Feeling a bit let down by 'the sisterhood'

(356 Posts)
Hopingitwillallbefine Mon 01-Jul-13 14:05:26

I am a new(ish) mum to a dd (11 months) and have just returned to work full time. This was not a decision I took lightly but made for a number of reasons, including the fact that we really need the money for a deposit for a new house and I love my job and have worked hard to get where I am, and would like to continue to progress in my career. My DH also works full time. We are fortunate enough to have reasonable working hours (him 9-5, me 8-4) which mean that between us we are at home with dd until about 8.15am in the morning and from 5pm in the evening. Between 8.30 and 5pm dd is at nursery. We chose her nursery because we loved it immediately and continue to be impressed and happy with the quality and standard of care it offers. Dd LOVES nursery, has made a great bond with her keyworker and seems to have such lovely, fun and full days.

Apologies for the boring details of our life - all pretty normal stuff. However the reason for my post and what has really upset me/pissed me off in the past few months has been the attitudes of other women towards the decisions we have made as a family about working hours and childcare arrangements. I have lost count of the occasions that I have been met with undisguised horror, disgust or pity when I've told female friends or colleagues I am back at work full time. Not all of them, but enough to make me feel like a dreadful mother. Responses like "is there nothing you can economise on so that you can drop a day or two?" Or "god you poor thing, that must be miserable". Even my manager has asked me if i want to consider going part time now I am a mum. Similarly, I have been treated to a variety of unhelpful and at times offensive remarks from friends and colleagues about our decision to use a nursery including suggestions that we are risking our dd developing attachment disorder or questions like "is there no way your family could help?" (No), "wouldn't you at least prefer a childminder?" (No), "have you thought about how damaging it could be if your dd's keyworker left?" Etc etc.

These comments are so frequent that I now have a pre-prepared mini speech when people ask about work or childcare to try and head off all the criticisms and 'helpful suggestions'. What annoys me is the implicit assumption that obviously I am only back at work FT out of absolute necessity and that if there were any alternatives at all I would of course be working part time or not at all as all good mothers should - and to admit that I have chosen to return full time partly because I still give a toss about my career and enjoy being at work is tantamount to declaring that I couldn't care less about my dd. Further, I wouldn't dream of questioning another woman's childcare choices and have been really upset and surprised by how many women seem to think that nursery is virtual child abuse and it is their responsibility to educate me on the reasons why. But finally, and the reason for my post in this section of MN is that all of this, without exception has come from other women. Not one man has made me feel bad about my choices or questioned them in any way. Similarly, my husband, who earns exactly the same as me, has never been made to feel bad about being at work FT. Nobody has ever suggested that he might want to go part time now we have a child.

So I just feel a bit let down by women at the moment. I know it is impossible to 'have it all' and I'm not pretending otherwise, but I would like to continue to pursue my career while providing as much care, love and attention to my dd as I can. I love her more than I knew possible and love spending time with her. I feel genuinely excited every day when I go to pick her up and we have a lovely two hours together every evening after work when I am totally and utterly focused on her. We have lovely weekends as a family and spending time together having fun is so important to me. But I also love being at work and enjoy my day and feel so fulfilled by it. Shouldn't other women be supporting me and encouraging me, isn't this equality and freedom what we have fought for for years?

LesAnimaux Mon 01-Jul-13 18:34:09

TheDoctrineOfAllan yes, I am aware.

Startail Mon 01-Jul-13 18:45:50

In any case OP, I'd work full time now and save for a house deposit and then consider you/your DHs hours when DC starts school. When many people actually find child care harder to find and children want to see you more.

scallops you can blame the patriarchy all you like, I still think it's a pretty feeble excuse for the appalling way many women put down and point score against other women.

Startail Mon 01-Jul-13 18:46:50

We can hardly expect men to behave better when they see how we treat each other.

I'm uncomfortable with the notion of sisterhood. I think it's used by those who think feminism is a dirty word to prove women are all a bunch of bitches really. It's never used positively but always in a "humpf, so much for the sisterhood". Women are not a homogenous group. We've all got our own ideas and we don't have to support or agree. Just as men don't have to support or agree with each other.

But you're quite right of course. It's patronising bollocks to assume you've not worked out the right child care. Point out no one is having these conversations with your DH with a smile and raised eyebrow. Challenge preconceptions one person at a time.

Work might just be trying to show how family friendly they are. Some companies get HR points for that and a really keen to show they've embraced all the flexi work messages. So it could be that rather than judgement.

FWIW hats off to you. I'm a SAHM, I've worked full time with kids and part time and I can't wait to get back.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 01-Jul-13 18:48:18

start, are you ok?

Because this is the second thread I've seen where you've been saying women are horrible to each other. And obviously you're totally entitled to say that - but are you ok?

Going back to work full time was the best thing I ever did. Wish I hadn't waited 7 years!

I hate, hate, HATE the double standard of fathers vs. mothers working full time.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Mon 01-Jul-13 18:58:48

I think on this point men in your office may be aware that commenting would be sexist behaviour so they don't.

Or, y'know, what was said upthread about being used to children having little impact on work.

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 18:58:48

startail

Yep, that's one way of looking at it I suppose. Women are all horrible bitches who spend most of their time point scoring off one another while the lovely, simple chaps get on with the important business if running the world.

Or...

Not.

lemonmuffin Mon 01-Jul-13 18:59:54

It may be because most women understand that a baby needs its mother in the first few weeks of its life.

I think these women are just trying to tell you that, albeit in a clumsy way.

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 19:00:16

*of

Hate it when a typo spoils an otherwise well composed post blush

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 01-Jul-13 19:00:56

OK, cross posted with you saying 'We can hardly expect men to behave better when they see how we treat each other.'

I don't agree at all.

We can't expect men to improve their behaviour because we're not perfect, you mean? confused

Why?

I am sorry the OP seems to have some rather unpleasant colleagues, but it's not likely to stop me feeling that misogyny is a big problem, nor should it.

MerylStrop Mon 01-Jul-13 19:01:32

Why are you letting this stuff bother you? Twas ever thus.

People are asking you this stuff for all sorts of different reasons:
Some of them are just making conversation
Some of them think they are trying to help
Some of them are projecting their own anxieties on to you
Some of them are trying to justify their own life choices

ie most of this has got nothing to do with you and your family at all,not really

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 01-Jul-13 19:01:46

lemon - her baby is 11 months.

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 19:02:57

Honk!

Incorrect answer lemon.

op's dd is 11 months old.

boysrock Mon 01-Jul-13 19:05:37

And its their business because..? And you give a shit about their opinions because..?

You will never do right for wrong. You do what is right for you and your family. Even close relatives dont understand what is right for your family. Half the time they seem to think that you should be a carbon copy of them. Any way thats by the by.

I also suspect men dont get questioned like this over their childcare choices because most men have the confidence to not care what other people think. A few may well tell them what to do with their unwanted opinions.

So I dont engage with this at all now. An "oh thats interesting" and dismiss the conversation suffices. (10 years of childcare I dont want to be boring myself talking about my childcare choices)

Anyway when it isnt that it will be childs diet, sporting activities, school, alevels, university, first job, blah blah.

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 19:08:55

I don't think men avoid such questions because they have the confidence to tell people where to stick their opinions on their life choices.

They don't get asked because people assume that 1) childcare is the mother's responsibility 2) mothers want to be with their children rather than work 3) mothers should want to be with their kids rather than work.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 01-Jul-13 19:12:01

Oh, I do!

I'm sure that has a huge amount to do with it. On the rare occasions I've seen someone say anything about childcare to a new father, he's simply assumed it's not an issue. My brother found this - people would ask if he was happy being back at work (no mat or pat leave where they were), and he just assumed there was no implicit judgement.

And the reason for that was, there was no implicit judgement.

That's why these questions must be so niggling to the OP, because I think we probably can all tell that some questions have a bit of a hint behind them. And when your average person asks a new dad 'so, glad to be back at work, huh?', there just isn't a huge weight of social expectation he'll say 'OMG, I feel so guilty', is there? Whereas a mother cannot have escaped seeing all those newspaper stories about 'mums' who do x, y and z wrong.

It is going to affect confidence, I don't see how it could not.

Spartacus101 Mon 01-Jul-13 19:12:39

Nice, Lemon, nice hmm

boysrock Mon 01-Jul-13 19:17:32

Maybe its the men I know and work with then. They would look at you as though it was none of your business. Which it isnt.

I agree with what you say prom but I also think as men are generally less bothered about being assertive ( not sure thats the right way to put it:$) is also a factor.

I think women should be adopting the attitude that their choices do not require justifying to every other nosy parker who has nothing better to do.

Op your working environment sounds toxic. Have they got to much time on their hands or something?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 01-Jul-13 19:19:06

Yes, and I think men who're assertive also get a different response to that, so the whole thing has a knock-on effect that makes it very different from how things are with women.

zigzoo Mon 01-Jul-13 19:23:31

OP - I also agree that it is the Patriarchy which is letting you down and not Sisterhood <even though it may not feel like that>.

I think you might like some of these books (all American) - they can be got second hand on ebay.

The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars

The Mommy Myth

Motherhood and Feminism

Not experienced this myself as I've always been part time.

Feminism has opened my eyes to the myriad reasons why someone might be full time might be part time might be not in paid work. There is no neat box for anyone there are overlapping circles including eg

job type/age/childcare/parents health/DCs health/availability of family/maintaining professional qualifications/sanity/mental health/upbringing/job stress/location of job/location of school etc etc

Ideas for replying to people:

The old MN "Did you mean to be so rude". shock

Say actually I do work part time. When pressed say you finish at 4pm! If you think about it ALL paid work is part time - as it is not 24/7. The fact that your job allows you to finish on time and doesn't demand evening work to catch up means it is less hours than some "full time" people do.

I know what you mean about the "prepared speech" - I have it about DS being an only.

I've just remembered that I keep meaning to buy this book on assertiveness.

Unfortunately I can do aggressive blush but I seem to struggle with assertiveness.

You have the right to state your feelings and values and to say please don't question my choices and let's agree to disagree.

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 19:26:28

Nosy Parker, love that grin

Gemd81 Mon 01-Jul-13 19:51:01

When I asked to go part time after having DD it was as if I asked my work to give me a kidney - it's all down to the culture of your work place so I am now SAHM and feel like govt is trying to force me back into work and I am a nothing - so you can't win just do what feels best and fuck everyone! confused

AnnoyedAtWork Mon 01-Jul-13 20:00:55

Yy to "call my husband and ask him why he is not part time" smile

FasterStronger Mon 01-Jul-13 20:01:40

the sisterhood is the wrong fix for patriarchy. equality is the correct fix for patriarchy.

the 'sisterhood' just puts even more pressure on women to do [something different than what they are currently doing as lets face it we are always being told we are doing something wrong] so Enough Already.

OP - do people ask your DP/DH about childcare or just you?

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