Working Parents

(86 Posts)
KittyOShea Sun 24-Apr-16 11:47:56

I haven't posted in here before but definitely describe myself as a feminist.

Over the last few weeks I have seen a number of depressing threads on here about wives prioritising their husband's work or calculating their salary excluding childcare costs (only their salary not their joint salary). It seems the husband's career always comes first.

Maybe this is bad form as its a thread inspired by other threads but it's lead me to think about the societal influences that mean it's always the woman who goes part time/ quits work.

I should say here that DH and I were unable to have DC so we have not had to tackle this one but when we were ttc we had decided that if someone had to step back in terms of work it would be him as I am the higher earner and he is much more domesticated than I am. Is this so unusual in the 21st century?

Is there anything we as a society can do that changes this way of thinking?

VestalVirgin Sun 24-Apr-16 12:18:22

Is there anything we as a society can do that changes this way of thinking?

Well, the most obvious reason why women decide to prioritise their husband's job is because he earns more.

So, if you are in a position where you can decide who gets a promotion and a pay raise, you could change something by prioritising women instead of just assuming that they will leave when they have children.

Money is an important factor on which people base their decisions. In the long run, if women earned as much as men in all jobs, (and also typical "women's jobs" were paid as well as typical "men's jobs" for similar levels of qualification, i.e. years needed to get the qualification), things would even out because people would be able to make a free decision.

Some are sexist enough to prioritise the husband's job even when he earns less, but that can be tackled by fighting sexism in the media, etc.

In my opinion, the hard money facts are the more influential factor, as even feminists may have to prioritise money.

KittyOShea Sun 24-Apr-16 12:27:47

Unfortunately I'm not in a position to promote/ employ as I'm a teacher. I do however emphasise equality of career and ambition to my pupils (secondary school- mainly A Level) and tell my male pupils off for mansplaining grin

I just find it so depressing that the default position by women is to prioritise their husbands career. Even in terms of who takes time off for sick children. Surely these choices by women also have their part to play in terms of employers views on employing/ promoting women? The disproportionate number of women who step back does us as a society no favours while perhaps working well for an individual situation.

I am not, of course, suggesting that women are causing their own problems but that socialisation seems to lead to the view that DH will earn more/ travel more with work/ get promoted/ is not suited to childcare or domestic duties. And therefore he is prioritised.

I agree the money issue is crucial- we all need to pay the bills.

HappyAsASandboy Sun 24-Apr-16 12:48:37

I agree there is a huge amount of work to do in levelling pay, giving women the same opportunities as men, allowing choice when it comes to parents leave etc, but fundamentally I think individual choices will mean that male careers are prioritised.

I am a senior manager in a professional job. I earned more than my partner until about the time we had children (a coincidence - that's just when he got a promotion that meant he earned a similar amount). When I had children, I took 12 months maternity leave because I wanted to be with my babies. During that year, DH gained 12 months more experience and skill. When I returned to work, I chose to be the parent that started early/left early to do the nursery pick up (leaving at 4pm is never outweighed by starting at 7am IME), because I wanted to see my babies every night. My DH's career has subsequently taken off and he ears far more than me because he volunteers for extra projects, networks in the evenings, goes away on business regularly etc; all of which I try to minimise because I want to spend time with my babies.

My DH would tell you the flip side of the story. His career has been prioritised, so he feels very responsible for the standard of life we will live for the rest of our lives. He is sacrificing time with our kids while they are young in order to build his career while he can.

So I have time with the kids but a stalled career; DH has a great career but minimal time with the kids; the kids have the support of one parent and the opportunities paid for by the other; DH and I manage with very little time together! We all win and lose in different ways, but in ways we have chosen.

I guess what I am saying is that often this isn't a feminist issue. It's just about the priorities and choices we make. I don't think either men or women can have it all; we just have to make the best choices we can and expect to have those choices supported.

Btw I have a very supportive DH. If I asked him to take on more of 'home life' so that I could work more/differently then he absolutely would. But we would have to accept that in doing so, I would lose time with my kids and he would lose career potential. That isn't the right choice for us.

KittyOShea Sun 24-Apr-16 12:55:22

Yes I agree that the 'default position' can also be difficult for men in terms of pressure to earn and lack of time with their children.

I guess it's the fact that there is a default position at all in this day and age I find so depressing. It will be interesting to see if new policies on shared parental leave will have any effect on this in the long term

almondpudding Sun 24-Apr-16 12:56:30

There's no choice in it for many women. If the childcare costs plus work costs are higher than their salary, they can't afford to work. The best thing for the family financially is then to support the person who can afford to work to earn more.

The best ways to change this would be...

a. Provide free childcare.
b. Provide greater opportunities for women who have been SAHPs or done low paid part time work to fit around kids to access career opportunities when their kids are older.

An example would be at one point the government was trying to push some scheme to give ex forces people access to teaching jobs. Schemes like that should exist across a number of core professions for SAHPs wishing to go into a career.

KittyOShea Sun 24-Apr-16 13:04:22

I get that on an individual basis almond and agree with some of the suggestions you put forward to change things on a societal level.

Women in their 20s are currently out earning men. I fear that this will go into a sharp reverse once this generation reach their 30s as these same women 'step back' once they have children as socialisation will again come to the fore and the man's career will be prioritised. I have seen it happen again and again in my own peer group (early 40s) where the woman takes a career break/ leaves work/ goes part time even in those cases where she is the higher earner.

almondpudding Sun 24-Apr-16 13:10:41

We're talking about mothers not all women.

Nearly half of mothers still have their first baby before they are thirty, and generally mothers have children with older, wealthier men.

KittyOShea Sun 24-Apr-16 13:24:49

However all mothers are childless women first. And most work so their earnings prior to motherhood are relevant- especially if they lessen due to having children when men's don't.

Interesting statistic about age of motherhood and who they marry. I suppose we rarely see outside of our own demographic. Most of my friends married and had children in their early to mid 30s to men within a year or two of their own age. And in several cases, including my own, to men who earn less. Despite this most of them are now the ones who are working part time and therefore much less likely to progress in their career.

Coupling that with recent threads on here it does seem to me that on a societal level, once people have children, men's careers take priority. It frustrates me I guess that women will never have true economic or career equality if this trend continues.

almondpudding Sun 24-Apr-16 13:38:43

I never mentioned marriage. Half of children are born to unmarried women.

In 2014, the average age of a new mother was 28 and a new father was 32 and a half. That is a four and a half year difference.

Half of all women who become mothers will already have children in their twenties. Many will be SAHPs. I don't know the stats but I suspect women who have kids in their twenties are more likely to be in low paid part time work, or be SAHPs. If the latter, they're not in the pay gap statistics anyway.

If you want to reduce the pay gap for women in their thirties, look at the opportunities available for women who had kids in their teens and twenties who are now entering careers in their thirties, rather than putting all the focus on keeping wealthier women who built careers in their twenties and who have kids in their thirties in positions of wealth.

Because I would suggest that is a large cause of the pay gap. Discrimination against young mums re-entering employment in their thirties and being pushed into work below their skill and qualification level due to discrimination. Those women show in the gender wage gap stats. Women in their thirties now at home with kids do not.

KittyOShea Sun 24-Apr-16 13:52:46

I'd like to reduce the pay gap for all women almond not just those In their thirties. I included that information to explain that that is my experience amongst my friends as opposed to saying that's all I care about.

That said the issue of mothers in their teens and twenties according to your suspicion is still the same- they are likely to be earning less than their male counterparts.

Is this discrimination against women or mothers? And either way what can we as a society do about it? (I'm not asking you to give a definitive answer btw just interested in others opinions and if there is something I can do to help)

almondpudding Sun 24-Apr-16 14:13:58

We can't answer those questions without knowing the statistics for mothers.

We would have to see separate stats for how much women who have kids earn both before having them and after. We'd have to compare them to women who don't have kids as well as to men who do and don't have kids.

We can't assume that women who are going to become mothers ever earned as much before motherhood anyway.

I'm not just referring to the wage gap in the thirties because you brought it up. I'm mentioning it because it is where the wage gap widens. If we look at the wage gap for twenty eight year olds now, and then look in ten years at thirty eight year olds, we are not looking at the same group because wage gap looks at those in paid employment. Very large numbers of women become SAHPs. Those who are SAHPs at 28 will probably be in work at 38, and those who SAHP at 38 were probably in work at 28. Those women entering and leaving work alter the wage gap stats.

We need to look at both issues - solutions for working women who are planning on having kids and solutions for SAHPs when they plan to return or enter work.

Lalalili Sun 24-Apr-16 14:19:01

This will change when people are encouraged to see home responsibilities, childcare and 'wifework' as valuable and equally worthy of men's attention. We do not see men (in general) automatically taking on the same level of responsibility at home thereby freeing women to lead more balanced lives.

I think that the following would be helpful:

- paternity leave and maternity leave on an absolutely equal footing (after 'medical maternity leave' for late preg, childbirth, recovery and bf)
- an expectation from society and employers that men will take paternity leave
- an expectation that men will share home responsibilities. Truly share them. Not 'help'.
- free, very high quality childcare. This will be expensive but should be prioritised
- financial remuneration for parents who care for their children themselves, as an alternative to free childcare
- flexible childcare (evenings, weekends, nights) with a weekly cap on the number of hours a child can be cared for
- far more support for SAHPs returning to work. E.g. jobs being held for a number of years. This would more continuity as mat leave cover could get stuck in for a longer period of time.

OP I think that the situation you describe with your domesticated dh is for many the exception rather than the norm, unfortunately.

almondpudding Sun 24-Apr-16 14:22:31

Lalalili, I agree.

I worry that we are heading away from this with the change to universal credit.

KittyOShea Sun 24-Apr-16 14:30:14

Almond I agree both groups need to be looked at. What the stats be available through the census I wonder? Clearly none of this is a concern for the current government and I agree universal credit is a real detriment to women.

Lalalili I agree.

almondpudding Sun 24-Apr-16 15:10:47

There is, somewhere, stats that give a breakdown of the pay gap by job type, and another set of stats showing SAHPs and part time workers by groups such as ethnicity and age. When I've got more time I'll try and find them and put up links.

kickassangel Sun 24-Apr-16 15:28:16

ink{http://www.forbes.com/\www.forbes.com]]/} is good for data on pay gap.

Problems which would need to be changed before we can really hope for equality.

1. Women still marry older, better earning husbands.
2. Even with the same degree, in the same job in the same company, men earn more than women.
3. the wage gap in the US varies between 91% (best ever figure, for one month only, in a professional career) and 45% (Kentucky, 2012 figures, I think)
4. Women are still 'programmed' to think that marriage and kids are their happy ever after, rather than independence and self- provided security.
5. Marriage only provides a small security - at best a woman gets 50% of assets, but is still often the main carer for the kids. How is 50% OK for a family of 3 or 4 when the other adult still gets 50%?
6. NO protection at all for t woman when not married.
7. You'd think that the previous 2 points would encourage women to remain financially independent, but the lack of consequences for men who cheat/walk out mean that women STILL end up holding the baby and living with significantly less money.
8. Childcare is difficult to find and expensive. More than most lower earners can afford. Women tend to be lower earners. Of course the family's income should be seen as joint, BUT if the lower earner going to work puts them into deficit, then the lower earner stays home.
9. Men still get promoted more, even where women are going for promotion and able to do the job.
10. there is far more criticism of women who work than men. I had a boat load of comments about how DD was deprived. Nobody said a word to DH, not once, even though he was at work while I was in the hospital and in labour.

The list just goes on and on.

lorelei9here Sun 24-Apr-16 15:37:42

OP if this is about threads on MN I know what you mean. It doesn't reflect my peer group though so that's good.

almondpudding Sun 24-Apr-16 15:48:44

Very few people will ever be able to raise children through 'self-provided security.' It requires extensive financial and practical support from either family members or the state. It's an unrealistic goal for most women and has nothing to do with 'programming.'

The average UK wage is only £26,000. The average wage of a childcare worker is only just over £11,000.

vdbfamily Sun 24-Apr-16 16:40:31

I think that on feminist forums you can get a skewed view as to the wishes of the general population. I was trying to find research as to what women actually say they want and so far have only found this Australian study,

aifs.gov.au/publications/family-matters/issue-30/mothers-young-children

but its' findings were that only 4% of mothers with young children wished to work fulltime and 69% wanted to stay at home.This was what women wanted,not what was actually happening statistically . as many of the women who wished to be at home were having to work to make ends meet.
I love my job and have always done at least a few hours a week to keep up-to-date but when I had young children, I WANTED to be at home with them. This was the experience of most of my friends. I do not see this as conditioning. My husband has always been very hands on and has always done at least a day a week of childcare so that I could maintain my skills. He also had 2 years unemployed where he was SAHD and I worked FT but neither of us wanted it to be that way round. My earning power has always been slightly higher as well but we still chose the lower salary with me at home.
It is easy to blame society for the situation but I think you have to look honestly at what women want too. My husband has worked for 4 companies since we married. All have had good flexible working policies and allowed him to work a 4 day week/9 day fortnight/condensed days etc. No-one batted an eyelid when he stayed at home and I worked and I truly think that there is the opportunity there for families to do what they want to do. I just think that women are usually the ones who want to be at home.

kickassangel Sun 24-Apr-16 17:15:46

But is there really a biological reason why women stay home with the kids, and not the men? There's no hormone or DNA which makes females want to do housework, change nappies, and go to toddler groups.

We may ALL as parents want what is best for our kids, and see full time parenting as the best, but that doesn't explain why men work and women stay home. As there's no biological fact behind it, the only answer is societal norms/mores/conditioning/programming/stereotypes/whatever label you want to use.

Basically - the parenting 'gene' is input by society, both by people accepting the norm of women being carers, and by the economy of women earning less (both as a whole, and compared to their own partners).

EElisavetaOfBelsornia Sun 24-Apr-16 17:19:28

My DH just applied to work part time so he can take care of DCs some days. It's been turned down flat. No alternatives or compromise positions discussed. There have been a range of flexible working arrangements agreed in his workplace - part time, condensed hours, WFH. All agreed for women. I am angry. It's a clear example for me of how patriarchy has disadvantages for men too.

museumum Sun 24-Apr-16 17:25:00

I really wanted to drop a day and spend it with baby/toddler ds. And I had friends from mat leave for ds and I to hang out with on that day.

It's not at all about prioritising dh's career. I travel more and we share illness cover early pick ups etc.

But. I think it's very very inpirtant that it becomes normal for men to take leave for the children. Emergency leave, parental leave etc etc should never be described as "women friendly" but "parent friendly".
Dh would have been severely looked down on at work if he'd dropped a day instead of or as well as me.

KittyOShea Sun 24-Apr-16 17:31:52

kickass you have explained my thoughts much better than I have myself. This I think is the crux of the situation. Why do women want to stay at home vs why don't men? Surely everyone wants what's best for their children?

EElisavita that is truly despicable. Sounds like DH's employers need to move on into the 21st century?

EElisavetaOfBelsornia Sun 24-Apr-16 17:46:01

Thanks Kitty. He's challenging it, but being made to feel like he's being really difficult hmm.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now