and clean, and probably ready for bed, having been crying all day! Mum's sat in a heap in the living room looking like she's done nowt all day! I know there are some great dads out there, some of whom we know on BMB but I guess I speak from personal experience more than anything.

    And then there's that big decision for the mum to be having to make about whether or not she does actually want to pause her career. It's not easy being a woman is it. Let's face it, if men started to give birth, the world would come to an end.

    CJ xx

  • More than Just a Mother

    >Hmm, an age-old problem. My husband and I both work full-time. We can't afford not to, and if I'm honest, I don't want to give up my career and the potential earnings and fulfilment it offers. My husband definitely pulls his weight in terms of practical childcare and house-work, but it's me who manages all the arrangements and picks up the pieces when it falls apart. It's me who leaves work early if there's a problem, despite me being the higher earner – it's definitely a gender thing. I don't resent it though; I feel I have a unique quality as my children's mother, and I like it.

  • planb

    >I'm not so sure it's nature as society. There are all these plans afoot for creating "parental" as against "maternity" leave, and maybe when that happens and parents can share the time off then more fathers will be the ones who put their careers on hold (or end them altogether) while the children are little.

    For me though, although when L was born I did (like lots of others) earn more than B, it came down to two things: First that my job is the sort of job where I really can do it part time. B's just isn't. And second, when he said "well, shall we look at me staying home full time and you working full time" some part of me, whether the nurturing stone-age remnant, or just the member of our present society, went "noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!". I just couldn't bear the idea that L (and S and A now) would fall over, scrape their knees and want Daddy…. I don't see it as my role to be their primary carer. I feel it. And that I can't change.

  • MuddynoSugar

    >I agree with most of the above, my view on this is it is all about guilt. I work more than my husband and have more responsibility at work, my husband, fetches the kids from childcare and makes the tea – so my dinner is on the table when I get in. This does not, however, detract from the fact that I have Mummy guilt. My husband has no guilt for going to work after we had kids (I asked him), no questions, and yet for me it was a debate..both times. My mother and mother-in-law both asked me the question, my mum always asks my husband about his job, but never asks me about mine. We are the carers our men the hunters. Until men give birth mummy guilt will exist and we have to weigh the guilt against what's best for us..Blimey, bit of rant – sorry.

  • scribblingmum

    >I have no answers either but it was only with the arrival of my second that this penny dropped for me on this subject. I do not believe that he thinks of it like this, like he is being unfair but it is all true. I am the one who is now 'short' on my pension, who is the same place career wise that I was before I had kids, who continues to try and contribute as if I was earning full time and takes the time off to care for them when they are sick as there is an unspoken implication that my job doesn't matter so much. Its a tough one, but one we should talk about with the boys as I do worry that in the long term its the sort of thing that could cause rot if you don't. Thanks for such a good post, I really enjoyed reading it and hearing that we're not alone !!

  • Alison

    >This is a really interesting debate and you've got lots of informed and articulate comments above. It just seems to be one of those issues that will never be resolved and it preoccupies most of my friends, mine included, lives. I don't know if we, as women, are hardwired or not. On the news the other day they were talking about increasing paternity leave and some of the mothers interviewed said they wouldn't really like it. I have worked in nearly all women environments where the maternity leave and benefits were very generous, but also in some more traditional environments where it was always the women who were expected to leave if their child was sick at school/nursery, to attend the dentist's/doctors appointments etc. The fathers were never even called at work and their bosses would have balked at the idea of them taking a day off to look after a sick child. But having said all that, I still want to be the one they run to.

  • Heather

    >A very interesting post and some wonderful comments. It is so hard to believe that as much as we humans have evolved, we basically follow our natural instincts where gender roles are concerned. It's something I feel very uncomfortable admitting, it's like saying there is no hope, no point trying to change anything but that can't be right, can it?

    But certainly when I was pregnant and for the first 3 or 4 months after they were born i *was* filled with hormones that made me want to stay as close to my child as possible and not really entrust anyone else with their care, hormones that have allowed the human race to survive so long. But after these 4 months have passed, it is still about instinctual gender roles or more about the men not wanting to their fair share or be labelled 'women'.

    I think perhaps after this 'honeymoon period' it is more about society than what is built into our genes.

    However the comment that struck the biggest chord with me was the one about looking back over your life when you are old. What do you want it to look like? What is really important in the grand scheme of your life rather than the day to day?

    For me, everything else is peripheral. Yes I want to do things, achieve things, get that book written, etc etc, but at the centre is wanting to raise a happy, healthy and well balanced family and spend time watching them grow and evolve as people. If that means I have to not work for a few years then so be it.

    As I write that the feminist in me is beating her head on the table.

  • solveig

    >I wonder about this too. With us, it makes financial sense for my husband to work full time because he earns more than I do but I did once suggest he asked about going down to 4 days a week and he said he would laughed out the office if he tried! Things just haven't moved on enough for many businesses and men to make it a possibility.

    When we talk about having another child and me re-training my husband says he's very concious of the fact that it is me who has to compromise by delaying my re-training further if we do have another baby. He'll just go back to work again after his 2 weeks paternity!

    Though in all honesty I love my role as mother and I wouldn't want to be the one who had to work full time.

    S x

  • Mwa

    >You're very right, and it shouldn't be automatic, I think. These things should be discussed and decided between you. (Frankly, if I was doing roughly the same kind of job as my husband, he'd be doing the same amount of child-rearing.)

  • Becky

    >This struck a chord with me. I've only been able to completely give up work now that I am a single mother. My husband insisted I went back to work virtually full time after the birth of child one (I had school holidays off). With number 2 I went to 3 days a week. But it was nearly always me that had to drop everything for sick kids or hospital appointments etc. Now I'm a full time mum and find it easier for my kids that way.

    My income is a 1/6th of that when I got married but my work life balance feels right.

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