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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

"Working for nothing"

178 replies

CogitoErgoSometimes · 17/05/2011 15:24

Probably just me.... but does anyone else get annoyed when a woman in a partnership says 'after I've paid for the childcare there's nothing left out of my wages'? The implication being that childcare is the woman's sole responsibility and that, if she doesn't stay home to do it herself, the cost of hiring someone else to look after the children is entirely hers... even if there is a wage-earning second parent. The conversation then goes on to something like....'I'd be better off if I stopped work'...or ... 'It's hardly worth me going out to work'. As if her contribution is totally negated and her job worthless.

More accurate to say that paying for child care reduces the household income in total. Shared cost, shared responsibility. But no-one ever phrases it that way. Wonder why.

OP posts:
thefinerthingsinlife · 17/05/2011 16:10

This drives me mad too; it takes two people to make a child therefore it is both of their responsiblity to pay for childcare etc. but then it's a perfect excuse to keep women out of the workplace

CogitoErgoSometimes · 17/05/2011 16:20

Seems like it's women providing the excuse, unfortunately. You read it everywhere on MN... 'there's nothing left out of my wages once I've paid for the childcare'. It seems almost unthinking and automatic. I'm not a co-parent, I'm a solo so everything is down to me from the childcare to the recycling. But do couples really discuss finances in terms of...'you (woman) are only allowed to work as long as your wages cover the childcare'? Seems odd for the 21st century

OP posts:
Sinkingfeeling · 17/05/2011 16:24

Yes, I agree - it's a strange way to look at things if there are two parents in the household. A couple of times I've pointed out to friends and relatives that childcare is a joint expense, but they've just rolled their eyes in exasperation. I don't think some of them have considered the value of working to their own self-esteem, as an example to their children or to maintain pension rights etc.

AnnieLobeseder · 17/05/2011 16:31

Well, when I used to say that it wasn't worth me working as childcare cost more than I earned, I got similar comments to the ones you're making now. But what I meant was nothing to do with who was paying for childcare or whose responsibility it was. I meant it as pure mathematics. We pool our family finances, including salaries and childcare. If I'd gone back to work before DD1 started school, the family pool would have been several hundred pounds more empty than if I stayed home. These were several hundred pounds we couldn't afford. If I'd gone to work and DH had stayed home, the pool would have been several thousand pounds more empty as he is the higher earner.

I suppose it gets phrased the way it does because it's the women who is making the move from home to work. It would be phrased the other way around if a SAHD went back to work, I'm sure.

The posters shouting about joint responsibility and joint expense are missing the point that it's household income being reduced by a women going out to work. Perhaps you're right that it should be expressed differently.

ohmyfucksy · 17/05/2011 16:35

It depends if you're only working for the money you get right then, or if you are interested in career progression/pensions etc. I would say that, if you enjoy working, it's usually worth it to carry on even if you don't really make much once childcare is counted out of those wages, because childcare isn't forever, pensions etc.

But I don't get the 'childcare is a shared expense' thing - surely if one person is making much less than the other (and less than the cost of childcare), but that person chooses to go to work it means that the household as a whole would have more money if they didn't work? So if someone makes 700 pounds a month, and childcare is 900, then the household is effectively losing 2400 a year so that the person can work. Because they could stay at home and save 200 a month. In that situation you have to weigh up whether 2400 a year is a price worth paying for the emotional/future/intellectual benefits of working, which it might be.

The real issue is when one person (usually the woman) earns loads less than the man. If she earned the same or more, then her giving up work wouldn't be the automatic assumption.

ohmyfucksy · 17/05/2011 16:35

x post Annie, I think I mean the same thing as you

minipie · 17/05/2011 16:38

I agree with Annie. What people mean is "The family will be worse off if I work compared with if I don't work". The phraseology isn't ideal but it is logically fair enough to weigh up the costs of one parent working against the income from that parent working.

SybilBeddows · 17/05/2011 16:43

what Annie said.

snowmama · 17/05/2011 16:46

I hate it too, and it seems fairly illogical to me.

I do understand where childcare costs makes total household costs to be greater than total joint income earnt. However, in the majority cases I know of, people are using this reason because it means house holds will 'only' break even (or only be a little in credit) if the woman goes back to work. But this situation is only temporary.

I just find it such a short term view, because whilst the household loses income for 4 years (per child), you regain that income back, when they go to school plus any pay rises gained during those years, and your career intact.

The automatic assumption that this cost comes from from the womans wage makes me really upset.

Bonsoir · 17/05/2011 16:48

I actually like the expression as it accurately costs the value of part of the day of a SAHP. Any reasonable parent at home is doing a job that has a value attached to it - and replacing that parent for part of the day costs a lot of money.

Ormirian · 17/05/2011 16:49

I never say it.

In fact when DH was self-employed and earning a lot less than me the arrangement was that he paid the childcare and when what he paid into our joint account and what he paid for childcare left him with too little he would stop working. My income was the main one and we couldn't do without it.

AnnieLobeseder · 17/05/2011 16:50

Wow, it's not often people agree with me! Grin

BUT, just to get back to the usual state of being of everyone arguing with me, this is exactly why I think childcare benefits should be offset against the lower earner's salary in any couple. Why should the lower earner be stuck at home just because they earn less than childcare costs but have a partner who earns too much for them to get help from the state?

I pay tax on my salary. Then I pay the nursery and they pay tax on my salary. The government gets more of it than I do. So even if they got a bit less, they'd still be earning something, as opposed to the nothing if I didn't work. So, I truly think it's in everyone's best interests for the state to top up with benefits so that everyone is at least breaking even by working.

CogitoErgoSometimes · 17/05/2011 16:50

I thought that was one of the main battlegrounds for feminism... the phraseology and terminology that allows others to demean the contribution of women. Yes, they probably do mean that the family will be worse off etc.,etc., but that's not what they're saying. And the danger, I think, of such pat phraseology is that it sticks. Those same people go away thinking that whether they stay home in an unpaid role or take paid employment to no net benefit, they are a drain on the finances. There's never any suggestion that to enable one parent to take paid work and keep the family income steady, the other should cover the extra childcare costs by getting a higher paid job, or working longer hours, or taking a second job in the evenings. That's never even up for discussion....

OP posts:
thefinerthingsinlife · 17/05/2011 16:53

I see it slightly different. Firstly, I'd like to say if a women wants to be a SAHM that's fab and her choice.

Now I see this slightly differently, payment for childcare is usually only for a few years, in that time a couple may both be working at a loss but they will both be making pension contributions etc. Also during this time there is usually career progression for them both therefore pay increases and then when there is no childcare/minimal childcare they are both working for a reasonable profit and securing a comfortable future.

On the other hand if the women stays at home (not out of choice) the partnership is working at a small profit. Everyday she is becoming less employable. She is relying heavily on her partner, he could die, leave her ect and she would be left unable to support herself. Further to this she is making no pension contributions so will not qualify for a pension ect. Women are far more likely to live in poverty in older age than men and this is why.

That is why I see it as more than making a loss in the here and now.

Bonsoir · 17/05/2011 16:53

"There's never any suggestion that to enable one parent to take paid work and keep the family income steady, the other should cover the extra childcare costs by getting a higher paid job, or working longer hours, or taking a second job in the evenings. That's never even up for discussion...."

No, because it doesn't make sense!

thefinerthingsinlife · 17/05/2011 16:55

Snowmama puts it far better than my rambling

SybilBeddows · 17/05/2011 16:56

thing is though, very often it's the combination of not making any money out of the second person working with the mega stress of having 2 working parents in a situation where childcare is inadequate (eg it's fine as long as they are well but a huge crisis if one gets ill) and women are getting discriminated against or bullied since becoming parents.

you just think 'blow this for a lark, I'm having a shit time in the job which I used to love and paying for the privilege'.

you must have seen the threads on here about being bullied/unfairly dismissed, and practically all of them describe a situation which begun shortly after the OP got pregnant or had children.

Women often find that their jobs are suddenly not as secure as they used to be pre-kids so taking a short-term financial hit for long-term gain becomes a less sensible strategy than it might once have appeared.

it can also be a strategic decision to focus on one career, if the higher earner is expected to travel a lot of work long hours and simply can't do that whilst doing 50% of the house and family stuff, so would either be risking his/her job by not working the hours expected, or will stop him/herself getting promoted.

it seems a little judgey to me to deplore other's people's choices for being short-termist. I am sure other people know what they are doing - walk a mile in their shoes before telling them they're getting it wrong.

blackcurrants · 17/05/2011 16:58

god it's so annoying, that phrase. I currently make just over a third of the household's income (still student). Childcare costs just under a third of the household's income. Is it "almost all my wages" and "not worth me working?" - no, because in 2 or 3 years I will be making over half of the household's income, plus a bit. But if I stop working now, nothing and nothing much in the future in my career.

argh. I am possibly not making a lot of sense, but whenever I hear people talk about the childcare costs in relation to the woman's wages, I wonder why no one else sees it as way that women have to justify working if they have children, or justify not working - in a way that men who are parents just don't.

When I was pg no one asked DH how he was going to balance work and fatherhood. No one asked him how his work situation would change. No one asked him if he wanted to continue pursuing his career that he's trained 4 years for. But everyone asked me those questions (nosey buggers) - and I've been training 6 years for my career! And DH would quite like to be a SAHD, if we could afford it!


CogitoErgoSometimes · 17/05/2011 16:59

It makes perfect sense. If both parents wish to continue working and childcare costs mean that the household income is down, say, £200 a month as a result then why should the automatic assumption be that one (usually the woman) stops working and not that the other earns more?....

There's more to work than income. There's self-esteem, setting a good example, contributing to society, not wasting your education or training. Being an employed parent is not desirable for everyone, but to automatically say that because the household income is going to be a little down one parent (the woman) is therefore denied all of the above as well ... is ridiculous.

OP posts:
AnnieLobeseder · 17/05/2011 17:00

I agree that it's short-sighted for a women to stay at home purely for financial reasons, because her long-term earning potential, job security and pension are being lost. But, I know in our case that we honestly couldn't afford to take that short-term hit to our finances. And working longer hours, getting 2nd jobs etc is a very silly suggestion because that will just mean more stress and more requirement for childcare!

snowmama · 17/05/2011 17:00

Bonsoir, if that was actually what people meant, by that choice- I would also agree. The work of a SAHP could and should be valued using these measures, but rarely do you see the link made and risk is all on the person giving up their career.

However the assumption that the lower earner (woman) should automatically want to take this role (because they are the lower earner) is problematic for me. An equally valid option is you both go flexi time covering childcare and work - with neither taking on a substantial life risk.

SybilBeddows · 17/05/2011 17:03

"There's never any suggestion that to enable one parent to take paid work and keep the family income steady, the other should cover the extra childcare costs by getting a higher paid job, or working longer hours, or taking a second job in the evenings. That's never even up for discussion...."

evenings, what evenings? the evenings you spend working late or doing chores because you have been out working out all day and the kids' laundry still has to be done?
I remember a colleague with 2 kids saying to me casually 'oh, I'm so tired - by the time we get everything finished in the evening it's 10pm'.

there is a reason why you might not want to send one of you out to an evening job in those circs. Not to mention the fact that most people are already doing the highest paid job they can find and quite a lot of contracts don't allow you to take other paid jobs anyway.

Grabaspoon · 17/05/2011 17:03

I don't see it that way I see it as the parent (mother in this case) saying I earn say 16k and childcare fees are £14k not that she is having to pay for the fees herself just that the costs are quite high it would seem odd to say childcare is 1/3 of our joint salary.

blackcurrants · 17/05/2011 17:07

grab but by saying how much childcare costs as a percentage of the woman's salary it is giving power to the sexist the idea that caring for the child(ren) is the woman's responsibility, and if she wants to work it is her salary that pays for childcare. Instead of saying that caring for the children is a joint responsibility and the money should be found from the joint income.

thefinerthingsinlife · 17/05/2011 17:18

At the moment I am studying and I will be for the next 3 and a half years, we are living a hand to mouth existance. If I hadn't chosen to go back to study to get a career we would be very comfortable now but I would be in a very vulnerable position as I would be completely reliant on DH. Which despite him being a great DH ( feminist tendancies Grin) it would still scare me to be so realiant. Plus I don't make a very good SAHM.

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