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.


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.

francagoestohollywood Thu 09-Oct-08 13:15:14

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

Message withdrawn

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.

francagoestohollywood Thu 09-Oct-08 14:24:28

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.

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