There has been a lot of discussion recently about the hardship women have in learning how to breaking through the glass ceiling, as well as, negotiating for equal pay. What hasn’t been discussed are some of the benefits we have compared to men. Society has placed an expectation on women being the primarily caregiver at home with only a nod to the men who wants to stay home or contribute to the family as well. With this societal expectation, women have been given choices that the men are wishing to have. While women may struggle to be seen as equals, we should applaud that we also have choices men do not when it comes to work/life balance and spending time with our kids.
Enter the Working Dad
It starts at the very beginning. It is acceptable by society to ask a women while she is pregnant – are you going back to work? A women has a choice when children are introduced into the family to take a step back in their careers or to give careers up completely. It is a conversation that is ‘normal’. However, have you ever asked a man “are you staying home from work when the baby comes?” Typically, you don’t even ask, “are you taking time off when the baby comes”. At most, the question is “ how much vacation time are you taking when the baby arrives”.
In the last ten years, I have seen more men want to take a more prominent role in being part of their kids lives, and with this is the same constant push-pull and shall I say it, guilt, that comes with balancing out work and family. In addition to the challenges men have with trying to balance their work with their kids, they have the additional pressure of being looked at as being in the wrong place when trying to participate in their kids lives. What women hasn’t at least thought at a school meeting, “what is he doing here” or “wow, a dad showing up”? Instead, the room should be filled with fathers and the mothers should expect them to be there.
Merging Family and Work
I have been in many situations where I have had to say “I can’t attend that meeting at that time because I need to go to my child’s X”. But I have very seldom heard a father say the same thing. Not because they aren’t thinking it but because they are afraid to say it. I have known several dads to state after the fact, “I missed my child’s event because of this meeting”. For women, while we may have to work twice as hard to get places on some days, we have been given the opportunity to create a balance as best as we are able, even if it means leaving work early to take our kids to the doctor and then logging back on after the kids go to bed.
In a 2013 study by Pew Research Center titled “Modern Parenthood” of the 2,511 adults polled, 50% of the men said they struggled with juggling work and family, this is not far behind the 56% of the women who stated the same thing. In addition, 50% of the men said they would choose to stay home if money was no object. A benefit granted to women by society norms in many situations. It is acceptable for a women to say – I am going to take a step back in my career in whatever form that looks like. Women have the ability to choose. A girlfriend of mine decided recently to make a decision to step back from her managerial position because she wanted to have more time with her kids. This is a choice to self-select out a leadership role. It is a choice that other women would applaud however if a man made that same decision he likely would not receive the same response.
Women may have limitations placed on them that we need to overcome, but we are also granted choices that others do not have. We should be thankful for these choices.