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FT article about men struggling with family and career.

(17 Posts)
BlingLoving Wed 17-Apr-13 14:51:49

Interesting article in FT yesterday that 3 people have mentioned to me subsequently. It's about how men can struggle to have families and careers. Two comments in particular stand out for me:

“The problem can be exacerbated because men are often climbing to the peak of their careers during their children’s formative years. Instead of family life being a rewarding break from the pressures of work, too often it comes a poor second with the result that the family – and the career – suffers. Men rarely seek help for such problems early on. They can be unwilling to confront it, and may fear that it will be regarded as a weakness and may harm their promotion prospects.”

I laughed hollowly here. Of course, the article is right. BUT WOMEN HAVE HAD THIS PROBLEM FOR YEARS WITHOUT ANYONE GIVING A FLYING MONKEY'S. Excuse the caps. I'm just that cross.

"The danger is that work can become a convenient escape from the emotional demands of family life. Top executives often develop a sense of themselves through their professional achievements, not through emotional connections. In contrast, their wives may value emotional connection over all else."

Yup, I value emotional connections over all else. Such BS!

Actually, I think drawing the issue for men to attention is broadly a good thing in as much as I don't think workplaces will change until both men and women are agitating for a better work/life balance. Until it's as likely for a man to announce that he has to leave at 5:00 on the dot twice a week to do the school run as it is for women to make that announcement, things won't change. So yes, highlight the issue.

But please, please, let's not act like this is some new problem and feel sorry for all these poor little men. Argh.

Xenia Wed 17-Apr-13 15:25:50

I certainly was glad to see the issue raised. They interviewed a male lawyer who has moved to 4 days a week rather than 5 to be with 3 children under 8 or something like that and is liking it.

I agree with the criticism above and there are some sexist statements there. Not all these wives may value emotional connection. Plenty of us are more than happy to avoid 24/7 child care. I remember moving the twins' bathtime to just before the nanny left each night to avoid it. Itw as fun at first but then I realised doing it twice a week was nice but 7 not necessary.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 17-Apr-13 17:15:28

. Not sure I agree that no-one gives a monkey's re women experiencing the same, there always seems to be articles from that perspective. So glad the issue for men has been raised, shame that "the wives" were mentioned in the way they were (which presumed that said wife wasn't also a "top executive" or even a person who values her own work goals)

BlingLoving Wed 17-Apr-13 18:14:02

Funny, I don't see the FT writing about how women's careers suffer. And if they did, I think I can safely assume that the article would be around how women should deal with it etc (eg work life balance, how to agree things with your boss or perhaps how to accept that your career will have to suffer for a while). While I am pleased it's being addressed for me as it might well start to actually change the conversation, it annoys me that the way it's addressed is different.

MiniTheMinx Wed 17-Apr-13 20:49:15

Interesting article and great that someone is talking about fathers juggling work and family. Is that not a step in right direction?

I agree with TheDoctrineOfSnatch, there are many articles about women coping to strike a balance, presumably because we are both expected to undertake most of the childcare and because we are the ones shouting the loudest about the need to balance work/home life demands. Shouting the loudest because many men do not step up and share the responsibility of childcare.

What I sense from reading the article is that highly driven men are avoidant and probably find supervising adults easier, young children can be far more unpredictable. No one slaps your back when you have successfully negotiated toddler tea time.

I often wonder though, is the problem located within the family, ie men avoid, or women choose to take on more childcare or is it located in the culture of work.

What is predictable about this though, as always the these articles always focus on high flyers, what about families juggling not just home life but having to do so on a lower income. Cutting back on hours is a possibility for some, not for others.

EldritchCleavage Thu 18-Apr-13 10:59:52

Thing is, it makes such a massive difference to people if the senior men in an organisation have a balanced view of family life and work/life balance, so while I agree that the article is based on some annoying premises, I still welcome it as a good start.

I don't want to overstate things-there is still sexism and it's not perfect by any means, but it has been fantastic to me to work somewhere where the senior people (only of of whom is a woman) are almost all very family-orientated (with exceptionally large families too, 3, 4, 5, 8 children) and with a mix of SAHM and WOHM wives. Even the single, childless men have other commitments e.g elderly parents.

Long before I was thinking of having kids, men were leaving early to do sports day/school play, liaising on booking time off in school holidays etc. It was never disapproved of or a 'woman's thing' to be committed to family life. When women started being recruited and having children, the culture was therefore not as hostile as in many places I hear about from friends.

badguider Thu 18-Apr-13 11:23:10

I am glad to see it raised... because it shouldn't be a 'woman' problem, it SHOULD be a 'parent' problem.
I actually don't mind that the FT may ignore the situation woman have faced for years but make a story out of the fact men face it. I think that solving the issue with men and long-hours work culture will make life better for many women.

But I am disgusted by the gender assumptions and generalisations.

SomethingOnce Thu 18-Apr-13 18:25:58

Generalisations aside, I also think this is welcome.

The fact that women have had this issue to contend with for decades somehow makes it easier to talk about - I think it's harder for men to put their heads above the parapet when the expectation is to 'enjoy' the benefits of the status quo.

DP's career is one in which women are poorly represented, and with the working culture and long, often unpredictable hours, it's clear why. I hope the culture will change as younger, more equality-oriented men move into senior roles.

Xenia Thu 18-Apr-13 19:22:08

I get annoyed papers are full of articles about women (never men) struggling to work and have children. It is only harder for women if they are with sexist men. If you both do as much at home and and with the children then it is sexually neutral an issue. If you are silly enough to marry a sexist man who lumbers you with being in charge of childcare that is an issue women ought to address within their relationships.

SomethingOnce Thu 18-Apr-13 19:41:24

Xenia, don't blame women for men's sexism.

There is overt and not-so-overt sexism everywhere; the upshot of your position would surely be that women collectively boycott sexist men, which while a nice idea in theory, isn't very realistic.

You seem to believe that because your life has worked out so perfectly, the same is possible for everyone, but life is more complicated than that.

But MNers express this to you to you over and over, so I know I'm wasting my time pointing it out again.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 18-Apr-13 23:47:04


Even in an equal relationship, giving both partners equal time at work, careerists are up against people, mostly men, in different arrangements, who can go to events every night not just twice a week, who can get in early every day and work weekends without negotiation.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 18-Apr-13 23:48:57

<sorry, bit off topic but I've had a lot of wine as it was my turn tonight for the work socialising>

FloraFox Fri 19-Apr-13 00:25:06

I agree Doctrine (without the wine ). If a couple splits the workload evenly at home, neither of them will be able to compete with the colleague (usually a man) who has someone at home doing everything. It's one of the reasons I don't think all men who do work all the hours are necessarily sexist. They may simply have come to an arrangement with their wives to make sure one of them gets to the top. In the City, for example, one senior lawyer, banker or accountant can make much more than two people in jobs that give them both a good work life balance. I know not everyone is in such an extreme situation.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 19-Apr-13 01:04:40

Flora, that's true, though Cos of tax, the high earning single earner has to earn a fair bit more than two highish earners added together. (hope that makes sense)

Neither DH nor I see any of the earning/childcare/household responsibilites as any different between us but we are both "competing" at work with (mostly) men with SAHPs.. My networking has suffered as that's typically done outside of work hours, whilst he has had to choose projects without international travel whilst his colleagues hoick their families off to other countries for 1-2 years. It's equal between us, but that doesn't make each of us equal to colleagues.

Numberlock Fri 19-Apr-13 01:32:36

it has been fantastic to me to work somewhere where the senior people (only of of whom is a woman) are almost all very family-orientated

Lucky you. I wish I could say the same, having just been asked (yet again) on an overseas business trip tonight "Who's looking after your children?"

<bangs head against brick wall>

Xenia Fri 19-Apr-13 10:37:50

Yes, if all the men around you have housewives then it is not a fair situation. However some women have househusbands and more and more men don't want a housewife anyway as they want to be part of a power couple so sexism at home amongst sensible adults is getting less and less.

Also if you both earn a lot then whilst you may do half the stuff at home (my children's father did all the dental appointments for 5 of them for 17 years for example and you split things up fairly - he might do 100% of the washing and you do sorting out the school bags which was another of our splits. I did our tax returns and plaited the girls' hair and he and I both supervised some music practices and checked homework etc) you can also then buy in a bit of help to replace what the housewife is doing at home.

At one stage we found someone for Saturday and Sunday mornings which worked out really well although felt not what you expect at first - working parents normally spend all weekend with their children. It meant one of us could be with the older 3 children whilst the twins had 4 hours with an adoring sixth former with nothing to do but lavish her time on the two cute tiny babies whilst I could read the papers, tidy the house or get on with a bit of work.

I do work with a lot of senior women who earn a lot so I suppose I see women in relationships where there is certainly not a housewife at home. i remember though one man I used to work for who would go to the pub to play snooker for 2 or 3 hours and then at 5 his wife on speaker phone would call absolutely at the end of her tether - had been advertising executive and now trapped at home doing all day child care and her husband would speak every day at 5 about the work he had to do and get home about 9 to his dinner with the children in bed. I never let on that he was in fact at the snooker hall half the afternoon on some of those days.

BlingLoving Fri 19-Apr-13 11:33:41

I think the point is that things have to change. Xenia, you're right that as more career women have men at home or are part of "power" couples, more things will change. But it's so ridiculously slow. I find it incredibly frustrating.

DH is a SAHD. We also have some childcare. And yes, I have to earn a lot more alone than two people with jobs do because I get taxed so much more highly. But in every job I'ev ever had, the women with children are doing child runs etc and the men aren't.

As for your snooker playing dickhead - I've worked with some of those. One man I know whose wife was much more career orientated than him, but he would be sitting at his desk at 7pm every night suppsoedly working.

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