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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Going back to work

14 replies

maswera · 22/05/2011 13:31

Can someone talk me through going back to work from a feminist perspective please, as I am getting into a bit of a state about it and need a different way of looking at it and I think applying a feminist argument will help me be somewhat more logical...

I have got a job for 2.5 days a week. DS is only 5 months old but DP's job is at quite high risk of redundancy so I applied for and got a job but am feeling terrible about starting work and putting DS in nursery. However...

  • the job is a fairly good one, but in terms of seniority and opportunity is probably not one I would have applied for if I didn't have a baby
  • DP went back to work full time when DS was 4 weeks and didn't bawl about it. Nobody judged him for working. He didn't feel the need to justify his reasons for doing so to anyone.


I am sure there is the makings of a good feminist argument in all this.... Can anyone give me a hand with it.....?
OP posts:
snowmama · 22/05/2011 15:29

Loads of good feminist arguments why you should take the job, what is making you feel terrible about it in particular?

pickyourbrain · 22/05/2011 15:34

To put it in to basics: Men go back to work after 2 weeks of their child being born usually, if not sooner. If you want to go back to work after having a child, why can't you do the same?

To me, there are heaps of feminist led reasons to work. But I don't think anyone makes the decision because of those reasons. People do it because it suits them and their families. All the other stuff (financial independance/ role model for children/ identity outside of motherhood/ positive action against men ruling the world i.e. through working our way up in the corporate world) are a by-product.

dittany · 22/05/2011 16:00

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

maswera · 22/05/2011 16:27

Sorry, I meant 'paid work' of course.

I feel terrible because I won't be there to look after DS, which I feel I should be.

I'm not so much looking for a feminist reason to go back to paid work, so much as a feminist response to the feelings of guilt around it IYSWIM. Blokes don't have the same level of guilt, so why should we?

OP posts:
Himalaya · 22/05/2011 16:41

When he went back to your work your DP didn't feel guilty because he knew that you were at home looking after your DS. You have done that for 5 months and now you want to go back to work, for your family's financial security in the short-term and in the longer term to avoid yourself being out of the workforce for so long that it becomes hard to get back in.

When you go back to work, things will get harder and more complicated for you. But they should for your DP too, if you are not too take on the full burden of worry, and managing the relationship with childcare providers, pick-ups and drop-offs, sick days as well as all the housework that goes along with childcare.

Is your DP willing to share the work, and the worry with you?

dittany · 22/05/2011 16:44

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

snowmama · 22/05/2011 17:00

Maswera, it is probably useful to be really honest with yourself as to what exactly is making you feel guilty, as really specific examples, and how you would manage with either choice..they will help you illustrate what your key priorities are. Be brutal white down exactly what you feel.

Whatever your decision, will this be a joint decision with your husband, is he taking equal responsibility for this decision and the implications either way?

snowmama · 22/05/2011 17:29

Sorry, just re-read your OP, all things being even....what level of job would you apply for? What do you feel about applying for your 'ideal' type job?

queenbathsheba · 22/05/2011 18:20

I think there are just as many feminist reasons for choosing to care for your own child. I agree with Dittany, follow your heart because right at the top of my list of issues around equality is choice. Would your husband choose to stay at home and care full time for your baby? If not why not? If he loses his job will he stay at home while you work? Why don't you ask him?

I can't find any feminist arguement that will deal with guilt.Your guilt might imply that you should have the equally valid option of looking after your son full time if you wish and you should feel guilt free for wanting to, rather than guilty for not earning money.

It's interesting that so many women are keen to take responsibilty for provissioning money but few men keen to take responsibility for child care. We often end up holding everything together don't we.

pickyourbrain · 22/05/2011 18:27

Indeed. The feminst option isn't clear but it certainly isnt going back to work and doing all the housework/ childcare etc too.

Himalaya · 22/05/2011 22:23

Maswera -

Is the thing you are struggling with that you've made the decision that you think on a rational level is the right thing for you and your family, but you still feel terrible and guilty?

For me taking a naturalistic viewpoint is helpful (and I don't think it is in conflict with a feminist viewpoint at all).

If you think about it through much of human history and prehistory, before formula milk, before proffessional childcare, before fireguards, and fridges, anti antibiotics, and cities etc... if a mother had left a 6 month old in the care of someone they didn't know very well (and preferably someone who was close family) their prospects for survival would not have been good. So feelings of maternal guilt at leaving a young child behind may well be part of our evolutionary heritage.

You may know that you've checked out the childcare, you are happy with the nursery, keeping up your career will be good for your family etc.. but this is all going on in the higher conscious parts of your brain. Maybe the guilt is coming from a deeper set of hard-wired instincts that can't be convinced in this way (like an optical illusion where you know what the rational explanation is, but your eye still sees the illusion..)

I am not offering scientific research and peer reviewed journals for this, it is just something that has helped me make sense of my own conflicted feelings at times.

SuchProspects · 23/05/2011 01:01

I think you're asking is "why do I feel guilty when my DP doesn't, and how can I look at this so I don't feel guilty?"

I think the reason for that is that society tells women over and over that they, and only they, are really responsible for how their children turn out. And the belief is that it is how mothers interact (or don't) with their children that determines if the children grow up "good" or "bad". And society does this in large part because men don't want more freedom to do as they please than that sort of responsibility allows.

Society tells men that providing material goods is their responsibility but it's not so hard on them if they don't do this and it allows them to use the earning money card as a cop out for doing anything else with their own children if they want (not suggesting your DP does, just saying those are very generally our society's expectations for fathers).

I don't know how you can "reprogram" yourself to simply stop feeling guilty about the unreasonable expectations society has of you. It's intense social pressure that has been put on you for years. I hope you can teach yourself to see past it or ignore it. Because really there is no one good way to bring up children. They have many needs and you and your DP have an array of ways of meeting those needs. The guilt just limits your ability to maximize your family's enjoyment of life.

I think the emotion you should use to guide yourself in this is not guilt but happiness. To what extent would the different scenarios you have in front of you make you all happy? (Please don't add up your DP's and DC's happiness but leave your own out - something else women are often made to feel guilty about...).

SuchProspects · 23/05/2011 01:03

men don't want more freedom

CogitoErgoSometimes · 23/05/2011 07:37

Guilt's personal, ultimately. If you feel guilty it's because you think you're doing something wrong. Only you can change that feeling. How I see it is that mothers have been taking paid employment for centuries and for all kinds of reasons.... mostly necessity. I've never felt guilt about being a mother with a full-time paid job because my mother and grandmother both did the same thing - as did most of the women in my working class neighbourhood - and it's therefore what I regard as normal. I have never felt 'social pressure' to stay home... in fact, in my family, the SAHM decision by one SIL has resulted in far more raised eyebrows. "Why are they always complaining about having no money when the lazy mare's sitting at home doing nothing and could be out there earning?".... would be a typical conversation starter. :)

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