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Men whose lives are facilitated by women - how did this happen??!

(1000 Posts)
windygallows Thu 09-Nov-17 07:15:08

Now that I'm in my mid-40s I look around at my peers and am astounded that so many men my age have their lives facilitated by women: wives who don't work or who work part time who manage the household and make lunch for their DHs and do all the childcare and prop men up. It's just amazing how many men have a leg up by this support.

And they become blind to what it's like not having that support. My boss has a female PA, two female assistants, and a wife at home who looks after the household - leaving him totally supported and completely free to focus on his job. He thinks he's responsible for his success and doesn't understand why others can't mimic what he's achieved or even the time he dedicates to work.

How did we let this happen? How did we create a situation where so many middle aged men have such a leg up over women because they've been given so much support?

I've put this in Feminism because for me this is a feminist issue. If anything this situation it creates an absolute imbalance in life but also in the workplace, with men given much more freedom to dedicate to work and devoid of many domestic responsibilities that burden women.

I've also put this in Feminism because I'm trying to avoid the usual comments by women like 'We're a team' (referring to her and her DP) or comments like 'It works for us' or 'DH works hard and makes enough for both of us - should I go out to work just because you want me to.' blah blah blah I appreciate too that some women benefit from a set up where a DP/DH is 'looking after you' when you then facilitate/prop up his life in return, but I'm not quite sure it's really helping anyone in the grand scheme of things.

For context I'm in my mid40s, single with 2DCs and work FT and definitely frustrated when I see the advantages that 'facilitated men' have in the workplace and in life.

ChampagneCommunist Thu 09-Nov-17 07:37:12

I agree, and I love your phrase “facilitated men”.

It goes to explaining why, when there are more women than men in my profession, there are far more men at the top.

You have opened my eyes to a major, major aspect of how they got there

morningrunner Thu 09-Nov-17 07:37:39

I know what you mean. I'm a facilitator. My family would loose out financially if I did not do it.

All I can say is I am aware of it and wary of it. Don't feel like I have much choice at the moment, army children are small.

I can imagine how hard it must beto do it all on your own. Hats off to you.

morningrunner Thu 09-Nov-17 07:38:20

My children are small even!

tribpot Thu 09-Nov-17 07:38:41

I guess historically it has always been like this, I don't think it's a new situation. In more recent years, I think the very high cost of childcare has contributed to the continuation of this even after it became socially acceptable (okay tolerated) to pursue other relationship dynamics. One partner gets pushed out of the workforce due to economics during what is likely to be her (or possibly his) major period of advancement to senior ranks and voila - 5 years later the gap between their earning potential is growing rapidly, the partner at home can see that their own life will become significantly harder by returning to the workforce and financially they won't be much better off in return. 10 years later the gap is starting to look insurmountable and 20 years later it completely is.

Meantime another generation have been raised in which this disparity persists. And during which the same myths about 'woman can have it all, they are choosing to opt out of the workforce' are being peddled.

I will say I think it is changing. I am definitely seeing my male friends assuming more childcare responsibilities, but then I work in the public sector, where many of us have deliberately chosen to work because it is (relatively) child-friendly. There is a very, very long way to go. I couldn't possibly count the number of times I've read on MN 'my DH couldn't go part-time, he works in a very male-dominated industry'. As if that makes any logical sense. It's not harder to do part-time work because your colleagues are male. But it is far less socially acceptable.

NovemberWitch Thu 09-Nov-17 07:42:40

I’m in my late 50s and it pisses me off immensely. Women do it and men are either content with it or oblivious. How does it change? By challenging male expectations and their world view, from the outset. From them being little boys, not when they are adults. By not looking for the easiest, non-confrontational option. By dumping the martyr status and asking wtf? more often.

Dozer Thu 09-Nov-17 07:48:16

“We” didn’t cause this: it’s the patriarchy!

Yes, “faciliated men” is a great phrase. Your colleague sounds like an entitled PITA!

I observe this too, live in a wealthy area in London commuterbelt, high earning men, high proportion of SAHMs, and almost no women who are higher earners than our DHs.

Thing is, it does work well for those families, unless anyone gets ill or the relationship breaks down.

DH and I both work and he shares parenting and domestics, which isn’t the norm amongst our friends and acquaintances.

My mini rebellion is to refuse to do wifework to do with school stuff, eg baking, xmas fair.

ChattyLion Thu 09-Nov-17 07:49:27

Yes OP.

It’s not even that they are facilitated to do the FT 9-5 only, it’s the ‘extra commitment’ hmm they can show to that job that builds their personal profile, helped by their freedom from childcare or domestic work.

All those breakfast and evening meetings and pub visits and social meals after work that they use to butter up their seniors. Travelling to take up speaking invitations at conferences and speaking events. A lifetime of socialisation that makes them very happy to talk loudly about what ‘I’ have done when there is a huge competent team (paid and unpaid) doing the actual work. It’s galling to watch when you work as hard as you can and you don’t have that support.

SerendipityFelix Thu 09-Nov-17 07:50:23

‘Facilitated’ is a fantastic way to describe this phenomenon. Because, for a lot of things, often men like this haven’t even consciously delegated tasks to the women who support them - they’ve wholesale opted out of even knowing what tasks have to be done for their lives to work as they do. It’s the wifework concept, but not just restricted to their relationship/home life.

It goes to explaining why, when there are more women than men in my profession, there are far more men at the top.

Goodness, absolutely, bit of an eye opener for me too there in my profession. In the company I work for senior positions are almost all men, I can think of one woman, and she doesn’t have a family. Overall our staff are probably 90% female.

megletthesecond Thu 09-Nov-17 07:56:46

I love this phrase and am going to start using it.

SophoclesTheFox Thu 09-Nov-17 07:58:06

Also loving the phrase "facilitated men" - it really strikes to the heart of what happens.

Due to a bizarre twist of fate, after a few professionally fallow years, I am suddenly back in full time+ work and out earning my previously beautifully faciliated husband, and the obvious thing to do is for him to step back from work and facilitate me instead.Conversations are being had and he's definitely trying, but it's a rocky road. My google search history this morning is "how to hire a housekeeper", but what I really think I need is a wife like I was sad

JontyDoggle37 Thu 09-Nov-17 07:58:14

Just to present another side to this - there is no reason why a woman can't have two assistants at work (once you reach a certain level). I'm in a senior role, with a husband who also works full time and a young DS. DH does pick up and drop off as he works locally and I don't, we have a cleaner and then sort the rest out between us - I do slightly more of the housework stuff because DH does the pickup/drop off every day. You could look at me and say I'm facilitated by my husband...but I didn't start out with two assistants and neither did the man in your example - we both worked our way up. I think I'm trying to make two points here - one, it's just as possible these days for a woman to get to that position, and two OP I think you are comparing your single parent situation against a married couple - regardless of who is the higher earner in that married couple it is easier for one of them to get to that position because they can support each other. Without support it is of course much harder.

Dozer Thu 09-Nov-17 08:00:53

It’s possible for women, but rare, and much, much harder. As ever much depends on men/fathers sharing the domestic work and parenting.

Dozer Thu 09-Nov-17 08:01:46

SOphocles, he’s not trying if he’s dreaming of hiring a housekeeper! You facilitated him: now it’s his turn!

Dozer Thu 09-Nov-17 08:04:19

I recently challenged my (single male) boss when he told me that to get a higher performance rating I should take on corporate projects and “increase my visibility” with senior people (who he spends his whole time arse licking while doing no actual work - but I digress). Hard to do when my workload is high and hard to do breakfast/evening meetings and extra travel. And wouldn’t actually make a difference to what I deliver. Grrr.

welshweasel Thu 09-Nov-17 08:05:48

I'm high up in a very male dominated field and people have often joked that I 'need a wife'. I have a female PA and a husband who also works full time and does more than his fair share of childcare/stuff around the house. We outsource where we can. What gets me though, is the fact that the general household organisation (shopping, present buying, sorting fancy dress outfits, dealing with nursery/school, planning our social life, holidays etc) always falls back to me as a default.

LittleKiwi Thu 09-Nov-17 08:07:54

I get your frustration but I have no intention of going against what suits our family best (me at home, DP at work) to fight the good fight. Sorry.

ssd Thu 09-Nov-17 08:08:05

its funny but I've been thinking about this recently too

not because I have a boss like yours (actually I do, now I think of it...) but because I'd like to work more hours but I've realised I do so much in the house that getting dh and the ds's to do it would be another job for me and I just dont have the energy to tackle that.

I'd say its a combination of circumstance, which was over the years me having to give up a job i loved to do a job I really dont like or enjoy, purely as it fits around the kids and my previous job did not. Also I had my old mum to look after and there was no one to help with that either.

Also, I've enjoyed parts of running the house, I take control a lot and am quite good at it. Dh isn't in the sort of job like your boss, but as he cycles to work and its far away, by the time he comes home hes knackered and I know having a dinner ready for him is appreciated, or if I'm working late I make something before I go so him and the ds's can heat it up and they aren't eating crap.

We are a team, but I know the bending backwards has been done by me. I know he and the ds's appreciate it and I appreciate them.

But I hear exactly what you are saying and agree with you.

I think men like your boss are maybe never told by their wives how bloody lucky they are being in that position, but maybe their wives are never told how lucky they are having a man who earns big bucks and they dont need to work and can spend their days at the gym or having coffee's.....people like these probably have an army of paid staff behind them too.

Therealslimshady1 Thu 09-Nov-17 08:09:20

I am a hus and facilitator. When I facilitated a career change for him, just by doing all childcare/homecare etc he was able to make progress quickly in a new field. Quicker than his female colleagues who needed to leave meetings early as they needed to pick up their kids...

It sometimes irks me, for feminist reasons.

The problem with feminism, for me, is that whilst I am a feminist and totally see where you are coming from (and am aware that I am part of the problem), in my own micro world we, as a family, have chosen a solution that works for us. (Full time career DH, me doing everything in home/kidswise plus part time job)

Essentially, I can see the problem but am also part of the problem.

Is that what's called cognitive dissonance? I am a feminist, but am also undermining other women by giving my DH a leg up....confused

Inig0M0nt0ya Thu 09-Nov-17 08:10:44

My network of close friends and family are full of facilitated men. There are high flying women there, incredibly successful in their own right, but at home they are the little woman, waiting on their entitled husbands, taking on the majority of housework, majority of childcare.

I think facilitated men goes beyond couples though, the situation we're in where a small minority of transwomen are able to dictate their agenda, and get away with this, is a form of facilitation. If all women stood up for their hard earned rights it wouldn't be an issue at all, these men's demands wouldn't be more than whining witterings, but most women seem either indifferent or are supporting these men.

Nonibaloni Thu 09-Nov-17 08:11:48

I remember my widowed mum getting very frustrated after a very busy time at work and some high level thing saying she needed a wife. It was exactly this situation she was describing. You can hire cleaners and order food but someone doing all the “wife work” rhinking/planning/remembering is invaluable.
She’s never had a relationship since my dad, partly, I think, because she is unwilling to be less independent. It’s not as sad as it sounds but she’s 65+ and professional, no men she meets would considering making her packed lunch!

SerendipityFelix Thu 09-Nov-17 08:11:50

it's just as possible these days for a woman to get to that position

I disagree with this statement entirely. The majority of facilitated men will have got to their senior position by being better facilitated from the start/earlier in the game - fewer caring responsibilities, faster promotions, higher salaries enabling more outsourcing (generally to lower paid women). This is bigger than just one single women vs one affluent couple who share the burden equally. It is structural. (It is patriarchy).

What is the answer? Requirements for publication of gender pay gap is a good start, requirements for % of women in senior positions would be good, equal parental leave also good - but really, what needs to happen is a massive, massive funding boost to child and social care, overhaul the whole system, relieve the caring burden on women and free us up to be able to take up the equal opportunities available to us.

ssd Thu 09-Nov-17 08:13:12

what I never understand is exactly what welshweasel describes, how the default job always fall to us, whether you work 60 hours a week or 6.

who buys/notices we need loo rolls/kids socks have holes in them/school shoes are too small now/kids need detangler conditioner/there's a present to be bought for saturdays party etc etc etc

why don't men notice these things???

AdalindSchade Thu 09-Nov-17 08:13:16

I'd love it if the women for whom this works so well would consider why it works for them so well. Just saying 'it works for us' isn't really enough.

Crumbs1 Thu 09-Nov-17 08:13:23

There’s always been the phrase ‘behind every good man.......’
I facilitated my husband (still do) but it wasn’t a feminist issue it was a practical joint decision made early in our lives.
I was the higher earners at marriage so he was going to work very part time and look after the children when they came along. We soon realised that a) he can’t breast feed and b) we couldn’t afford to live on my maternity pay alone. He wasn’t ambitious at that point but had to rapidly become so to continue to provide adequately for our growing family. I have done a very good job supporting him in his career because it is not about women supporting man but about a couple working together to support their family. When we married we ‘became as one’ so it’s always a shared response, joint decision and shared workload/finances.
He does have female PAs though but sometimes they are less than facilitative.

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