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>Why do I have the option to work part time but my husband doesn’t?


As part of my return to work wobble I have been doing a fair amount of thinking.

What has suddenly hit me is that its acceptable for me to consider cutting down to a four day week (or less, or taking another lighter job) but that it isn’t acceptable for my husband to do the same thing.

Imagine if we could both work a four day week – we’d get weekends together but one day a week on our own with the girls perhaps?  We’d only need childcare for three days.  We’d get a better balance between work and home.

But its highly unlikely that we’re going to be able to do that because its really not the done thing for Mr Muddling to turn around and say he’d prefer to spend 20% of his working week out of the office and with his family.

So where does this leave the politican’s promises to change parental leave so that both partners can use it – surely it just means nothing unless there is a big change in attitudes.  Surely this is noise that will actually have no impact on the lives of real people?

And how on earth can we go about changing such deeply embedded attitudes that view men as the breadwinners and women as the home makers?

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17 comments to >Why do I have the option to work part time but my husband doesn’t?

  • The Dotterel

    >Well, as someone who reduced his hours by 100% I can sympathise. Why? Because cutting the hours in the job I was in was not an option, so I was told. It was all or nothing. Ridiculous.

    Mind you, I don't regret it!

  • Noble Savage

    >You are so right. It's all very well and good talking the talk about parental leave and fathers spending more time caring for their children but until we radically alter the attitudes, not much is going to change for men. Only those who work for incredibly progressive and flexible companies or within female-dominated industries are likely to not only be granted a reduced work week but even feel able to ask for it. Only a small, small percentage of men work for these kinds of places.

    My husband had planned on asking for a 4-day work week (though available to do some work from home that one day)starting in September but then he lost his contract and had to take a paycut and move back to his employer's offices so didn't feel he could risk his job by asking for it. Isn't it sad that if he asked for a flexible work week, just one day per week of working from home, he would be considered 'weak' by his employer, less dedicated, less reliable?

    Great post.

  • It's a Mummys Life

    >Good post. I would love it if my husband did 4 days regularly. He's freelance so it's either famine or feast unfortunately. During the famines we get to spend lots of time together as a family, but it means my Friday's with the girls are a bit disrupted – it's lovely having him about, but not always the perfect harmony you'd imagine. then again when we return to feast, I want him around more! I just want it both ways. Still I do think employed men should have more options than they do.

  • Heather

    >what a great post. It is ridiculous, isn't it? Why is it only mothers, fathers are parents too? are they really expected to work all the time and miss out on so much just because they are men? Well, yes. It seems so. so wrong.

  • Jen

    >I have had this discussion with my husband as he was going to apply for parental leave (first in his office so we don't know how it would have gone) to give me a hand as my little boy has autism. Anyway, we decided in the end that it would be cheaper to get help in (like cleaner etc) to help me rather than him losing 20% of his wages. A few of his work colleagues were waiting to see how his application would have been received if he had sent it in. I suppose it is telling that he would have been the first if we had gone ahead with it!! Jen.

  • Babies who brunch

    >it's tough…. i went back three days. and actually still wish i did less. although i think i'm glad i've still got a job… my hubs does weird shifts all over the place so has got to spend lots of time with louis. he still works normal hours though so our family time has taken a massive hit. sometimes we don't all see each other all week. which is painful.

  • courtroommama

    >Haha, for a moment I was sort of like 0_o

    Then I realized you are not in the US. Parental leave? What's that? …sigh…

    This was the very situation that exploded my world and made me understand feminism. I think a lot of people might look at this situation and say "seeeeee, men are discriminated against too!" Yes and no, right?

    When my first child was born, I was a law student and my husband was a graduate student, and even though my own professors were flexible with me, his were pretty much jerks. It hit me like a bus that they were all just thinking "why does he need extra time to complete assignments? doesn't he have a WIFE to take care of that kid?"

    oh RIGHT! We're all punished by gender hierarchy! It doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

    Good luck finding your work/life balance. I don't know what to tell you other than that it's a struggle and a constant process.

  • Amelia

    >This is a sentiment so close to my heart it is unbelieveable. I think that we need to be the change we wish to see in the world. When my second youngest (now 7) was born my other half (at the time, we are now split) went to a four day week so I could finish my Art degree. He wanted to anyway, to bond with his new babe, and his work were very supportive thankfully.

    I have always worked part time and for myself (mainly), and tried to engineer it so most of it is from home in my own hours. This hasn't been easy, but definitely possible.

    Part of it is also the standard of living one has to maintain. I've always lived a low-budget existence and funnily enough I think this helped many of my choices. Penelope Trunk writes about this on her blog here: http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2010/02/01/frugality-is-a-career-tool/

    I have also just finished reading Tim Ferris' book 'The Four Hour Work Week' – this is most inspiring and my aim is to work fully for myself generating my own work because being a mummy, and a single mummy, and a mummy to one special needs child and one teenager is no bed of roses, and I have to make things work for me and my kids, and help change the status quo on breadwinners and primary carers, as you so rightly point out, because it's time the balance started to shift a little more.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck.


  • geekymummy

    >Great topic, I do know several families in the UK who do are able to do this, one is a police detective who works 4 10 hr shifts and has one day with his daughters, his wife also works 4 days so they only need childcare for 3 days of the week, as you decribed. I know more people in the UK than in the US who are able to make this work, for sure, so it isn't impossible, and i get the sense the trend is increasing, though a long way from being common.

    it is true that whether a man or a woman asks for part time hours they may reduce their status at work compared to their full time co workers, that is hard to get around.

    But is it so unreasonable that a man should consider making some career sacrifices of his own to support his wife's career and to spend more time with his kids?
    Two slightly slowed down professional career trajectories might be the best option for many families and often leads to higher total family income (not that that is all important) than one "high flyer" and one parent a taking a big career hit. It certainly offers more security if both have careers.

    Maybe Mr Muddling could take the leap, and become part of the new wave of equal parenting?

    Thanks for a thought provoking post.

  • TheAlice

    >We have such a flawed system here in the UK.

    A colleague of mine at work was made to come back in the office FOUR days after his wife had a very difficult forceps birth – she wasn't able to look after the baby on her own but he was guilted back into the office for an 'emergency'. Absolutely disgusting.

    We're discussing ways of how we could perhaps try to share childcare more equally as soon as our bundle of joy arrives as I'd love to start working freelance, but the only way I think we can do this is if OH works from home one day a week. There's no way he can cut down his hours – it's a very frustrating situation!!

  • planb

    >This is though one of the few cases where I think it's society's, and not the government's fault. Men, as well as women have the right to request flexible working. They're also entitled to take parental leave (not to be confused with mat/pat leave which is paid, parental leave is unpaid – so wouldn't help you here), but the point is precisely that the government has realised that people might want to do exactly what you're suggesting.

    The problem is – as those who've tried have discovered – that employers aren't prepared to countenance it from a man. I also wonder though whether some (many) men maybe don't know how to make the compromise. We discussed both doing three/four days a week and B decided that his job wasn't the sort of job where that was possible. I suspect, that had I been doing his job, we'd have just had to make it possible…. (to his credit, B did also suggest giving up work altogether, and it was me that vetoed that….)

  • Kelloggsville

    >I work with a couple who do job share. They are both developers and work in a big IT department. 2.5 days each. I think it's a great idea. Allows them both to keep their skills up to date and have a stay at home parent. wouldn't it be great if we could all do that?!

  • manicmum

    >It's the modern dilemma – and makes you wonder what feminism/liberaton/equality etc really mean.
    The ManChild is wise enough to realise his job is easier than being with the kids, tho'. I always thought the ideal would be if we both worked part time and both looked after the kids. But he didn't go for that so it's back to the trad roles, tho I'm now doing a few hours' work a week. Bye, bye career! XX

  • MuddynoSugar

    >I work a four day week, but do compressed hours so my full working week is in 4 days rather than 5, my husband works in a factory on shifts, he has no options for flexible working. I knew when I applied for compressed hours it would be unlikely that a request for reduced hours would be accepted and as you can only make one request every 12 months I went for the one that was most likely to be accepted. So now, I get to take my eldest child to school on a monday and pick her up but I pay the price for the rest of the week.

  • Mwa

    >Absolutely. I think in Belgium it is getting more acceptable, but only in more "social" jobs.

  • Mummy

    >Here in HK it is generally unacceptable for people of either gender to ask for part time, it simply doesn't exist – I was very lucky to have a boss who wanted to keep me enough to let me work from home at the beginning. In my new job that wouldn't be an option.

    I also think it sometimes comes down to a bit of a male/female thing. I wouldn't suppose to comment on your situation, but in mine my hubbie doesn't actually want to be at home much more than he is at the moment. Bedtimes and even a lot of the childcare at weekends falls to me. I prioritise our daughter over my own social life, he does it differently.

    That said, my brother in law gave up work completely to look after my niece and nephew.

    I suppose the optimal is for parents, of any gender, to have the choice.

  • 1 husband, 2 kids (and lots of books)

    >This is so true. We are now really, really lucky as Husband only works a 4 day week but it took a move up North to provide an excuse to do it, plus doing a London to Manchester commute twice a week. Why couldn't he have asked to work 4 days before the move… because it isn't the done thing, not acceptable for someone at his level, blah, blah, blah. It is ridiculous that moving house is an OK reason to change your working patterns but looking after the most important people in the world – your children – is apparently not.

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