I’m increasingly coming around to the view that the only way to get ahead is to have a strong support network at home – yes, women are making great leaps forward BUT if I look around me at the women one layer up from in my career they generally have a husband at home. They are free to go ahead and strive forward in their career because there is someone else there to do everything else – they can have a single, driven approach because they don’t have those household responsibilities.
It is an awful lot harder to try and be two equals both trying to have equally high flying careers because neither of you is getting the dry cleaning sorted, the washing done or the house cleaned and it means a level of distraction when compared to your peers who have that sort of infrastructure.
I should probably feel sorry for my husband that he, an alpha male, made the mistake of marrying an alpha female rather than a nice girl who would have spent her life telling him how great he was and creating a settled home. Instead the poor man has to search for his own socks, do his share of the home making and be up in the night with small children too.
So if we crack the enigma that the only way to get to the top as a woman is to have a beta man behind the scenes then why aren’t more women doing that? Why aren’t there more stay at home husbands, more men taking part time work to look after the children, more men in the playgrounds?
And that I think is the nub of it, that women have still not got themselves to a place where they are the alpha’s in a relationship and where men still have the idea that they have to be breadwinners deeply engrained.
Logic has nothing to do with it, emotion and evolution more so. We need to be raising a generation of girls and boys to think that Mummy going out to work and Daddy staying at home is the norm or even that Mummy and Daddy going out to work but sharing the home tasks and childcare is the norm. I remember reading about one Scandinavian country where school children were asking if men could be prime minster because there hadn’t been a male leader in their lifetime – we need to change the wiring of our society in a similar way if it is to change these underlying currents that are shaping society. Not so that women take over but that them holding the role is seen as equally obvious.
But perhaps that isn’t the answer – perhaps that is going too far the other way from where we stand today? Perhaps instead what we have to consider is that there might be an awful lot of men out there who are faced with no choice but to carry on working and climbing up the career ladder. Perhaps there are men out there who want more time with their families, who want to slow down on the career, the stress, the time away.
Perhaps what we should be looking for is something new, a workplace where both parents can work less hours without stigma, a workplace where family first is the norm and not firm first. A place where presenteeism is a thing of the past and delivering results is more important.
We have had a few Fridays recently when both of us have been not working – it has been wonderful, that little bit more time together as a family has a disproportionate benefit. Yes job loss is scary, yes it puts additional pressure on the remaining worker but perhaps, for us, it might be the opportunity to consider what we want to do as a family and how we can make work work for us.