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to think there is a massive disconnect between being a parent and working and this needs to be taught emphatically at school

(304 Posts)
theremustbeanotherway Tue 25-Nov-14 21:53:22

So that my people like me, as so many of you are, don't spend decades getting those top GCSEs, A-levels, the Oxbridge degree, the high-flying legal career, only to feel like I need to massively downgrade/quit work in order to have anything approaching a balanced life with my growing family? Tis truly miserable. I know part-time is a possibility but certainly not at my firm and they are like gold dust elsewhere. DH very supportive and does more than his fair share but it's not working at present and I can only see it getting worse in future.

Are there parts of the world where society is set-up so as to allow both parents to work without the family suffering? Is it because our society lacks the support of a strong extended family and community network or because our jobs are more demanding and don't acknowledge the competing demands of a young family?

SnapeChat Tue 25-Nov-14 21:55:41

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Iggly Tue 25-Nov-14 21:59:42


The problem is work life balance. Doesn't exist.

I would prefer my employer was more flexible, which I can see is possibly, towards everyone but instead we have hand wringing about letting people have a bit of freedom.

I feel happier when I'm not at work all the time and refreshed so that when I'm at work I perform much better. Much more efficiently.

Instead we are told we aren't efficient enough, we need to work harder, smargwr etc and all for what!?

DoraGora Tue 25-Nov-14 21:59:45

Some people overcome the hurdle by sending the children to boarding school and soldiering on.

dietcokeandwine Tue 25-Nov-14 22:00:46

OP I suspect a large part of your issue is the 'high flying legal career'.

Unfortunately a high flying legal career is not really compatible with anything other than total dedication to your firm I'm afraid.

Better work life balances do exist in other fields I'm sure. But I do see where you're coming from. Incompatibility between work demands and family is the main reason why I'm a SAHM.

BestZebbie Tue 25-Nov-14 22:03:55

Average jobs now are not really more demanding than over the past few centuries - it is true that it hard to balance going to an office full time with spending a lot of time with children at home because no-one can be in two places at once, but in the past those children might have been left without supervision, brought along so that they could work too (doing manual labour), or looked after by the eldest in a long line of siblings - all 'childcare solutions' which are rare or unacceptable in the modern world. It is more that the goalposts of what counts as 'acceptable' 'family suffering' have changed.

skylark2 Tue 25-Nov-14 22:06:01

"Are there parts of the world where society is set-up so as to allow both parents to work without the family suffering?"

Yup, the UK is one of them.

I'm a computer programmer with an Oxbridge degree and work hard and at a high level for the 30 hours a week I choose to work. Of course, I'm probably not paid anything like as much as you are. You can't have everything, and if you want a high-flying salary I'm afraid you'll be expected to work high-flying hours.

Other careers are available.

HicDraconis Tue 25-Nov-14 22:07:07

Anyone with an eye on a high flying legal career following extensive further education has enough brain capacity to realise that it takes a lot of time and effort, working some very long hours. They should also have enough spare processing power to work out that that is not going to mix well with a desire for a family, which also takes a lot of time and effort. No need to teach that in schools.

I'm a hospital consultant, I made the decision relatively early in my training to choose a speciality that worked well with raising children (session based rather than continual care based), was adaptable to part time and would be compatible with spending time with my family. I have colleagues who have made similar decisions such that both parents work the equivalent of 1.0 FTE but different weekdays so one is always home with the children while the other is at work. It's the financial equivalent of one SAHP and one WOHP but both parents carry an equal share of both loads.

In contrast, I have colleagues who made the decision that they wanted to concentrate on career / research / lecturing rather than raise a family and chose their career paths accordingly.

I agree that appropriate decision making should be supported in schools, but I don't think you need to teach children that raising a family takes work and effort which may hinder career aspirations or that careers may impact on family time.

BaffledSomeMore Tue 25-Nov-14 22:07:15

Men have been working parents terribly successfully for, well, ever.

So presumably you could hire staff to continue your career, give up or downshift to get a better balance?
I did that to keep things ticking over.

If you argue that there should be more flexibility in senior positions, more private sectror career breaks etc then yes. But that should be normal for mums and dads.

marnia68 Tue 25-Nov-14 22:11:36

Well several women I know do have a lot of support from parents living nearby.Me being one!
My best friend is a part time psychiatry consultant who combines a fulfilling career with family.

Iggly Tue 25-Nov-14 22:12:38

Men have been working parents terribly successfully for, well, ever

I doubt it. You read plenty about "wife work" I.e. men leaving all the worrying and practical stuff about the children to the mum.

E.g me and my husband work. However I do the stuff like kids washing, cooking, keeping on top of school stuff, arranging childcare etc. When I try and DH to do it and leave him to it, it doesn't happen so I have to step in as he doesn't get it!

tobysmum77 Tue 25-Nov-14 22:18:21

iggly not all men are like that but I guess if you see it as 'wife work' that is half of the problem.

DoraGora Tue 25-Nov-14 22:19:45

I think it's really the job of the parents to tell children about life and career choices, rather than school. Schools can let children go on work experience and show videos about bus drivers, doctors, airline pilots and the prime minister. But, it's a person's circumstances and attitudes which are really going to determine the choices that she makes and circumstances can't be taught in school.

BaffledSomeMore Tue 25-Nov-14 22:19:52

Iggly, that's my point. OP was talking about parents and high flying careers. Men have done it for years so parenthood isn't incompatible with a high flying career IF YOU HAVE THE SUPPORT SYSTEM. And as you rightly point out, men have had the support system.
Two high flying careers require a support system still.
The man can be the support system if his career can downshift.

DoraGora Tue 25-Nov-14 22:21:48

tobysmum are there many men who work stupidly long hours and do the housework and keep up with the school diary? I'd love to hear about one.

throwingpebbles Tue 25-Nov-14 22:22:46

I agree with HicDraconis

I have the same academic background as you OP, and could have had a 'high-flying legal career' but I have made compromises in my career so that I can get a balance I am happy with between work and children. My pay might not be stratospheric, but I get interesting work in a secure part-time and (even better) flexible job and that enables me a sensible balance of work and home. I used my gold-plated CV to get me one of those 'rare as hens teeth' part time-but-interesting careers rather than a high-flying one

I'm not convinced throwing in the towel entirely is the answer for most women as I have just had to show 'd'h the door

Fabulous46 Tue 25-Nov-14 22:24:13

Can I ask what the difference having an Oxbridge degree to any other?

tobysmum77 Tue 25-Nov-14 22:24:54

what exactly has being a man got to do with anything? dh is an equal parent and he also works flexibly. Many men refuse to request flexible working because it will 'affect their career' but its fine for women in the same company confused .

wimblehorse Tue 25-Nov-14 22:27:29

Choosing a fulfilling career that would work with a family wasn't something I ever considered. At school/university it was always "aim high" etc. I have been relatively fortunate to have a profession I could choose to downshift in. Whether I'll ever be able to upshift again, who knows. I have friends who were highfliers and are now sahp because they couldn't make it work. Fine to be a sahp through choice, but for them it's been a sacrifice & least worst option. I also have friends who have chosen not to have children partly because they enjoy their careers & can't see how to make it work.

I read an article about stupid hours worked by banking interns (like 70-90 a week) - why? Why not get 3 of them to work a reasonable week?

Remember when everyone used to think the dawn of the computer age would mean everyone worked part-time & would have tonnes of leisure time?

TheFallenMadonna Tue 25-Nov-14 22:28:35

My DH changed his job when I went back to work after my SAHM stint, because him working stupidly long hours was incompatible with the smooth running of our family.

DoraGora Tue 25-Nov-14 22:29:15

I think being a man is mentioned in relation to high-flying because terrific earning men often have a SAHW. The reverse isn't as common, yet. And, in the case of an Oxbridge degree, I think it's being used as an educational superlative. There are other types of degree which lead to excellent legal jobs.

ocelot41 Tue 25-Nov-14 22:31:51

I am in a different line of work to you OP but have two friends in law who experienced much the same problems. One shifted to another, more family friendly chambers and one decided to lecture in law. Both are now very happy and although not perfect, say they have far more flexibility. You are right though - society seems very badly set up for parenthood considering most adults past a certain age are parents!

blueshoes Tue 25-Nov-14 22:32:27

OP, as per your name, of course there is another way. There is no need to aim low. It may be gold dust at your firm to go part time as a fee-earner, but there are other roles which are not fee-earning which make use of your legal skills that you can opt for if you want a better work-life balance.

I suggest you do a little more research and not give up so easily. You will earn less but it will still be a relatively good wage. It is not partnership or bust, you know.

SuiGeneris Tue 25-Nov-14 22:33:26

Agree with throwingpebbles. No need to throw the towel, think about alternative ways of using your training and experience. Could you be a PSL for a few years? Or go in-house or to a regulator?.
I too have a similar background and early career, but moved in-house prior to getting married and, a few years down the line, am enjoying working flexibly in a stimulating environment for decent money. It might take a freeman the to find and execute an exit strategy, but think carefully and you will find the solution.

Crockershite Tue 25-Nov-14 22:34:21

You just can't have it all.
It's very much about what is the MOST important to you.

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