Is life after children what you expected in terms of who does what with work and caring?

(124 Posts)
carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 09-Oct-08 10:26:57

Hi all

More for the Home Front report needed

We’d like to know a bit about your expectations and the reality of life balancing work and children. Before you had children what did you think would happen in terms of who did childcare and how much paid work you both did? Is this what happened? Is your situation now better or worse than you expected?

We've got tons of great policy suggestions already, so thanks for those, but if anyone has any other ideas of what gov could do to help with this (short of on the spot fines for men for not getting up in the night to deal with screaming children) we'd love to hear them.


Anna8888 Thu 09-Oct-08 10:50:25

My situation is much what I had anticipated. Probably because I was an older first time mother with a partner who was already a father and had the benefit of seeing what the reality of division of family labour was like for so many of my contemporaries.

mummyclare Thu 09-Oct-08 10:59:16

So far reality has pretty much gone along with expectations. However, with dd1 starting school in September I think I am going to struggle to keep working as I had planned.

Also I hadn't anticipated my husband /male contempories doing well. I know that sounds silly but if I was comparing what I could be doing as a father career wise rather than what I at my most ambitious expected as a mother then the gap widens.

Freckle Thu 09-Oct-08 11:07:49

I was in the fortunate position of being able to choose whether to continue working or not. We chose that I would be a SAHM because I'd seen colleagues in my profession (law) struggling to do either job well and we didn't want to compromise the well-being of our children (and this is a personal decision, not a judgement on other who choose to do otherwise).

So the division of paid work/household chores/childcare was pretty much worked out in a fairly traditional manner. DH is very hands on with the children and does not object to doing any housework/necessary jobs if prompted and occasionally will do some spontaneously - although if I ever find him with a hoover in his hands without some prior nagging, I'll faint.

Financially our decision has hit us, because I was earning very good money before stopping work. So policies such as transferring the non-working (in a paid sense) parent's tax allowance to the working parent would help. Having different tax bands for workers with children would also be helpful, e.g. DH pays tax in the 40% band which means that a huge chunk of his money goes to the government. Colleagues on similar incomes with no children pay the same tax. How about a, say, 5-10% reduction in tax payable for those with caring responsibilities?

castille Thu 09-Oct-08 11:17:40

Honestly, I don't think either of us thought beyond the baby stage before starting our familyblush so I don't think I actually had particular expectations (we were young and enthusiastic)

But I didn't think I'd give up work completely and I haven't, but I am making use of generous parental leave conditions this time to stay at home until my youngest is 3 which isn't something I ever thought I'd do.

I naively though my DH would do more childcare but his career makes it impossible for him to help out much (though he was great about getting up in the night)

It is a bit of a solitary grind sometimes

Fennel Thu 09-Oct-08 11:19:19

Before children we agreed we'd share all the caring and paid work, but I wasn't totally sure that DP would be great in practice, I had heard too many stories of men who weren't actually pulling their weight.

But actually DP has been great on this, better than I expected. We argue about the trivialities of cleaning etc but he does do half the housework and childcare and always has. Plus, we have both worked flexibly and part time a lot and both our careers and salaries have been affected by this. It really helps me that DP's career is stalled, like mine, by parenting duties. I would really be resenting it if his career was progressing brilliantly while mine wasn't.

There is so much the government could be doing. Having paid parental leave which either parent could take, rather than paid maternity leave. Having the right to request flexible working being transformed into a stronger right to obtain it, and campaigns to encourage men to do this.

motherinferior Thu 09-Oct-08 11:28:22

It's a longer grind than I vaguely anticipated. I did think I'd probably be looking at working more outside the house by now - although having said that I'd been freelance for a while, happily, so my plans are not entirely skewed. And I worked in-house for three days a week, for 14 months, and DP got up at 6.15 and picked up the girls every evening for those three days. Which I tend to forget, rather a lot.

At the moment I do more parenting stuff during the week, and at the moment more cooking as well during the week. However, I do not feel that housework and cooking are my responsibility.

It has, I think, been quite hard for my partner to get his head round the fact that children need quite a lot of looking-after, because he comes from a background of paid live-in childcare (ayahs). We have quite lot of rows about whether we should use after school club most days, or not.

Rather to my surprise, I haven't minded his career progression because mine has progressed, and also because I do feel that this particular partner (unlike a number of previous ones) respects me and my work.

In policy terms, I agree with Fennel. I usually do.

foothesnoo Thu 09-Oct-08 11:28:29

The baby and toddler stage was much what I had expected. Now both the children are at school I find it much harder than I thought it would be. Am not sure what the answer is as I am not a fan of wraparound care in the school environment - I feel that our children spend a lot of time at school already.

I do think the answer is flexibility with more part time and home working options, where possible for both parents. I manage at the moment because I am able to work a day at home and also feel able to ask for time off (which I make up later) to attend school events - the number of which are phenomenal even with two children. No idea how people with more fit everything in.

As my children get older I realise that it's realtively easy to delegate the care of a younger child to nursery/ nanny etc, but as they get older it's so much more complicated. So I would ask government not to lose the focus on the importance of parental input and presence all the way through the child's life, not just when they are at infant stage.

mppaw Thu 09-Oct-08 11:28:57

Totally as expected. All child care down to me while DP works hard.
Do have days when I feel a bit resentful as he can go out at the drop of a hat, but I have to organise a night out weeks in advance, but would not change anything.

Am sure this will change once DC2 comes along, how it will change though I am not sure !!

mppaw Thu 09-Oct-08 11:28:57

Totally as expected. All child care down to me while DP works hard.
Do have days when I feel a bit resentful as he can go out at the drop of a hat, but I have to organise a night out weeks in advance, but would not change anything.

Am sure this will change once DC2 comes along, how it will change though I am not sure !!

wilbur Thu 09-Oct-08 11:30:27

I'm a freelance writer. Before having ds1, I imagined a few months of chaos and hard work and then the baby would sleep peacefully under my desk while I wrote and kept earning money (not as much as before, but still a living wage)...

[falls off chair laughing]

I totally underestimated the undertow of family life. My situation was complicated by a sick parent and various other issues, but the point at which I realised I was unable to earn enough to pay my childcare was very, very depressing indeed. I feel guilty about not earning more money and so I let dh off a lot of household/child-related tasks. I shouldn't, but I do.

Tax breaks for childcare; proper education for young men about family life (not just babies, but the whole thing) so that they can appreciate what needs to be done to get everyone fed, dressed, to school etc.; and fewer shrill arguments about the SAHM/WOHM divide would help.

wilbur Thu 09-Oct-08 11:34:22

I should add, in dh's defence, that he does a lot of cooking and he has also learned far greater diy skills than I could ever have imagined, having known him as the laziest and least responsible teenager and young man on the planet. He just comes from a v trad background and I struggle to change some of the attitudes that are ingrained from that.

yomellamoHelly Thu 09-Oct-08 11:36:05

Before our children arrived I'd always assumed I'd carry on working / studying / whatever as did dh.
In reality I couldn't find any suitable good quality childcare and decided ds1 would be better off staying with me (difficult baby). Then had ds2 and dc3 on way. So looks like it will be a while since cost is a factor now too. Have panicky moments where I think it'll be very hard to get a decent job again and where I worry about the lack of pension contributions and being able to put some savings away.
We've had a few wobbles adjusting to one salary and for the last few years dh has chased jobs which earn more to make ends meet which then expect him to work longer hours. So now he hardly sees the boys in the week and is knackered at the weekend. And I do all the daily grind that makes our lives work.
It's not how I pictured life, but at least the boys are getting what we feel is the best start.

madmarriedNika Thu 09-Oct-08 11:55:04

I guess like some others we were fairly naive when we had our first, and hadn't thought that much about juggling things further down the line.

Before I had DCs I was the higher earner with better prospects career wise, but could only have obtained these by working full-time and long hours, which I wasn't prepared to do. Worked full-time for a while after DS but when pregnant with DC2 shifted to part-time. At the same time DH changed jobs and now his career is really progressing- but demanding ever longer hours. So we are falling unintentionally into the traditional roles. In a way I don't mind as I have found I want to be around more with the children, but I do wish domestic duties could be a bit more evenly spread and also wish even as a part-time worker I had better career opportunies which I have foregone by choosing to work PT. DH's work are very unflexible whereas my work is more flexible which I don't feel is very fair.

I would also like to see maternity leave transferred to parental leave and flexibility of hours etc. promoted for both parents. Ideally I would love for both DH & I to be able to work flexibly, perhaps with slightly reduced working hours so that we can do the school runs etc. ourselves and share this together, take turns to cook the evening meal etc. I sometimes don't think the children know their father as well as we'd like them to because of the hours he works.

notsoseriousanymore Thu 09-Oct-08 12:19:40

My situation is totally as expected, though (like ANna888) I am with a man who already has children so had an insight into how he parents and divides roles and responsibilies.

I def. do 99% of the childcare and housework, but he does 99% of the earning.

We are, I suppose, quite traditional!

My father worked away for months on end, I rarely saw him as a child, but we have a great relationship now and he is a great father and grandfather, so I have no problems with my DH being away while DS is little. DS will understand he has a loving and dedicated father too.

lalaa Thu 09-Oct-08 12:41:56

I hadn't got a clue.

I'm still massively frustrated about it 6 years down the line.

One of the things I personally would have liked would have been someone (parent/government/don't care) saying to me that if you have a child, you may not be able to 'have it all'. Something has to give. There seems to be no acknowledgement of this.

I was hugely ambitious, worked hard at school, uni and at work. Earned good money very quickly. Promoted, etc, etc, etc. Had a child. Goodbye work life as I knew it. I do sometimes wonder why I bothered! Hugely naive. Thought I could do it all. Now know that I can't - too stressful for me.

Anna8888 Thu 09-Oct-08 12:48:05

lalaa - the government/men aren't saying "you can't have it all" because the government would just love all mothers to continue working and earning and keeping the economy/family coffers growing while continuing to do all the unpaid labour that women have traditionally done.

Gumbo Thu 09-Oct-08 12:52:14

Completely the opposite to what I had expected.

I had anticipated going back to work by the time my baby was 6 months old, with him most likely in full-time nursery.

Instead, after he was born, to my astonishment DH decided to become a SAHD; I went back to work when ds was 4mo without a care in the world!

(However, I still do all of the housework and a lot of the cooking, but I can't say I mind too much... that was an expectation that never changed!)

blithedance Thu 09-Oct-08 12:52:27

I think it's early to tell. I've only been back at work for a month, DH and I are about 50-50 in childcare and both working part time.

It's worked out better than I ever thought in that DH has been prepared to cut his hours and deal with some of the morning school runs, so that I can work at all.

The problem with sharing domestic duties is communication. It was fine when we were both working pre-DC's ("D'ya want to cook or shall we go to the pub?"), and when I was on leave, I just organised everything, but now the sheer workload is so much that even the Organised Mum super-calendar is struggling. The week lurches from dinners cooked with wrong ingredients to missed swimming lesson to lost school notes to forgotten laundry.

So there are pluses and minuses to it.

motherinferior Thu 09-Oct-08 13:01:26

But Anna, that is also an issue of personal and domestic politics. In other words, individual men taking on the stuff that women have always done.

I don't consider my partner remotely special for doing the washing or putting a loaf of bread on or dealing with incontinent cats/children or cooking the supper. I don't send his Christmas cards and have no idea whatsoever when his relatives' birthdays are. None of that is to do with over-arching government policy.

wasabipeanut Thu 09-Oct-08 13:03:56

The reality broadly matches expectations in my case. I was lucky enough to be able to choose whether or not to return to work. I had assumed that I would want to be a SAHM but missed work so much that I went back after 8 months of leave, although 3 days a week only.

Balancing ds and a 3 day a week marketing job is, to be honest, not too difficult. Add another baby to the mix and it could get a little more challenging, especially if the health of my parents (in their 60's)starts to deteriorate.

In terms of policy I get a bit annoyed with the assumption that as soon as we hand our kids over to the professionals the better for everyone. I am seriously considering quitting work when ds reaches his 3rd birthday to avoid him being pressured by the EYFS. I like the very radical idea of paying an allowance of sorts to SAHM but not sure how workable it would be in practice.

Anna8888 Thu 09-Oct-08 13:04:34

Government policy and legislation influences personal thinking. You can alter a culture through policy - look at what happened in the Netherlands when policy was brought in to make part-time working more viable for businesses. Unprecedented numbers of women moved either into the work-place part-time, or changed from full-time to part-time work.

rookiemater Thu 09-Oct-08 13:06:19

I completely underestimated how much work is involved with having a child. Stunned by the sheer amount of washing, additional housework and now because he is 2.5 homecooking that is required.

Working more days than I wanted as 3 days a week not agreed by my work. DH does roughly his fair share, I think he could do a little more, but then he does do paperwork and the garden whilst I do most of the indoor stuff. TBH its easier to do most of it myself, rather than DH doing half of it , mentioning it loudly, me thanking him, and then doing the rest of it. But thats my problem more than anyone elses.
He is also able to do 50% of pick ups and drop offs due to where his present contract is located.

I agree with Lalaa and with Anna for the reasons behind it. I'm not saying that the traditional arrangement of MAN at WORK, WOMAN AT HOME is necessarily right for everyone, but feel I have been sold up the line in terms of working and carrying the brunt of the domestic work. I struggle to manage sometimes I really do.

Govt should stop forcing mothers back at whatever cost, p/t nursery for 2 yr olds what on earth is that about (?), and focus on the tax changes that Fennel suggests & implementing proper flexible working policy which (shock horror) is targeted most at the people who actually need it which is generally working parents and those with other caring responsibilities.

motherinferior Thu 09-Oct-08 13:07:18

Yes, and this is why I'd like more active pressure on men to consider part-time working in order to meet their family responsibilities. On some days I quite fancy the idea of all fathers being forced to cut their hours to four days a week maximum.

Tightening up on working hours and the late working culture would help too.

motherinferior Thu 09-Oct-08 13:09:43

Oh, and I disagree about free childcare. Lots of it, I personally like the option of having. The more the better. Childcare's bloody ruinous. Don't use it if you don't want to, but stop alleging it's part of an Evil Plot to force women into the workplace. I've spent a bloody fortune on it over the years (actually it's been a real factor in my decision not to have any more children).

sinpan Thu 09-Oct-08 13:12:44

I was very naive and thought we would share everything - work and childcare - whereas in fact I went part-time and did the lion's share of child care and housework while DP got a better paid job and paid most of the bills. he spends more leisure time with the kids now that they're older but still much less time than other dads I know. It's worked out ok for us but only because my employer is flexible, and I know it's stalled my career somewhat. I guess that's the price you pay for being there for your family.

I totally agree with Motherinferior about free childcare. It is a "service" every decent government should provide, and not just for full time working parents, but for those who are re-training, studying, or just need a bit of SUPPORT in looking after their children.

mppaw Thu 09-Oct-08 13:17:07

I dreamt read somewhere that people were lobbying for 6 months Paternity leave !!! I think this is a little too much as men's concept of paternity leave would be a whole lot different to women's, plus that would not make for a happy home at mppaws house !! wink

FeelingLucky Thu 09-Oct-08 13:23:05

When I was pregnant I thought I would return to work after two weeks and the burden of childcare would be shared with a full time nanny.
When DD was born I imagined I would return at 6 months.
When Dd was 6 months I was offered a dream job but turned it down because I couldn't let go.
At 11 months DD got a place at our preferred nursery and it has taken me all summer to get my arse into gear and actually try and find some work instead of spending all my hours wondering what DD is up to at nursery. This is despite DH taking the summer off to be look after DD after nursery.

DH would love to look after DD more, but instinctively I can't help making it my responsibility.

So, life after children is very different to what I had expected - didn't imagine I would have such strong maternal instincts.

foothesnoo Thu 09-Oct-08 13:23:23

Same old same old on this thread. the person who moves into a part time role (usually the woman)slips further and further behind in terms of earing capcity and the man roars ahead in career terms, therefore the 'traditional' roles become the norm.

If we had more proper part time roles which don't demand the complete stalling of a career as a price for working less hours, then men may want to take this option too. And then we might really be getting somewhere.

BouncingTurtleSkulls Thu 09-Oct-08 13:24:06

My ds is nearly 9.5mo, I've been back at work since beginning of September, full time.
I underestimated how hard it was going to be going back to work full time, especially as I am apart from ds over 9 hours a day sad
I also thought DH would not help much around the house and I was right and we have had a few rows over it as well, but he is getting better.
I am looking at dropping to 4 days a week.
My outlook on my job has changed, it is very busy and stressful, but last year I was working 10-11 hour days even when heavily pg, at least I am not doing that any more!
Luckily my boss thinks the world of me and is keen not to lose me, so has been very good. I still feel that although the rest of the site management team (I work for a large waste management company) realised I have changed now that I am a mother, I am still making valuable contributions to the safe running of the site. This is very good as I work in a very old fashioned, male dominated company.

FioFio Thu 09-Oct-08 13:35:45

well no, not at all

my eldest (of 3) was born with severe special needs so things took a very unexpected turn, but thanks for asking

appbloss Thu 09-Oct-08 13:35:49

when I had my first child my husband was in a good, high paid job, after my second he was made redundant, but luckily soon found another, but not as high paid. Since then we have struggled. I am not fortunate enough to have family around to help out and have always found it incredibly hard to find work that fits in with the children at school, especially school holidays. Childcare is extremely expensive and bites into that small wage of partime work! I want to pick my children up from school and especially be with them over the school breaks. But it has been a struggle. I didnt realise I would find it so difficult to get work that fits around my children.

wasabipeanut Thu 09-Oct-08 13:38:57

With those who say we need more part time roles for men as well as women and a "tightening up" of the long hours type culture I agree it would be lovely, but how?

How on earth is the government supposed to be able to force business to provide these sorts of roles?

foothesnoo Thu 09-Oct-08 13:45:47

Not sure Peanut. Off the top of my head....

Incentivise businesses to provide proper part time roles?

Collect data on staff working patterns in organisations (like ethnic/ gender monitoring) and monitor for flexible working/ part-time/job share across both genders?

Ensure that extended maternity leave is renamed parental leave so that men and women can share it out. IME the men who have been closely involved with their children at a young age (and by that I mean reducing work hours to share care with the mother) tend to want to continue that involvement.

Anna8888 Thu 09-Oct-08 14:01:45

I would welcome any extra money (what fool wouldn't?) the government of whichever country I am residing in at the time would like to give me for being available for my family as and when they need me.

I only want to work on the condition that it in no way at all impinges upon my desire to fulfil my domestic responsibilities to the very best of my desires and abilities.

I therefore accept, willingly, that my career progression and hourly wage will be significantly diminished versus potential.

I feel extremely lucky to have a job that does in fact pay pretty well (well, not MC well, but GP well) on an hourly basis and that is exceedingly part-time. I really wish there were more opportunities like it for other people.

motherinferior Thu 09-Oct-08 14:11:15

What domestic responsibilities, though? I rather like having as few as possible.

Anna8888 Thu 09-Oct-08 14:16:12

They are endless smile but I do really quite enjoy them.

Spent much of today planning next half-term and the Christmas holidays (lots and lots of juggling of agendas as many countries/families involved) which takes up oceans of time and, more importantly, negotiation skills smile; making appointments for the weekend so we can fit in all we have to do; planning in a vague sort of way DD's birthday party in mid-November.

How do you do that kind of stuff when you are at a desk in an office? Answer: you don't.

shootfromthehip Thu 09-Oct-08 14:17:26

We were totally naive about life after babies. I was supposed to return to work part-time after the birth of my DD, but could not find suitable childcare and was unwilling to leave her in some of the nurseries I found. As a result I am now a SAHM. We are totally broke and I do some work from home to pay for some childcare (one day a week). This give me a break from the kids and lets me do my work but does not make me any money- simply pays for the kids' childcare.

I also thought that being a SAHM meant that my 'job' was to look after the kids and not be chief cook and bottle-washer as well. My DH does not help around the house as his job is too busy. He also earns reasonable money but this is taken up by the day to day cost of living. I will not be able to contribute enough to make working full or part-time a viable option until at least one of my kids goes to school (next year thankfully). Tax credits amount to nothing too.

We also expected to get some help from our families when we had our kids but this hasn't happened and so DH now works all the time and I work in the house all the time.

Things have not worked ou the way I thought at all and sometimes I feel trapped in my own life.sad

motherinferior Thu 09-Oct-08 14:19:12

But that's my point. Women take those on as their responsibility. Along with the Christmas cards and the washing and the cooking and the housework and the visits to elderly rellies. Which inevitably impacts on their availability and energy for other work, and I think our acceptance of this is to our detriment.

Anna8888 Thu 09-Oct-08 14:21:19

But I love the travel and the seeing family and friends from all over the world smile. I would hate to be tied to an office job and to forfeit all those lovely times.

I certainly never send a single Christmas card or visit old relatives unless I love them dearly. I love cooking. Housework is easy to subcontract.

I did seem to spend lots of time at my desk organizing weekends and happy hours when I was at work, we even managed to had an office Tetris competition, more than once.

Anna8888 Thu 09-Oct-08 14:25:04

Put it this way: I am not "accepting" anything. I chose it.

I am highly qualified and can get a full-time job if I want, and easily cover the costs of a full-time slave housekeeper. But, quite honestly, I would miss all the fun with my family far too much smile and the extra money would in no way compensate me for it.

Bramshott Thu 09-Oct-08 14:28:18

I think the root of the issue here is that as a young 20-something career woman it's very easy to think that the feminism argument has been won - I certainly did not feel discriminated against in the workplace, and had a very equal relationship with my DH (with him possibly doing more of the house-stuff than me).

However, when we had kids (and a lot of my friends have found this too) I suddenly discovered that those arguments had NOT been won, and that there was still a lot of discrimination out there. Foolishly I thought that my career would not go down the pan, and that DH and I would continue to share things equally, whereas what has happened is that we've fallen into much more traditional roles - him being paid (luckily very well) for working long hours outside the home, and me working part time and picking up all the rest of it in terms of home and kids. And whilst I think that that choices we've made are probably the best for us and the children, for now, I still feel a bit betrayed by it (but maybe that's just me being childish!)

shootfromthehip Thu 09-Oct-08 14:38:39

Not childish Brams, just honest. I feel the same and often wonder what the point of going to Uni was as even DH now treats me as though they removed half my brain when they cut me open to get DD out hmm. Must add, I am SOOoo glad that I am at home being the one who has all the 'firsts' but am deeply resentful of having to be the sodding 'cleaning fairy' too. angry

Anna8888 Thu 09-Oct-08 14:40:24

IMVHO (and I mean this in the nicest possible way) people only treat you as having half a brain if you behave as if you only have one.

If you remain an intellectually challenging person, your partner will treat you that way.

Cammelia Thu 09-Oct-08 14:42:35

It is a political question , isn't it , the question of who does what. But is it really a political question that can be solved/chnaged/helped by any govt policies?

By its very nature, it must be personal to the individual family.

When women and men live together without children, they probably work things out much more simplistically between themselves.

It seems to be the introduction of children into the picture that causes the greatest problem.

Children have needs that must be satisfied by other people, not least the need to be in someone else's care 24/7.

I don't agree with the notion of free childcare (as in pre-school) I don't believe this burden should be the taxpayers.

Children as a problem to be managed. Somehting in me is revulsed by that notion when we have so many choices (in reality) to look after them ourselves (not saying whether mum or dad) than many in previous generations ever did. The 50's housewife was in reality a mere blip in the history of child-rearing.

Habbibu Thu 09-Oct-08 14:51:20

As expected - DH and I have always shared stuff pretty well, and it's stayed that way. If anything, he maybe does a bit more round the house than I do, though he's FT and I'm PT, but he sees looking after dd as the main part of my days not in work (as do I), so it's all fine. Can't imagine having it any other way, but know that I'm v. lucky with DH, who is an absolute star.

motherinferior Thu 09-Oct-08 14:53:25

I don't believe most of the women on MN feel they have options. And I think many of who do feel we've made an active choice are, in reality, very circumscribed. The 'personal to the individual family' does not operate in a vacuum.

And free childcare's a godsend for a lot of women, who would otherwise be unable to work at all. It would be women.

shootfromthehip Thu 09-Oct-08 14:56:27

DH and I have/ had very different interests and careers anyway and now, as a result of his ridiculous hours, our only areas of overlap are the kids and where his clean pants are. I think that to suggest that I am not being 'intellectually challenging' enough to deserve being treated with more respect for the shitty, menial tasks that I perform day in day out is not only presumptious but wrong. Some men are blessed with an inner arrogance that only manifests itself when you become the '50's housewife'. Unfortunately my DH seems to be one of them. I am more than willing to discuss the credit crunch or Hamlet or any of the other things that I am interested in at the moment, however the reality of our life does not meet all of my emotional needs. That is what I object to.

Fennel Thu 09-Oct-08 16:02:28

That's a particularly British view that it's down to the individual families. In fact in many other countries these issues are seem much more as a public concern - those tend to be the countries with better parental leave and more rights to flexible or part time working.

It's hard for individual families/couples to see how they're being constrained in their choices by the structural restrictions. For example, I wanted to go back to work early after my maternity leaves (I like my job and it's not the sort you can delegate easily, the work just waits for you to come back from your leave). My partner wanted to take time off with the babies. But the way the UK leave is paid and organised meant that to do this I had to go back while still eligible for maternity pay and DP had to take unpaid leave. We actually did this, because for us it made sense, but financially, all the pressure was for me to take the time off, as it would be paid, and for him to keep on working. That's a structural thing, set in place by the government, and it gently pushes people into gendered role models at a time they aren't usually feeling very bolshy about challenging such things (new baby, lots of things to adjust to). And then it's hard for people to move on from that.

But this is harder in the UK than in other European countries, because of the set up of work and maternity pay and (lack of) decently paid paternity and parental leave. It's not just a matter of each couple choosing. They're choosing within a very constraining set-up. And as we can see from this thread, for many that means a slide into highly gendered paid work and caring roles which they didn't particularly want.

LittleBella Thu 09-Oct-08 16:09:14

Can I recommend Wifework by Susan Maushart? It just seems really aposite to this thread.

Of all the services paid by taxes I view free childcare as one of the most important, to be honest. I think it is a great help for family and yes, women in particular. I can think of a long list of "categories" that would be helped by the existence of free childcare (and we are talking about - what - in the UK only a few hrs)

Anna8888 Thu 09-Oct-08 17:25:03

Oh that Wifework book is right up its own arse, frankly. It takes itself far too seriously.

Of course there is division of labour in a couple according to individual skills and talents. It's not some kind of crime against womankind and if you aren't happy about the division of responsibilities in your couple, you need to renegotiate them.

Read a book on negotiation analysis - it will do you far far more good.

Cammelia Thu 09-Oct-08 17:30:07

We've all got options, its a matter of how much or how little we like those options.

Podrick Thu 09-Oct-08 17:51:57

I expected to be a SAHM with a cleaner and loads of childcare support from my family. I got one out of three!

I expected my partner to do all the DIY and to sort out the car. He doesn't and I do. He does his own ironing which I didn't expect. He cooks for me sometimes - I expected my partner would do all the cooking because I am rubbish at it!

Basically I expected more money, more free time and less responsibility!!! It has all been a dreadful shock!!!

Anna8888 Thu 09-Oct-08 17:53:31

What shaped your expectations Podrick?

expatinscotland Thu 09-Oct-08 17:56:46


i wonder under no delusions and plan to do my best to make sure my cihldren don't have any either.

i think a lot of unhappiness in Western society with regards to relationships and children is due to buying in to a lot of media/entertainment industry bollocks nonsense.

it leads grown adults to be disappointed with what is essentially a relatively priviledged reality and they mostly have only themselves to blame for buying into such silliness.

Podrick Thu 09-Oct-08 18:15:55

Anna8888 - mainly based on my own childhood & expectations drilled in at my school and from my parents!

Anna8888 Thu 09-Oct-08 18:18:43

Pretty high expectations then? Are your parents disappointed that you haven't fulfilled them?

Cammelia Thu 09-Oct-08 18:18:52

I agree expat, its an over-developed sense of entitlement.

expatinscotland Thu 09-Oct-08 18:27:27

it's like when things don't go so smoothly, or worse, bad things happen. and people say, 'why me?'

well, why not?

it's a ball we've tossed round on the SN board often enough about having an SN child. shit happens, you know?

Podrick Thu 09-Oct-08 18:35:48

Anna8888 to answer your question - I think my parents have a lot of disappointment in me (some of it reconciled now)- they were both self made from very very poor backgrounds, sent their kids to the most expensive school in town and assumed we would be even more successful than they were...neither my brother nor me delivered on these terms and actually this hasn't been easy for any of us! Bizarely we are all very close as a family still!

Anna8888 Thu 09-Oct-08 18:40:13

Yes, I think parents often assume that their children are going to travel at least as great a distance as they did themselves - from a further starting point.

Sometimes I still have to point out to my mother that it is not possible to bring up your children yourself, do all your own housework/gardening/decorating/upholstery/curtain-making, volunteer in the community, have a happy family AND a wildly successful professional career hmm

Podrick Thu 09-Oct-08 18:46:02

Which does your mum think is the most important out of these, Anna888?! Did you at least get (her) priorities correct?!!!

Anna8888 Thu 09-Oct-08 18:47:21

Oh I think she (and my father) are still horribly disappointed in their daughters sad. I would say that I am much more reconciled to that than my sister is.

Podrick Thu 09-Oct-08 18:55:26

oooh, that is not a nice feeling though...I thought you did have the wildly successful professional career though, aren't they proud of that?

TheFallenMadonna Thu 09-Oct-08 19:11:38

I expected to want to go back to work and continue in full-pelt career progression. I did go back after I had ds but only after over a year off, and in that year I decided to change direction in my career, so went back to work in a lower status position. Then I had DD, and haven't worked for 5 years. I didn't stop work because of any difficulties juggling work and children. But then I suppose I only had the one then. I stopped because I wanted to spend some time at home with my children (for my own interest and enjoyment - I was very happy with ds's childcare) and also do another degree in a subject related to my change of career direction. I'm going back to work full time in 3 weeks (yikes).

When we both worked full time we shared domestic responsibilites pretty evenly. I have taken on the bulk of those while I haven't been working. It will be interesting to see how we manage in the next few months grin. I think it will be a bit of a shock for both of us, but DH isn't a dinner-on-the-table kind of bloke, so I reckon we'll find our way.

notsoseriousanymore Thu 09-Oct-08 19:13:53

DO you know, that has really made me think... My parents had SUCH a narrow view of what was acceptable / how I and my siblings should live and when someone asked me recently what I would like my DS to do, I simply answered: BE HAPPY.

I HONESTLY don't care what he does, as long as it's legal (obviously), healthy (preferably) and he wakes up totally happy with his life.

My two DSDs have the same upbringing. They are all lucky enough to have choices and have the benefit of some financial security (as much as that exists today!!) btu I don't expect any of them to fulfil any desires of mine!!

But, then, I suppose I always feel my mother was never quite satisfied with my achievements and that has affected me....

VanB Thu 09-Oct-08 19:32:36

I was expecting to be able to progress my career on a part time basis but was deeply disillusioned when I discovered that I was wrong.

Work recently informed me that my renumeration wouldn't increase until I work at least 4 days a week (despite the importance and value of projects I'm running increasing dramatically) and that there is no promotion possibility until I go back full time. SO I do a better job than I did before in 60% of the hours and get nothing in return.

I am also perceived as 'unreliable' because there is the possibility I may have to take time off if my DS is ill. I really think that if the government are serious about part-time workers having equal prospects there needs to be some mechanism to allow us to take longer periods of emergency leave.

I also believe we need to get real and start communicating some of these issues to our children rather than kidding them that we live in an equalish society. The level of predjudice against mothers took me completely by suprise - I never had an issue before I was pregant despite working in the construction industry. We need the option of dual parenting - and that means both parents being able to have truly flexible working. Nothing will change while part-time working kills careers.

DH has been just as 'hands on' as I expected. He did say he couldn't imagine it being any other way...largely because he knew I wouldn't put up with anything else!

phantasmagoria Thu 09-Oct-08 19:53:23

I agree with MI.

hatwoman Thu 09-Oct-08 20:24:09

looking back over the last 8 years reality has in fact matched my expectation, despite the odd glitch and the normal rows over who should have emptied the dishwasher. dh and I had a loose deal that in the early years I would do a bit more of the child-related stuff (ie take maternity leave and perhaps work part-time for a bit) and then, when he decided he'd had enough of his quite well-paid job and we'd saved enough to switch roles round a bit we would. So I took 10 months mat leave, then both worked f-t for a year, then I took 7 months mat leave, then I worked p-t, he worked f-t, then he dropped a day - so I worked 3, he worked 4, now he's down to 2 days a week and I'm freelancing doing about 4.

alongside how the paid work has panned out there's always been the assumption that looking after children is also work and therefore an equally valid contribution to the household and jobs that needed doing after one person has spent the day looking after the kids and the other at a computer need dividing up. on the other hand we both realise that being at home can (sometimes but not always) bring with it a bit more down time and the chance to do jobs during the day and cook.

have my choices been curtailed? yes - in that I'm quite fond of my work and without kids I would probably have spent my 30s working harder and climbing further up a greasy pole. But having had them it didn;t feel quite such a priority. (and if it had remained a priority climbing that pole would have been extremely difficult - so maybe I "self-regulated" my ambitions...who knows)

I'm also lucky. I have a dh who is reasonably well-paid, and, more importantly, was prepared to stick his neck out in a pretty hostile environment and say he didn;t want to work f-t. It's a shame, and a reflection of where we are, that I consider that "lucky" and it would be very nice if my daughters had similar partners and didn't consider themselve "lucky".

hatwoman Thu 09-Oct-08 20:26:07

VanB sad you could be a friend of mine - near identical experience, she's virtually been demoted unless she takes on an area of work ^in addition^ to her normal work load. you're not an accountant by any chance?

ditheringdora Thu 09-Oct-08 20:35:17

I expected to return to work after 6 months mat leave which I did. I returned full time to changed working conditions and a difficult environment. I work harder than I ever have done and feel that as I'm pg again 2.5 years later I've been written off.
Both dh and I work full time but I hope to take additional unpaid maternity leave, to raise my babies but also to escape from the pressures of work blush. hopefully we can take parental leave in the next year or two.

VanB Thu 09-Oct-08 20:36:38

No hatwoman - but I am an architect...7 years of hard work and debt for not an awful lot of reward at the moment!

DH is being pretty supportive (works on contract so unfortunately no p/t opps there for him) and is encouraging me to have a go at running my own practice - I might well have a go. smile

TheGreatScootini Thu 09-Oct-08 20:53:06

I expected to be a SAHM who maybe would go back to work PT when the kids go back to school..thought we would be OK off, not hugely rich, but managing.

Why I thought this Ive no idea.
What actually happens is I work officially 30 hours but more like 40, I have an hour and a half commute each way.I see the kids for an hour at the end of each day (Except Friday and the weekend which are my days off), I put them to bed (DH at work still)I then make them food for the following day (cm doesnt provide food) do washing/cleaning/ironing, then fall into bed ready to do it all again the day after..

I get paid OK, but most goes on child care and a huge mortgage (for not a huge house) so it none of it seems worth it somehow..(the work part, not the kids part, as obv wouldnt change them smile)

foxinsocks Thu 09-Oct-08 21:10:01

I had no expectations probably because my pregnancy was an accident.

I found it easier when mine were babies. Although the sickness thing was a major issue for me, the accessibility of nursery and the fact that we could drop off before work and pick up straight afterwards made it easy.

Once they were at school, the childcare became so much more complicated and we've ended up with a more expensive option (a nanny).

In terms of expectations, as I didn't really have any I suppose all I have found is that it is very hard to balance everything.

Dh has become FAR more involved as my children have become older, which is lovely really. I've seen this pattern with a lot of male friends of ours. We now do an equal amount of childcare and both work full time.

What could the government do? Don't know really. Make the blardy trains run a bit quicker and on time wink then our commute would be a bit easier as that's what's taking a huge amount of our time up! Don't think the train services have been improved round here for decades.

foxinsocks Thu 09-Oct-08 21:12:58

my children ahem our children

TheCelestialTeapot Thu 09-Oct-08 21:16:44

It worries me the government seem to want to force us to use childcare for younger and younger children - the news that they've pledged free nursery places for two-year-olds.

So the societal norm will shift so that the expectation is that more children are in childcare younger than ever - and once more, the role of mother (or parent) is diminished.

As a working mother, it often seems as though children are a pesky nuisance, a problem - for everyone - and I can't imagine that workplaces will be made much more family-friendly.

So children in nursery younger, more parents juggling work with family and all the pressure on families to have both parents working?

Recipe for society collapse, imo. It's happening already.

Anifrangapani Thu 09-Oct-08 21:16:58

I was in denial about having kids ( dd was a suprise to say the least), so I didn't really know what to expect.

We kind of muddle through now. I earn more than Dh so when my 5 weeks of maternity was up I went to work and dh stayed at home to look after dd. It was the only way to make it work for us. Neither of us are great at housework so we do it as it annoys us. I still work full time and dh runs his own business from home. He is still the primary child carer, but I do most of the cooking because it takes me less time. All 4 of us tidy up when the house becomes a real state at the end of the day. We have an ironing lady because we both hate doing it with a vengence and a dishwasher for the same reason. We figured it was cheaper than a divorce lawyer.

I think from a social point of view dh & I are considered odd, and I know that he finds the lack of status quite difficult at time.

TheCelestialTeapot Thu 09-Oct-08 21:20:33

Sorry, I didn't answer the question.

In the absence of five-book deals with film rights, I work full time, so does DH. I didn't expect to work as much, but I never really expected to have children either.

I don't expect things, generally. That way kicks in the teeth lie.

Sexonlegs Thu 09-Oct-08 21:54:21

I had no expectations to be honest, but knew, as the lower earner, that I would be the one doing most of the caring.

As it turns out, dh has managed to negotiate a 4-day week, and therefore has our dd2 1 day a week, and she goes to nursery the other 2 days I work.

The problem I have now is with dd1 being at school and the constraints it puts on working parents, ie having to leave so early to pick her up/school holidays etc. which I didn't have when she was at nursery which closed at 6.00.

There is no after-school club at dd1's school, and the cost of a childminder on top of dd2's nursery costs just make working a bit of a joke - and my salary isn't particurly low.

I cannot afford to give up work - financially and for my sanity.

As working parents, we are contributing to the economy, and I think we should be given an allowance for childcare to help us out a bit.

foxinsocks Thu 09-Oct-08 22:00:41

yes I would love for the nanny's salary to be tax deductible off my taxable income but know that is unlikely!

jellybeans Thu 09-Oct-08 22:03:25

I don't like the pushing mums into work attitude of labour. I hear some people suggesting that the state pay grandparents or relatives/friends to care for children but no mention of paying SAHMs. I think it is bizarre that someone may be better off, for example, paying a neighbour to look after their child while they are paid to look after someone elses. I think paying everyone a benefit/tax credit to choose whether to use it towards childcare or to offset SAH costs is the way forward. I don't see why universal care for 2 year olds is a good thing at all. People should be responsible in general for their own childcare.

fairylights Thu 09-Oct-08 22:06:07

I thought i would want to get back to work ASAP but circumstances (dh getting a job in a different city so we had to move while i was pregnant) kind of led me into being a SAHM which i am happy with/reconciled to most of the time.
BUT i think if someone had told me at when i was at uni that ten years down the line i would be at home with a toddler/in charge of pretty much all housework and cooking etc etc i would NEVER have thought this is what modern motherhood would be like.
I AM living the life of a 50s housewife a lot of the time (although with a v wonderful and understanding dh) and some days i do really hate that - but then i get to be with ds a lot and couldn't have known how wonderful that would be.
As someone else has said, i wish someone had warned me that i couldn't have it all..but then if they had i wouldn't have believed them! grin

jellybeans Thu 09-Oct-08 22:09:35

BTW my expectations were to go back to work, I never considered SAH until I had tried juggling and felt it unfair and not worth it on me or my DD. I also don't see how it is progress to have both parents slaving away full time (seeing their child an hour a day) and bringing in a 3rd party to do he childcare (although can see why Gordon Brown loves it) surely progress would be less work, more leisure/family time. Prices are being driven up with what people can afford to pay such as with dual incomes/house prices/wages. Surely progress would be both parents working part time and sharing childcare or one concentrating on care and one on career? This will never fit with Labour's ideas on work as I have read lots of reports praising only full time work and criticising part time work.

blithedance Thu 09-Oct-08 22:11:08

jellybeans I agree, it's as if the one person the government doesn't want to look after a child is the one that Nature intended! Which is perhaps a good idea since mothers and fathers are not CRB checked, Ofsted inspected, NVC qualiefied, trained in early years education and may not even have done a first aid course. (can't you tell I was stewing about this in the car today?)

You have the option to take or leave the free childcare though. For some people it will be a lifeline.

Perhaps child benefit should be substantially increased for under-5's.

TheCelestialTeapot Thu 09-Oct-08 22:52:06

Children are pretty much loathed in most areas of society.

That's what needs to change before anything else. Tit about giving little bits of benefit here and there (financial and otherwise) and all you do is increase the sense of rage among those who cannot or choose not to have children and enter the world of the "breeder".

Soapbox Thu 09-Oct-08 23:15:43

It has turned out more or less as expected for me and my family.

I have done a mix of part-time, SAHM (not for long) and FTWOTH.

I am fortunate to be in a position to choose what options work best for me and the family and I am happy that the choices I made have been right at the various points so far.

If anything was surprising, it was the realisation that having school aged children is far harder work from a child care perspective than babies and young children.

I can only make these choices, because DH is fully engaged with the care of the children and our domestic responsibilities.

Both of us have very challenging careers but have been able (with a bit of luck and a smattering of judgement) to get into fairly niche roles which allow us greater flexibility in managing a work/life balance that works for us.

It takes a bit of juggling between the two of us and we are still paying for a lot of childcare, but overall we have a lot of fun together, having subcontracted a lot of the 'grunt' work on the domestic front.

I have found that having a flexible attitude has helped enormously - not working off of fixed models - and being assertive enough to ask for what I want!

I would also say that having an eye on the end game is important - what we want out of this parenting lark is two happy, independent adults. All of the twists and turns are just mere staging posts on the road to this end result

CapricaSix Thu 09-Oct-08 23:53:09

Life is pretty much easier than I expected it to be, but dd was unexpected from a one night stand, and I had a medical phobia, so when I found out I was pg my life pretty much came crashing around my ears and I didn't think I would ever survive! grin

Seriously though, I didn't really think past the baby stage either, but I have returned to work sooner than I expected, when dd was 3.6, and very happily. I really don't remember thinking much about it all when i was pg, my assumption was that I had no choice but to be a SAHM, I thought the system meant I couldn't afford to work, and that I shouldn't (drummed into me by my militant SAHM mum). I remember answering in a surprised voice to somebody who asked me what my job was "Err - I have my baby?!" blush It really didn't occur to me that I had any other choice! (And I didn't discover MN till dd was over 2yo btw!)

The first year back at work I had a nanny friend & my mum who took on child care, and I expected things to get a lot harder the 2nd year when dd started school & i switched to a CM. As I described on the lone parent thread, it's been a LOT easier than I expected, bar a few weeks when the CM was off sick with a bad back. And dd is enjoying school a lot more than I thought she would! I expected the long days (only 3 of them mind you) to be a real PITA but in fact it's fine. Also, I am better off financially working than I expected to be, even though i think it's only about £40 pwk better off & £20 has to be taken off for travel but like I said, I thought I couldn't afford to work part time.

trixymalixy Fri 10-Oct-08 08:58:20

I do pretty much everything mid week as my DH works away which is something i hadn't anticipated, so we rely on family quite a lot to help out.

Initially returning to work has been great. I'm really lucky to have a boss who is happy for his staff to work part time and not reduce their career prospects. He recognises the fact that part time workers generally work harder per hour than full time staff to get the job done, and that working parents need flexibility.

Unfortunately bosses with attitudes like this are few and far between. I am being made redundant and trying to find a new job part time is going to be an impossibility. I am going to have to commute so i can't see how I'm going to manage nursery drop offs and pick ups. Things will be even worse when my DS goes to school. I'm not a big fan of wraparound care, but i don't see what other choice there will be.

MrsMattie Fri 10-Oct-08 09:54:59

I hadn't anticipated how much having children would affect my career.

With my first child, I planned to go back to full time work when my maternity leave ended. I found my return much harder than I had ever anticipated - my supposedly flexible employer wasn't actually very flexible at all, and I just couldn't cope with leaving my child in childcare for such huge stretches of the day (8am-6.30pm - felt absolutely brutal). I decided to become a SAHM for a bit - something I would never have contemplated when I was pregnant.

I have, however, been pleasantly surprised with how hard DH works at being a great, hands-on dad and doing his fair share of housework/shopping/cooking etc, as well as holding down full time work. I thank my lucky stars grin. It was a complete fluke, though. Neither of us really had a clue about how labour intensive parenthood would be.

Financially, it has been tricky. We planned our lives around having two salaries, and now find ourselves in our 3rd year on only one salary and expecting a second child (I won't go back to work until this one at least a year old, and even then, only part time). I am also aghast at the cost of full time childcare. We were completely naive about it, to be honest. A full time nursery place in London costs upwards of £800 (probably closer to £1000-1200) pcm. Extortionate. How on earth are people supposed to afford that?

hatwoman Fri 10-Oct-08 09:58:29

I was thinking some more about this, and I think one counter-question is, expectations when? and reality when?

re expectations: age as far back as I can remember to my late 20s (in the 80s, 90s) I would have "expected" both myself and my husband/partner to work full-time, (in no doubt glittering careers)organise some sort of child care (in a how hard can it be, it's just what every-one does, kind of way), not face any particularly difficult decisions (emotional, financial or otherwise), and any slightly awkward decisions would be identical for us both. I was gobsmackingly naive and ignorant. I was brought up in the age of superwoman - where the needs of children and the actual realities (both micro realities in the home and macro ones out there in the rest of the world)and the ongoing existence of discrimination were removed from the picture. kids and good career were just a given - part of the picture I envisaged in much the same way as I envisaged living in a house.blush.

having a baby (intended, but I wouldn;t say "planned" in the true meaning of the word) was possibly just as much of a shock as those who said they didn;t "plan" to have one. at that stage my expectations began to look more like the ones in my other post.

reality when? it was a bit of a rocky road getting to where me and dh are now, and there were times when I felt I;d been dealt a very different hand to dh, by virtue of having a womb, boobs, and a career choice where even a good salary is totally wiped out by the cost of childcare. so if you;d asked me this question 4 years ago - when I was p-t (with net financial contribution to the houselhold of zero) and dh f-t I would have said very much no.

my overall point is that the answer to this question changes all the time - I don;t think families ever reach an equilibrium where everything will stay the same - there are so many stages in this whole process, that it's actually very difficult to answer this question, except in a limited, snap shot type way.

hatwoman Fri 10-Oct-08 10:00:12

when I say "removed from the picture" I meant they were forgotten about, not, of course that they really were "removed"

holidaysoon Fri 10-Oct-08 10:27:22

No it is so much harder
Recently my dh and dcs went away for a few days (never done this before prob. wont again!)
I couldn't believe how much easier my life was in every single way, I rolled out of bed had a leisurely coffee whilst reading the paper and sauntered to work in 15 minutes. I swept the kitchen floor after they left and not again until they came back (instead of my usual 3 times a day)
I struggled to generate enough dishes/clothes to wash to make it worth doing so. Instead of 5/6 loads a week (plus the inevitable living in a laundry).
I ate only from Waitrose and spent about £12 pounds.
I came home in the evening had a drink read the paper and thought well I'd better start making some food only to discever it was only 5.30.

What I'm trying to say is that my children suck up all my time in domestic drudgery and so my career has stalled, so now I'm left with the feeling that I should have just not bothered working, saved the money on childcare and spent the time with my own children.
My children suck up all our money just on existing (food, childcare and we don't eat from Waitrose as a family) so again no point working.

I have also been shocked by the anti-children/parent attitude from childless female work colleagues

I really think that childcare should be from pre-tax salary and there should be a tax allowance for having children (eg 5%/child capped at 2 children) my colleagues and I earn very similar amounts at the end of the month she has a 'full' bank account whereas I have nothing.

LilRedWG Fri 10-Oct-08 11:18:22

When I was little I wanted to be a SAHM, like my Mum, then I went to senior school and it was drummed into me that I should go to university and have a career.

I went to university, got the career, looked down a little on friends who gave up their careers to have children blush and planned to go back to work at least three or four days a week when I had children.

After two miscarriages and a horrific pregnancy I was still, even on my last day at work, saying to my boss, "Y'know we need to sort out what days I'm coming back after my maternity leave." I did stress about how many hours the baby would be in paid care, but said I'd never be able to stay at home as I wouldn't have the patience/we couldn't afford it/etc etc etc.

Then DD was born - I haven't looked back since. I didn't return to work (much to everyone's surprise, not least my own) and am loving my time with her.

So, my situation is much much different than I though and I'm guessing better.

LilRedWG Fri 10-Oct-08 11:21:35

That being said, DH does take over child care as soon as he gets in from work - DD is often thrust upon him whilst I MN. I do most of the housework but DH clears up after dinner, mows the lawn, puts the bins out etc etc, so we split it fairly IMO.

VinegARGHHHTits Fri 10-Oct-08 12:24:44

In Answer to the OP, pretty much how i expected it would be, i knew when i told ex i was pg and he did a runner that i would be doing all the work and the caring, and i didnt have any expectations before hand as finding out i was pg was a massive shock pleasant suprise

So what great policy/suggestions do the gov have for me? how about spot fines or even imprisoment for men who abandon you when you tell then your preggers?

When I was first pregnant I thought that we'd share childcare / work balance equally. Then dp and I had a huge argument when I was about 6 months pregnant in which it became clear that he had a different vision, i.e. he didn't want his working life to change at all. When dd was tiny we envisaged more time for me to work and discussed it but it never really materialised. I didn't fight for it as adamantly as I should have done though as I was so besotted. Now I wish I had been firmer. Not so much that I want to work more but firmer about having time for myself.

Currently I work part-time and dp works full time. This has been the same since dd was 7 months old. I have no 'personal' time though as I work when dd is at school.

In terms of household things dp has virtually removed himself from responsibility.

I feel like I'm a SAHM in his eyes but in fact I'm a working SAHM and I find it hard to fit in everything with little support other than financially from him.

So not what I expected. But I don't like to complain as I'm so delighted to have dd.

CapricaSix Fri 10-Oct-08 12:48:23

holidaysoon -ahh sounds like bliss, those few days to yourself! I have had the odd day at work when dd has stayed overnight the night before at my mum's and the transformation to just the morning is huge!

And re income - i don't really think of income as income any more. Most of it (and by "It" i mean tax credits, benefits etc as well as salary) goes on rent, bills, child care, travel and of the spare that's left about 2/3 of it is on groceries/stuff for the house. The extra 1/3 is easily spent on necessities like clothes, shoes, replacing broken household items, and mobile phone costs that i've not budgeted for blush etc. There is no real spare cash to spend on what I want, or on holidays.

Yet my income is, last time I counted, about £20k, which ok isn't much by today's standards, but it's still more than what some of my childless friends - and my colleagues on the same salary! - get. Yet those people, although they are limited by where they can live, etc (i am luckier than them in that respect actually, me & dd have a 2 bed flat for just the two of us, rent paid in full by benefits - i've included housing benefit in that income figure btw), seem to be able to just buy stuff, & go on holidays without really thinking too much about it (not as much as me anyway - everyone talks about being skint though!)

Its basically as expected. When I was pregnant I decided to leave the decisions about returning to work till I knew the realities of the situation, and with DH and I running our own business, it was possible.

8 months in I'm back at work 2 days a week and basically enjoying myself, feeling like I've got the best of both worlds - involved enough in the business to take some of the worry from DH, but still spending plenty of time with our son.

My biggest issue is flexible working. With a DS that is asleep by 6 every night, if DH didn't work 8(ish) till 4, he would only get to see his son for half an hour or so in the morning, and at the weekends, and I think that would kill him (the look on his face when he gets home late to find DS asleep is very sad) Anyway, being the boss he's arranged it so he's back for 5 most nights (our employees kindly work 10-6 to cover this), but I'm guessing that most workplaces wouldn't have allowed him to do that, which would be, IMO, detrimental to their relationship (DS's auntie, who looks after him while I'm at work already sees more of DS during the week than DH does). DH comes home, normally eats with us, and then does bathtime, which gives me a few minutes to collect myself after an often hard day. That's a really important part of division of care for me.

I think it would be nice to see more regulation that would encourage employers to allow different hours, flexible working etc, to allow people to work AND spend quality time with their kids. In DH's case, its not at all detrimental to his work for him to do a shorter day during normal working hours, but then have an hour or two of peace in the evening to get a bit more done.

On the housework side, DH expects me to care for DS. He sort of expects me to do the dinner and the shopping, although he's happy to deal with it when its not there. We share the washing, but he does everything else, so I feel that's fair. And now DS is not asking for BM all day every day, I would say DH does half of the childcare and more than half of the housework at the weekend

Miggsie Fri 10-Oct-08 17:53:48

I never really thought about it until I realised on maternity leave I was doing 90% of the housework...even when I returned to work.
Then I realised I had always done 90% of the housework even when we were both in full time employment and DH was basically useless. He will now do housework when instructed.
He does do childcaring but says it does not come he does the bedtime every night which he can just about cope with.
Now DD is at school I have gone part time to school hours, even though I earn more even part time!!!! There was never any discussion of him going part time, although he enjoys his job and I don't, so I don't mind doing less.
Mothers who have boys should sign a pledge that they will bring their sons up able to do domestic chores, and a massive research grant should be made available to see if testosterone makes men unable to notice mess and domestic chores.
DH washes clothes when he runs out of pants, irons when he has no ironed shirts to put on, buys toilet paper whn we run out, buys food when we run out.
Also, can we do research into why men can: hire a cleaner, get a takeaway, spend tons of money on something frivolous with a 10 microsecond thinking time, while women agonise over it for hours and end up cleaning something up????????

Also, I think mumsnet should publish a list of really nice bosses, who let you work part time, and don't mind you working at home/around school hours/sick sprogs etc. These people are what makes working life for mums possible/worthwhile, I have refused promotion at work as I don't want to lose my current boss!!!!!

I also sometimes find my paid employment is an intolerable distraction from: ordering shopping, ironing, housework, after school activities, organising play dates, packing school bags etc etc.

Rowlers Fri 10-Oct-08 19:27:54

When I was pregnant I thought I would want to go back to my job full time so planned to do just that.
While still on maternity leave I realised I would much prefer to work part-time. I did at that point, however, not want to give up my position of responsibility.
My place of work, as I presume is the case in general, does not cater readily for women who want to pursue a career but not 5 days a week so sadly I have gone right back down to the bottom of the pile.
A waste of my skills and experience really.
I have also taken over much of the housework - shopping, cooking, cleaning etc. I suppose I thought this would happen but I hadn't really realised how much I would come to hate doing all of it.
Childcare costs are high and make work more of a luxury if that makes sense. I would welcome childcare help at an earlier age than 3.

Dottoressa Fri 10-Oct-08 20:45:33

My DH is retired, and I worked full time (albeit reluctantly) before DS was born.

The plan was for me to return to work and for DH to look after DS and any subsequent siblings.

I did return to work (in academia) after a year, and was deeply miserable about not being with DS. I stuck it out for vile, horrible, unspeakable 6 months, until going on maternity leave to have DD. I resigned while on maternity leave.

Having wanted me to work, DH was overjoyed when I resigned. It turned out that he was just as miserable as a childcarer as I was as a working mother!!

Personally, I think the government should pay mothers who want to stay at home. At the very least, they should be entitled to claim the 'nursery grant' if they are not using a nursery. It seems discriminatory that you are only entitled to anything if you want someone else to look after your children!

I think they should also reintroduce tax benefits for married couples. I know some people have a bee in their bonnet about getting married, but all it is is signing a form to say you're going to stay together: it's really no different from any other legal agreement that you might make with a partner.

elliott Fri 10-Oct-08 22:25:02

I was very idealistic about wanting to share things equally. On the whole, in the important respects this has worked - we both work less than fulltime, my job is more important financially and equally important personally, and dh is fully competent in most spheres of childcare and domestic labour. However, I do resent the time I spend organising and planning ahead for the whole family - it is always me who keeps a handle on who is doing what when, and makes sure that childcare is organised, and the right bits of paper and books go with the dcs to school. DH is probably better at just ploughing on with stuff - he does way more washing up than me (!) and there are jobs that I just don't do.

But its always hard to remember what you anticipated - I guess I hadn't really expected all that stuff about organising their social life and school work, which largely (though not exclusively) falls to me.

EllieG Fri 10-Oct-08 22:25:40

My situation is much as anticipated really - I have taken a year off to be with my baby, but I have to go back after that because I am the main breadwinner in our household. I do the majority of the housework and childcare whilst off work, as I view looking after DD as my job for the year (the housework I do cos DH is just lazy hmm) but when I am back in the office I expect him to do 50% - which he will (if he knows what's good for him). I would like to not work but we cannot afford it. My work have said there is no possibility of part-time, though flexi-time may be in place by the time I go back, which will be useful.

MatBackFeck Fri 10-Oct-08 22:33:16

The who does what with work and caring is about 50:50 in our house, pretty much as I expected, though I do a bit more on the cleaning front. The thing that isn't how I expected or how I would like is just how damn much there is of it all!

lovemychildren Fri 10-Oct-08 23:13:07

Most of the women I talk to agree that we do most of the housework and childcare. Men believe they have a god given right to 'time for myself' such as the whole of the afternoon watching football whilst we have to take care of the children/cook/clean/iron etc.
I work full time because 1. the jobs I have always demand it - I would just end up dong 5 days work in 3, although my organisaiton has great policies to support working women - good long paid mat leave, flexible working etc 2. I like the money (and am the higher wage earner)
Hubbie will do a few specific tasks if I ask, apart from mega gardening or DIY that involves ripping things out.
Otherwise I do it all. He watches TV.
Don't really know why I put up with it!

The best flexible working packages are with the civil service or local government, but the rates of pay aren't brilliant.

elastamum Fri 10-Oct-08 23:58:01

My DH has left us and so I now do everything. No I wasnt expecting it - who is? But I love my children to bits and wouldnt change it for the world. I scaled back my work when the Dc's were small and my biggest problem is now finding a decent job to support us all

QuiteQuiet Sat 11-Oct-08 08:48:57

I thought I would stay at home and care for the DC possibly getting a part-time job when they were both in school.

This was not a realistic thought.

I have worked since DC1 was 8 months old. I have had to work as my OH cannot seem to hold down any job.

When DC2 goes to school in the near future I shall/will work full-time.

What could the government do? Pay our childminding costs even if the father does not work, some men are also incapable of caring for children in the way a Childminder does..

bossykate Sat 11-Oct-08 10:06:09

Pay our childminding costs even if the father does not work, some men are also incapable of caring for children in the way a Childminder does..

sorry but i can't let that pass without comment. why on earth should the taxpayer subsidise a man's incompetence like this?

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Sat 11-Oct-08 10:22:51

Before having ds1 I thought I would return to work part time. Once he was born I found I couldn't. I could have made it work (with some difficulty) but didn't want to whilst he was young.

I planned to return to work when he was older. I have done this (with 2 other children as well) but it's not easy because ds1's severe autism (obviously didn't know about that at the beginning) makes childcare almost impossible. I think that has been brought up on other threads, but during school holidays there are 6 places per day for children like ds1 (with about 200 kids in SLD schools in our city). I work full time now, but have to leave early to meet his school bus (no after school care available for him), look after him, then finish the work after he is in bed. And as already moaned about I lost my carer's allowance because of the number of hours I spend in work (despite doing exactly the same number of hours of caring). I am actually doing a funded PhD (call it a 'job' as I already have one so am doing it for the money in the main, although it does give a chance to do research I want to do). Once this finished I don't know what I'll do. Academia is flexible, but there's no way I could do a full time job. Will probably have to try and do 2 or at the most 3 days a week and do it over 5 days during school terms. Or I'll have to try and work for myself.

I would actually quite like to be a full time carer for ds1 - but only if paid a decent amount for it, so I could do it properly and not have to spend time late at night trying to scrape together pennies. If ds1 was to go into full time residential care it would cost the local authority over 200 grand a year. I would be happy to be a full time carer for a lot less than that! But £40 odd a week does not cover mortgages (not sure how much CA is now as I no longer receive it).

enduringsurrey Sat 11-Oct-08 11:20:30

Before I had ds I thought I would manage to combine running my own wonderful home business with effortlessly looking after him. We both thought I would just stay at home and have lots of children and be very happy. Strangely enough, it didn't turn out that way! I didn't realise that I would not take to motherhood and would just want to get back to work asap.

When he was tiny he went to nursery part-time and then when a toddler full-time - he loved it and so did I but my salary only paid for nursery fees and a bit besides.

School, which I'd thought would free me, turned out to be much more complex because of the shorter days. I had to do part-time local jobs, and from when he was aged 8-10 I had au-pairs to help me through full-time working/housework. Looking back, with no family at all to help us out except in emergencies, it has been a long haul.

Sometimes it has seemed so relentless, the working and then coming home and having to clean the house and cook dinner etc. Never any time to do anything properly and cutting corners all over the place!

grouchyoscar Sat 11-Oct-08 14:57:25

I've always been a bit of a feminist and thought that once I was pregnant it would be a joint effort but DS arrives and I've fallen into the role of a 50s mum

Ho Hum

I do the housework, the SAHM bit, the finances, the PA job, the project management and DH goes to work to earn the wage. Yep Mr Grylls would define me as 'just a housewife and mother' hmm

But I do love being a mum and everything that comes with it

stayinbed Sat 11-Oct-08 16:15:10

i do everything i can to make everything work how i want it. i have always known how i don't want to be, and i make sure not to let things go that way. the really helpful part is having a dh who is very supportive of me. luckily he is my boss at work and has really helped me integrate raising dcs and working full time.

i think tax breaks for those using early years childcare including childminders, nurseries, nannies or whatever, as a means of returning to work, could really help more women get back to work

madrose Sat 11-Oct-08 20:53:09

pretty much as i thought - paying far too much for nursery - tax rebates would have been useful. going to find it a nightmare when dd goes to school, wilk have to rely on au pair to manage.

it's the cost that hurts the most

Trafficcone Sat 11-Oct-08 21:23:57

I thought I'd be a SAHM. What a bloody joke that was.
I am now considered lucky for only having to work 3 days a week.
In terms of housework etc, that's my job, I'm the wife, not Dh! Ditto the children, I see it as my job but I have no problem sharing it with him.
My Mothers generation have no idea how lucky they were IMO.

hunkermunker Sun 12-Oct-08 00:50:43

This pretty much sums up what I think the Government should do

Make it easier for women to be mothers, not "one of a range of people who can look after the children, all equally important".

PavlovtheWitchesCat Sun 12-Oct-08 07:32:54

I anticipated going back to work, but did not think I would work as much as I am. Thought DH would work more that me, but not worked out that way.

We share childcare equally and DD is in nursery 1.5 days a week. I am happy with the level of paid childcare, but would prefer to have another day at home with DD. Can't afford it.

Anna8888 Sun 12-Oct-08 09:37:49

hunkermunker - I agree with the sentiments in your link. I disagree quite profoundly with the unbridled use of the artificial mother-substitutes on the market for young babies.

I used to get a lot of funny looks and veiled and not-so-veiled comments about how difficult my daughter would find it to go to pre-school because she was so attached to me - I didn't use any childcare other than my mother for the first year, and only the very occasional babysitter thereafter, she breastfed and coslept and never encountered a cot, bottle, dummy, doudou (cuddly toy for sleeping), teething ring etc etc.

As it turns out, despite being right at the tail end of her school year group (November birth, in a school system that does an intake following the calendar year), she is one of the most self-assured, confident and happy children in her year group.

She wasn't attached to me so much as secure with me - and by the time she went to school she could talk, so that she could make her needs known to adults that she didn't know, and was secure with them.

jellybeans Sun 12-Oct-08 13:55:22

People are obsessed with 'independence' but, as described by Anna, dependence is needed first.

Cammelia Sun 12-Oct-08 18:28:01

Why doesn't the govt re-introduce tax breaks for married couples. Sorry to everyone who thinks that marriage is "out-of-date" (whatever that means) but it isn't rocket science to accept that the child is better off in a secure family unit.

Couples who co-habit can be just as strong, I know, before the arguments start, but how does the govt judge who is really living together and who isn't, unless they have a marriage certificate? (to prevent fraud)

if one of the married couple can claim both parties tax allowances it would be so much easier fro mothers (or fathers) to stay at home.

Why isn't there the financial incentive that there used to be?

Makes a lot more sense than the tax payer funding child care outside the home

catweazle Sun 12-Oct-08 18:39:46

The govt won't introduce tax breaks because it is too expensive to administer and would require a move away from independent taxation. They are on a mission to seriously reduce the number of civil servants and this sort of work is very labour-intensive.

CHOCOLATEPEANUT Sun 12-Oct-08 20:22:01

I would love to work less but have to work full time as does dh but her works shifts so I am on own with kids a lot and exhausted.Its much much harder than I thought but I did not antcipate working full time but we have a big mortgage and I earn more so no choice sad
Sometime I wish it was the 70's when people had less and I could have spent more time with kids like my mum did

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