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Why is it always the woman who goes part time?

(196 Posts)
maggiethemagpie Fri 15-Jan-16 20:18:48

I never really saw blatant sexism until after I had a baby.....I'm sure it's always been there but I never really thought about it until I had kids and realised that I am very very unusual in that my partner was happy to stay home and do the childcare (luckily he has an income from property) and I chose to return to work, and do a demanding full time job. Sometimes I think we must be living the feminist dream - if indeed the early feminists dreamed of having households with working mothers and househusbands. I'm sure some of them must have. Anyway it's a great example to set my kids.

However amongst all my friends who have had kids, pretty much without exception it is the woman who's had to make the career sacrifice and go part time or stopped work. I don't think many of these women have sat down with their partner and worked out which one would prefer to go part time, and it just so happens to be the woman. I think it's a foregone conclusion that it's the woman's job. Even when both partners work full time, nine times out of ten it's the woman who is doing the nursery drop offs and pick ups. EG my boss returned from maternity recently and it's a big deal when she has to work late and get him to pick the kid up - they never just take it in turns every day or anything. Or, a colleague was forced to go part time to full time. She was really worried about picking up the kids from school on some days as she couldn't get them into after school club. No mention of her partner doing this, or if HE should ask to go part time.

I think until more men begin to consider being the ones to stay at home, things won't progress socially in this area. I know the woman has to be the one to give birth, and until shared parental leave came in recently, only the woman could take an extended period of time off work. But that's just the maternity period, which now can be transferred to the man or shared - what about all the years after that.

Does anyone think this will ever change or are we doomed, as women being the ones to give birth will always be seen as the obvious choice to be the part timer/ stay at home parent?

ExitPursuedByABear Fri 15-Jan-16 20:21:48

I agree it is the norm.

I feel sorry for men.

AnnaMarlowe Fri 15-Jan-16 20:22:46

I have to say that where I live I know a good number of SAHDs and Dad's that work part time.

museumum Fri 15-Jan-16 20:24:49

My experience as a consultant who goes into different workplaces is that men doing flexi hours for drop/pickup is quite common in some workplaces and not seen at all in others. It's a work culture thing. I would actively choose to work somewhere more men did this as I would feel it to be a more equal workplace overall.

Men going part time is less common. In my experience of being a parent to a 2yr old, my mum friends who are p/t really really want to be whereas their partners don't feel so strongly about it. Having said that in a group of around 8 families, two have fathers who work Saturdays and have a weekday at home with the toddler and one has a father who works 4days and mother who is f/t term time only.

maggiethemagpie Fri 15-Jan-16 20:26:31

yes but I bet it's still the minority Anna. If you had to say % SAHD vs % SAHM what would you say.

Where I live, which is a big city, DH has managed to find 2 - yes 2 other men amongst all the women at all the toddler groups and baby classes he has been to. They stick together like limpets as it can be quite intimidating to be the only man at some of these things according to DH.

SoftDriftedSnow Fri 15-Jan-16 20:27:54

Lots of reasons for the prevalence, both structural and as a result of socialisation.

The elephant in the room is that mothers and fathers are not operating from a position of equal choice in terms of willingness and (chosen) capability of the other parent to be the predominant care-giver.

Allyoucaneat Fri 15-Jan-16 20:27:58

My partner and I work 3days each. I wanted to go part time after having ds1 because I wanted time at home with him during the week while he was small, dp wanted this just as much as I did so the solution is 3days each. Now we weach contribute 50/50 to the household finances and we have avoided a huge childcare bill every month (but sacrificed income).

I wouldn't have it any other way. It makes me a bit mad when other families don't even consider it, it's just automatically the woman who gives up work or goes part time. I have accountant, criminologist, social worker and psychologist friends who have put there careers on the back burner for their husbands. I can't help feel that at some point they might resent that.

In my place of work one guy reduced to 4days when his DD daughter was born and another compresses his hours to do school pick up twice a week. My own dad gave up uni to look after me while my mum finished her degree.. 16yrs later he had another child with a different partner and gave up his job to stay at home with her. It's not always the women who do it, although it is the norm.

maggiethemagpie Fri 15-Jan-16 20:28:16

The other thing that gets my goat is that there is a DADS club, for working fathers, at the weekend but no similar MUMS, or just PARENTS club. So I have no way of meeting other parents and toddlers just because I am a woman who works full time.

MrsAukerman Fri 15-Jan-16 20:30:15

Yes. Yes. Yes.
I work full time and DH 4 days but one is a weekend day so he's at home 2 weekdays and therefore people feel like he works 3/5. When I was on mat leave people just assumed I was going back pt. No question of "what are your plans at the end of mat leave?" just "you going back pt then?". DH does drop off and pick up as it suits us better. Each couple should just see what works best for them regardless of genitalia.

0verNow Fri 15-Jan-16 20:32:03

My STBXH refused point blank to take on the childcare responsibilities. Despite the fact we both worked FT. Until I threatened to leave it unless he stepped up. Which he did (I'm leaving him anyway, but for different reasons). But I had to be on my knees and sobbing before he took me seriously. Twat.

maggiethemagpie Fri 15-Jan-16 20:34:09

I'm so glad that in my family we really did choose equally. It helps that DH doesn't have to work as he has rental income from a property....but if he did I'd like to think we'd still have made the decision 'equally'. In fact when DD is school age in a few years time and he goes back to work we will definitely have to split the picking up from school/childminder thing especially as my job involves lots of travel.
When I'm working away, people often look surprised when I mention my two young children and ask about how I manage the childcare.
They never just assume the man is doing it.
I bet they would never ask a male employee like that.

drspouse Fri 15-Jan-16 20:37:44

My DH was starting a new job as I went back to work after we had DC1. He couldn't request flexible working then but didn't really want to either but part of the reason was no dads in toddler groups.
However I earn more so now we have two DCs and one about to start school I will definitely be upping my hours and he now feels more confident as a parent (i.e. less reliant on organised groups) and less excited about a full time job so we may both work four days.
I'm sure our socialisation to the mother/father roles didn't help either.
We have quite a few dads who pick up/drop off flexibly, none who work part time, and several lazy sods who do naff all including not picking up DCs from the workplace nursery but leaving it to their DWs who don't work on site.

WoodHeaven Fri 15-Jan-16 20:40:52

I dont think that SAHD and a working mum with a demanding job is a feminist dream.
I don't believe that either of parents should risk their career nor do I believe that there is a need to chose who will stay at home. I much much prefer an approach where one parent stays at home fur a while (a year maybe?) then they swap around and the other takes over for a similar length of time. That way both parents have time to learn about what makes the child tick, they're siecific behaviour and how they handle it and at the same time, they stay in their job.

I fully agree te always the mother responsibility to do the school run, pick up etc bit tbh that's some thing you can changed more easily and quite a few fathers do that where I live (we're talking primary kids there). Schools etc though haven't got the message yet grin.

IMO it has a lot to do with the fact we have been taught that it's a woman's job (with the added ingredient that women ought to want to be at home fur the sake of their dcs as its so bad for them to be in childcare etc...). It also means that women are quite ready to let go of the idea they know better than their DH, that they are better at it etc. And why would you want me to run after a responsibility (ie work) if they can escape it (and they have been told they aren't good at it anyway)

thatstoast Fri 15-Jan-16 20:40:55

My anecdotal data: I don't know any sahm or sahd. Most women with small children work part time though. Including me. For me, it was timing. My contract ended while i was on maternity leave so i had to look for a new job. I found one that was part time, loacal, very flexible, right salary. It made sense to take it.

I think long maternity leaves contribute. Having a whole year off and then having going back full time is scary. I'm not sure shared parental leave will help as companies are allowed to pay women more on maternity.

Also, I think women know that the reality is they'll end up doing a lot of household things on top of working full time.

WoodHeaven Fri 15-Jan-16 20:44:28

Bye why does it have to be that the only other option is fit both parents to do drop their hours and work part time???
It is IMO a career suicide fur both of them.
What we need is a better structure to look after the dcs when parents are working, more flexible hours, ability to work from home at least some time to time etc etc.
Not a situation where both parents are losing out on the ground of 'equality' in the relationship.

nephrofox Fri 15-Jan-16 20:45:11

In my experience the women usually WANT to be the ones going part time and spending more time with the children.

redexpat Fri 15-Jan-16 20:46:01

Often its because the man earns more before she takes maternity leave, so the family takes less of a financial hit. Losing 50% of 30% of income leaves you with 85%. Losing 50% of 70% leaves you with 65%.

And yet woem say, oh it makes more sense for me to go pt because he earns more. Thry never question why all of the women they know have reached the same conclusion.

scandichick Fri 15-Jan-16 20:46:02

Just read a (Swedish) book about this - they've done research that shows that it's almost always the woman who reduces her hours, no matter who earns the most. If it's her, they can't afford to put his career on hold, and if it's him, they can't afford to lose the income... Depressing stuff.

I remain firm in my commitment to working fulltime grin

TheRadiantAerynSun Fri 15-Jan-16 20:46:48

My DH went part time when I went back to work after maternity and now finishes early every day to do the school pick up. He (and two of his brothers) are the only men I've ever met who have done this.

It was never a discussion in our house. My earning potential outstrips his by 4/1 and he's much more nurturing than I am (he comes from a very traditional 1950s family at up and takes after his mother.) It works wonderfully well.

I do have a number of colleagues who have similar earning profiles as their partners and when I suggest the male party going part time after kids they all, male and female, look at me like I have two heads. It's a shame really that more people don't explore a range of possibilities.

Blu Fri 15-Jan-16 20:47:13

We have done everything 50/50 : both worked a 4 day week for a while, share all pick ups and drop offs, all birthday parties and present buying, hospital appointments, etc.

As an employer I take a dim view when a female member of staff is always the one to make the call in when the child is ill - never her DH to his employer.

And this is the thing: it is self perpetuating. Many couples make the decision based on how much each party earns. We know what the answer to that is, because of the usual reasons, and also because in a heterosexual partnership it is common for a woman to partner a man a bit older than her - so higher up the career ladder and payscale.

The more he goes to work the more he earns in promotion, vice versa for her, and the less financial sense it makes for them to share it out more equally.

And of course he is the one who is always working away, or on a big contract or case and can't be disturbed when the call comes from school to say your child is ill - because once the child was born, one of them had to take a job which didn't involve travel or uninterruptable work.....and guess who that is.

WoodHeaven Fri 15-Jan-16 20:49:38

toast why should they do all the HW? Why that as a default position??

There are so many countries where things have move on from that traditional view. Why can't we look at them, take inspiration and do that in our families?
I'm thinking Sweden where parents take a full year off one after the other and then both go back to work. France where now 40% of men do more HW and child related tasks than women.
We don't need a revolution or a new system in place that will allow us to do that.

OneofTHOSEWomen Fri 15-Jan-16 20:51:10

DHs employers turned down his request to work PT when DC1 was born. His current employer is umming and ahhhing about his request to work flexibly so he can do pick ups and drop offs and I can consider going back to work (I quit after DC2 was born).
People automatically assume I gave up my job to look after the kids because I believe in the traditional mum at home dad as breadwinner model. I don't. Don't assume others do either.

thatstoast Fri 15-Jan-16 20:52:27

Yes, I would love that. How do we do that? Let me know and I'll do it.

BubbleLight Fri 15-Jan-16 20:54:02

I know a few men that work part time or at least flexibly for childcare. I think its slowly changing but don't lose sight of the needs of some women to be at home more, to breastfeed or even just feeling more anxious about staying closer to younger kids due to whatever happens to your body and mind after birth. There are strong feelings that can't be dismissed for some women.

bibbitybobbityyhat Fri 15-Jan-16 20:54:47

I just think that, ultimately, it is more often the woman (in a m/f relationship which is what we are discussing here) who just wants to spend more time with babies and young children. And also, of course, the boring old gender pay gap.

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