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Help me defend DH's decision to cut down his hours to do childcare for DD

(46 Posts)
SkaterGrrrrl Tue 28-Jun-11 16:42:47

Help me MN feminists! I am about to go back to work part time following maternity leave and DH has decided to go part time too, so he can spend 2 days at home looking after our baby. Without fail, everyone we have told has expressed concern that DH is "committing career suicide". Note no one has worried that I am damaging my career by going part time hmm. We both work in the public sector and its not uncommon for people at DH's office to do a short week to care for children.

What do I say when I get this response? I am really proud that DH wants to do his share of sitting on the eggs!

Sausagesarenottheonlyfruit Tue 28-Jun-11 17:24:06

"So you're not worried that I'm damaging my career by going part time? Are you not concerned people might mistake you for a sexist?"

aliceliddell Tue 28-Jun-11 17:34:22

Skater - got up to 'career suicide' line 3 and thought exactly what you wrote next. But wait - you already committed career suicide by irresponsibly developing X chromosomes. You fool! Sausages got it about right.

oranges Tue 28-Jun-11 17:35:42

just say we both want to work and we both want to parent. This is how we're doing it. I know lots of men who have gone part time now or work from home.

Blu Tue 28-Jun-11 17:39:16

DP did this - as far as I can see he still has a career......

How effing stupid.
Actually it may well act as a speed bump in his career. Just as it does for women.
To which the answer is

"He's what you call a working father'
"a career father"
"ah well, it isn't only women who can Have It All, these days - smart men are getting on the bandwagon, too"

oranges Tue 28-Jun-11 17:41:19

DH is the one who takes time off or goes in late if the children are sick. If he does it he gets plaudits for being a good dad. I get eye rolls. And I do think the only way employers are going to start treating men and women equally is if men make these kind of tough decisions too.

TrilllianAstra Tue 28-Jun-11 17:44:49

"Fortunately his employers are not stuck in the past as you seem to be."

or (less aggressive)

"We both wanted to work part-time and be at home part-time, it's fairly common in both our offices. What makes you think it would be a problem?"

HerBeX Tue 28-Jun-11 17:59:15

"Yes, isn't he a brilliant husband and father? He's prepared to put his relationship with his wife and child above his career, if only more men were prepared to do that, I suspect the divorce rate would plummet And he gets more sex than all these selfish career dads".

And then look smug. grin

Sausagesarenottheonlyfruit Tue 28-Jun-11 18:05:25

+1 for the phrase 'selfish career Dads' HerBeX - nicely done!

banana87 Tue 28-Jun-11 18:09:36

How about "jealous?". smile

My DH stays home 2 days pw with DD and so do I (the 5th day she goes to a CM). It's always been that way (she is 2.7 now) and other SAHM comment on how lucky we are...and we are!

SarkySpanner Tue 28-Jun-11 18:13:45

Much as it pains me to say it I think that in some companies this is true. A woman going pt is seen as 'normal' but a man is seen as 'uncomitted'.

You are lucky if this is not the case in your workplace.

hillyhilly Tue 28-Jun-11 18:16:59

It's great for all of you as a family, however it comes as no surprise at all to hear he's in the public sector. I hope he can stay there as things are generally very different outside of that sector.

MoreBeta Tue 28-Jun-11 18:17:01

Skater - I did what your DH is planning and I was shocked by people's reaction. From jokes about turning into a woman, to questions like 'whats wrong with your wife?' and downright mockery, hostility and dismissivness. The final straw was when my boss told DW she would ruin her marriage if I was at home for more than a year. This was quasi public sector by the way.

A man who gives up work to look after children is automatically subliminally labelled by co-workers (men and women) as 'not commited'. Women of course face this who give up or go part time. Childcare flexibility is seen by all employers as a bit of pain in the neck and anyone who puts their children first is seen as someone who is not really interested in their career. This is often the problem women face in mainatining or re-establishing a career after children.

I am not going to sugar coat this. I was totally unprepared for people's reaction. It is career suicide because senior manager jobs require a full time commitment. There is more to life than a career though and I am very happy. If your DH does not expect a senior managment career then it wil not matter to much but if he does then he is kissing it goodbye. I wish it were otherwise but there you are - its real life.

You will be poorer financially in the long run than if one of you stopped work all together and the other focussed on developing their career. Two part time workers with stalled careers will be worse off than one full time carer and one full time upper management level worker. You need to think about that.

HerBeX Tue 28-Jun-11 18:28:02

MoreBeta how old are your DC's? Are you still working part time?

Because it is much much easier for men to get back on the high powered career track than women. You are right, in the short term a couple is generally worse off with both of them downshifting for a few years, but if one or both upshift again once the kids are old enough (and men can do this easier than women because they are allowed to, they may not be that much worse off in the long term, there['s time to catch up.

HerBeX Tue 28-Jun-11 18:29:13

But it is much easier to do this in the public sector, it's true.

MoreBeta Tue 28-Jun-11 18:46:34

HerBeX - I eventually gave up work and now work with DW at home. I could go back part and full time to my old job (univeristy lecturer/research) but only at the same level. I will never reach the position I would have done if I had stayed working and in fact have little prospect of promotion beyond that.

Unfortunatley, in most jobs, there is a serial correlation effect. In other words, time served, experience level, previous job title and previous pay package tend to determine what level and pay package you go back to or get promoted to next. Looking after children means you can never catch up.

Truckrelented Tue 28-Jun-11 18:56:33

I put my career on hold to look after the children, and believe me a man who takes regular time off for sick kids etc (rather than very occasional) is considered flaky and a bit suspect.

I was told I couldn't have the same pay-rise as I wasn't as flexible as my colleagues.

But it's only money and I wouldn't have done it any differently, so good for you two.

And if people say anything, just say that's what good Dads (and parents) do, put their children first.

Portofino Tue 28-Jun-11 19:04:24

MoreBeta has a very good point. However, it needs more and more brave individuals being prepared to do exactly this to change the entrenched mindset.

I do think, whatever happens, the very top jobs will remain reserved for those who give it 100% of their attention, but maybe that IS fair, I don't know....

MoreBeta Tue 28-Jun-11 19:07:32

Truck - "I was told I couldn't have the same pay-rise as I wasn't as flexible as my colleagues."

So basically you were discriminated against on pay or to put it more bluntly 'your card was marked' for having children. Thats the way it felt to me too.

Portofino Tue 28-Jun-11 19:10:28

My dh is 55 next year (eek!) and is legally entitled in Belgium to reduce his working hours to 4/5th - ie a 4 day week. He won't though, as he had a late career change, has a poor pension, and would kill any further chances of promotion stone dead. For our particular family it is much better that he carries on and gets as far as he can.

I could say that I am sacrificing promoting my own career a bit to support this. But it IS a choice. I could really go for it too and outsource the necessary. I really don't want to. In fact if I could semi retire in 10 years too when dh does, it would be wonderful. I don't care that much. Work-life balance is more important to me than riches and success.

Portofino Tue 28-Jun-11 19:15:08

Though we still have 5 years to take our 3 months each of parental leave. grin

Snorbs Tue 28-Jun-11 19:19:08

The minute I started working part-time marked the moment when I changed from having a career to simply having a job. There was no chance of any career progress after that point and I was the first one to be made redundant in my team. I don't think these things are unrelated.

On the plus side, the fact that I got to spend lots of time with my children (and even more after I got made redundant, of course) means I have a fantastic relationship with them. I have had two or three of my male friends say that they envy the closeness I have with my children.

I've just (today!) started work again and it's going to have to be full-time albeit with some flexibility with hours. I'm dreading the thought that this will damage the relationship I've built up with the little blighters sad

Truckrelented Tue 28-Jun-11 19:26:53

I'm back full-time with flexible hours (my boss is brilliant) believe me it shouldn't cause problems with your relationship with your children. I assume you'll still be hands on?

In danger of being not a manly-man and being very aware of which section I've stumbled into but I think there are a lot of dads missing out not being as involved as they could be.

They don't know what they're missing. Or maybe they do and would like to work less.

HerBeX Tue 28-Jun-11 19:28:14

"So basically you were discriminated against on pay or to put it more bluntly 'your card was marked' for having children. "

No your cards were marked for trying to establish a good work life balance. If you'd done the conventional male thing of not allowing the fact that you had children to alter your working patterns and leaving all the day to day parenting to your partners, your cards wouldn't have been marked, in fact, you would probably have been seen as more responsible and grown up and looked upon more favourably - research shows that fathers earn more than non fathers, not just because they are older and more progressed in their careers, but viz their same age non-father peers. It's women who have their cards marked purely for having children, even when they go back full time (which is one of the reasons I decided to go part time - I knew my career was fucked anyway, just by becoming a mother, so I might as well have a good quality of life).

I'm not trying to minimise what you lot have experienced, but I think it's important to be accurate about the dynamics.

HerBeX Tue 28-Jun-11 19:31:13

Truck I think lots of men would like to work less and spend more time with their DC's.

They need to be braver about doing it, as you and the other male posters on this thread have been. Until loads more men join you and you get a critical mass so that the workplace has to change, men who do will suffer the discrimination you have. But it's difficult to do knowing that as Betadad says, you are buying into a much less affluent life than you would otherwise have had. OTOH, lots of people deliberately choose to do vocational jobs (like teaching etc.) which mean that they will earn less over their lifetimes than they could do, but they are brave enough to choose that, so in a sense it's not that different.

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