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Why are women more likely to reduce working hours to parent than men?

(89 Posts)
sunshine75 Fri 20-Oct-17 21:27:03

That's about it really.

I've been thinking about this for a while. I have lots of friends with kids ranging from babies to uni age. Most are married/cohabiting and both have good qualifications.

However, I would say that in 90% of cases it is the woman who gives up work/goes part time when kids come along. Many never return to full-time work (even when the kids go to school/grow up) and the unwritten rule seems to be that they take on the majority share of housework/washing/shopping etc. Even the wealthy couples who have a cleaner/gardener/nanny, it is still the woman who has given up work and sorts out putting the washing away, organising the hired help etc.

I'm feeling a bit 'ranty feminist' this evening and thinking to myself -it's fucking 2017 so why is this till the norm.

Disclaimer - my dh and I both work full time and he more than does his share of household shite and ferrying kids around. However, even in this case it's me who has the overview of what is happening and organises most things. Will it ever change?

IfyouseeRitaMoreno Fri 20-Oct-17 21:36:52

- some women have an all-consuming need to be with their newborn. Biological. And good job too else we’d have died out a long time ago. Unfortunately in today’s society that means sacrificing a whole load of money and career progression. Which is hardly fair.

- men, having been groomed during their lives towards better paid jobs, are earning more at that point so it makes economic sense for the wife to stay at home.

- social norms are such that the man is older so therefore more likely to be earning more. Ditto above.

- social norms and tradition place more pressure on the wife to give up work and look after the child.

There! I think I’ve covered it grin

Unihorn Fri 20-Oct-17 21:43:05

Women have to take 2-4 weeks off post birth and, for their recovery and sanity, most take longer. If you're establishing breastfeeding as well you would be more likely to need to spend more time with your baby than the father would.

I think this naturally means they fall into the primary caregiver role so when considering working patterns and childcare it makes more sense for the mother to take the lions share as it were, as they've already taken on slightly more.

tribpot Fri 20-Oct-17 21:44:13

Agreed, although there are additional economic factors, i.e. high cost of childcare means the lower earner is disproportionately likely to be the one who reduces hours. And additional workplace factors, such as (anecdotally) it is regarded as easier/more acceptable for women to get flexible working agreed than men. And of course the burden of wifework falls on women, thus the woman is already working more hours (for less pay).

NapQueen Fri 20-Oct-17 21:44:26

Dunno. In our house I work ft and dh does term time only pretty much school hours.

I suppose its just whatever works for the family.

IfyouseeRitaMoreno Fri 20-Oct-17 21:47:42

What gets my goat is when the wife does roughly same work hours or more yet still does the dinners, washing, etc

My friend does this. I go round to visit her. She whizzes around making her DC tea. He plays video games.

MamaErmintrude Fri 20-Oct-17 21:48:16

I want to spend more time with my daughter than 2 days per week. (And I'm very fortunate that my DH supports this and earns enough to make it possible. And if roles were reversed and he felt as strongly as I do, I'd do my utmost to make it possible for him too.)

AppleAndBlackberry Fri 20-Oct-17 21:48:28

Personally I literally couldn't bear to leave mine when they were tiny. I think there was definitely something biological going on. Now my kids are bigger (6&8) I quite like the freedom of part time hours and I'm lucky that I'm paid well enough that I can afford to work part time. DH didn't have the same level of attachment with our babies although he did also drop his hours when I returned to work and we share things 50:50 when both of us are around.

ODog Fri 20-Oct-17 21:49:49

I consider myself a feminist but also am a SAHM who gave up a good career. It was an overwhelming instinctive desire to be with my children that drove that decision. Myself and DH earned similar salaries at that time and arguably I had a higher earning potential but i wanted to and he did not. I have no regrets and DH would have been happy whether I stayed at home or went back to work PT or FT. As long as it’s a choice or a mutual decision then I don’t think it’s a feminism issue.

PolarBearGoingSomewhere Fri 20-Oct-17 21:52:00

Gosh I think there are a lot of varied and complex reasons for this. It has been extensively discussed by us over on the Feminism chat board but off the top of my head:

Women are socialised into traditional roles by subtle messages from being tiny. Women may have had a SAHM themselves and see it as the norm. Moreover tradition "women's work" jobs outside the home are undervalued and underpaid so it often makes genuine financial sense for it to be the woman who gives up work.

Conversely men are socialised to believe that they can be / do anything, being a go-getter, leader, driven, ambitious is definitely seen as a positive for men whereas women are seen as bossy and the term "career woman" is used as an insult once DC are on the scene.

Men are not encouraged to take on the SAHP/part time role either, ergo it falls to women by default.

Pay differential
There is still a gender pay gap although studies do suggest this kicks in later in life so potentially after kids. However there is still a trend for women to have children with older men who will be further in their careers, thus better paid. Maternity leave even if women return to work can have a detrimental impact (although shared parental leave uptake is woefully low, an issue in itself!) so mitigate that by having one ruined career (hers) and one unaffected career (his) rather than two slightly adversely affected ones.

While only 1% of children are nursed beyond age 1 (the age that the unpaid bit of maternity leave ends) it is still relevant. Also slow recoveries from birth, birth injuries requiring minor ops etc have a small effect.

Redundancy / discrimination during and after mat leave
Anecdotally this is VERY MUCH a thing and worth raging about.

Obviously, from threads on here, there are also lots of shit men out there who do not pull their weight, and a lot of women who are trapped as a SAHP due to childcare costs etc. But for most women I know, becoming a SAHM is a free choice... on the face of it at least. How free is it really considering these factors, though?

user1487175389 Fri 20-Oct-17 21:52:26

Because we have no choice.

NoSwsForYou Fri 20-Oct-17 21:53:25

I physically couldn't bear the idea of leaving my newborn. I'm looking to reduce my working hours to as few as possible in order to spend as much of his early years with him as possible because that's what being a parent means to me. to another woman it means something different, I absolutely understand that and I'm not judging. I'm also fortunate in that I can scrape by (and I mean scrape) on between 20-30 hours. When DC is in full time school I will return to the career that I trained for.

HoneyWheeler Fri 20-Oct-17 21:54:54

My husband is ten years older than me and earns more than twice what I do, do financially it makes sense for me to go part time after my maternity leave.

Having said that, I’m likely to work for ten years after he retires so I feel ok about it! In terms of house work, I have ‘the list’ in my head of everything, but he more than pulls his weight, so I feel like we’re pretty balanced all things considered.

Callamia Fri 20-Oct-17 21:56:27

I'm the major wage-earner in our home by some way. Yet, my husband has been refused flexible working, and I haven't.

So, I do all the nursery duty because I can. He does a ton of other stuff while I work in the evening. We make it work, but it's naive to think that both of our careers haven't stalled even a little bit.

SonicBoomBoom Fri 20-Oct-17 21:59:31

Money. And the cost of childcare.

And wifework.

Having said that, I have seen men justify them staying FT whether they are the higher earner or not. It's either:

"I'm the main earner so I should focus on my career, you earn less so if you go PT you don't lose as much money."


"Well my wife earns more than me so pays higher taxes so it makes more sense for her to go PT and I stay FT".

It always seems to make more sense for the woman to ruin her career. hmm

QuackDuckQuack Fri 20-Oct-17 22:00:17

In our family it is because I wanted to and DH didn’t. I took maternity leave and DH has no interest in sharing any of that (I’m not sure if it was available at the time anyway). I work nearly full time, but have negotiated to compress it a bit so that I can do some pick ups. We share the mornings and DH has negotiated a later start time so that he can help. In all honesty he doesn’t like having periods of time with our DC without me, so I don’t get him to take time off in the holidays to look after them. I suspect this will change as they get older.

Findingross Fri 20-Oct-17 22:03:21

I hear what you are saying.
I went back to work full time when my child was 11 weeks (maternity provision was a lot less than it is now) and have always been the higher earner.
I was always the one to take time off for their ill health, but admittedly this may have been because I had the more flexible employment.
What gets me now - even with older children, is that I am still the first one home, still the only person who orders/thinks about the weekly shop, organises birthdays and family events etc.
I am getting increasingly frustrated, but realise that I have allowed this to happen.
Trying to make some changes, such as not buying presents for his family, but it feels petty.
I hope that my daughter is more able to shift the very unfair balance.

IfyouseeRitaMoreno Fri 20-Oct-17 22:04:12

What I’d like to know is if there is a country out there where women do the SAHM thing but where it’s seen as equal in status, where they are respected, get an equal say in politics and are given the same opportunities towards intellectual fulfilment.

In other words has “separate but equal” ever worked anywhere? Because I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with women being the ones to look after the DC. It is probably entirely natural. It’s just all the other crap that comes with it.

chipswithchips Fri 20-Oct-17 22:04:15

I wanted to.

cheminotte Fri 20-Oct-17 22:04:29

The pattern is set with maternity leave. Women take up to a year and are then asked - are you going back to work? How many hours? How will you cope? Men take 2 weeks if that, then they are back at work and no one asks them about childcare arrangements, don't they miss the kids etc.
I work 90%, DP works 100%. Kids are now school age. I did full time after dc1, 60% after dc2. We both thought it would be nice if DC weren't in childcare full time but only one of us was prepared to take the career hit.

FridgeCut Fri 20-Oct-17 22:05:31

Both our jobs pre-children involved a lot of travel, his mainly international, mine national. After our first child I went back FT but it was bloody hard, one of us was always away or I'd be 3 hours away and crossing my fingers for no traffic to drive back for the nursery pick-up. When I had the second I decided it couldn't be maintained and I didn't want to maintain it. I was the lower earner by 50-60% so I stepped off. I was a SAHM for two years. I now work from home around the kids 28hours a week for not much money. But, I get a purpose, make a contribution and won't have a total gap on my CV.

My eldest has just started school, I have been into school for things 4 times in six weeks. After half term, I know of at least four more things that are happening. I really appreciate being able to go to these things and support the school and my child. I cannot see a time where working outside the home will be something I want to do. This period of time is short and fleeting and I enjoy being an at home parent.

Believeitornot Fri 20-Oct-17 22:08:05

Because, and I expect to get flamed about this, we care more as mothers. I genuinely think so.

My dh isn’t that bothered about not seeing the dcs as much, he doesn’t think about their emotional development, he just doesn’t seem to think about the impact beyond practical.

Whereas for me, I quite like to raise my dcs and not have them shipped off into childcare. As it is I work too much and have to kind of nudge dh into doing more eg after school activities etc. It wouldn’t occur to him to try and a) arrange for the dcs to do it and b) that the dcs might want to see their parents more.

Gillian1980 Fri 20-Oct-17 22:10:36

My dh explored going part time or compressing hours but I told him that I really, really wanted to be the at home parent as much as possible.

We both worked full time and earned the same. We couldn’t afford either of us to completely stop work but part time was doable (just!). I just desperately wanted it to be me. Dh was a little put out but he did agree. If he’s been really unhappy then possibly we would have managed it differently.

MillieMoodle Fri 20-Oct-17 22:12:49

I think what pps have said - traditionally the mother stayed at home and the father went out to work and I think it will take generations for that to change. It is changing, albeit slowly. It's becoming much more common for the father to stay at home than it ever used to be.

In our house, I went back to work full time in September after a year's mat leave for DS2. DH gave up work when I went back and he's now a SAHD. He's gone from being frankly pretty useless round the house, to doing most stuff because he has had to.

When we both worked full time (although I always worked longer hours), I also did 90% of everything around the house. I was permanently stressed out and he just sat on the sofa watching Sky Sports. When he said he wanted to give up work, it wasn't because he wanted to be at home with DSs, but because he hated his job, he was miserable and something had to change. I am younger than him but was the (slightly) higher earner so it made sense for him to leave his job. Much as I'd love to stay at home (and if money was no object then I absolutely would) I also didn't want to totally give up a career that I have worked hard for. It was a scary decision and we have lost almost half our household income but it has been the best decision for our family life that we could have made. He is like a different man and life is so much happier for us all. I do miss the boys while I'm at work, but one is at school now anyway and I can take comfort from them at least having one parent around all the time - it works better financially for our family for me to be at work and I have to do what's best for all of us.

Interestingly, so many of our male friends have said they wish they could do the same but either they can't because they earn more, or because their wives would rather be the ones to stay at home, or because (in their words) their wives wouldn't agree to it.

AmysTiara Fri 20-Oct-17 22:13:00

Because i wanted to.

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