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.


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.

francagoestohollywood Thu 09-Oct-08 17:17:29

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

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