On Children and Parenting, Other Stuff

truth or fiction: men, not kids, damage our careers?

At just over half a century on this planet Earth where it is often said that the men from Mars and women from Venus converge, I find myself constantly grappling with the how and why of human connections. Human relations and connections.

Apart from the plight of the oceans, the state of the earth and the futures of my children, it is the quest for understanding relationships (parent and child, man and woman, family in general) which consumes my thoughts.

Of all the articles/books/papers read/whatevers I’ve read in the last few days, one of them is an article about it being NOT KIDS BUT MEN WHO DAMAGE CAREERS and since it remains unresolved in my mind for long, it then lands up on this blog.

It is an article by Jessica Valenti (a fierce feminist and , columnist for the Guardian, founder of a blog called Feministing, author of books like, He is a stud, She is a slut, and her latest a memoir, Sex Object) wherein she states that it is MEN who are to blame for women’s flagging careers.

Here it is but I’ve also copied it for you here but BOLD is my emphasis.


One of the most pernicious modern myths about motherhood is that having kids will damage your career. Women are told that we need to choose between our jobs or our children, or that we’ll spend our most productive work years “juggling” or performing a “balancing act.”

For those of us uninterested in circus tricks, a bit of perspective: It’s not actually motherhood or kids that derail women’s careers and personal ambitions — it’s men who refuse to do their fair share.

If fathers did the same kind of work at home that mothers have always done, women’s careers could flourish in ways we haven’t yet imagined. But to get there, we need to stop framing mothers’ workplace woes as an issue of “balance,” and start talking about how men’s domestic negligence makes it so hard for us to succeed.

Yes, we know American men are doing more than they have in past years: Fathers report spending about eight hours a week on child care, or three times as much as fathers in 1965. (Though keep in mind that the data is self-reported, and men tend to overestimate how much domestic work and child care they do.)

Men doing more, however, is not the same thing as men doing enough. Despite progress made, mothers are still spending almost twice the amount of time that men do, 14 hours a week, on child care. And not all parenting is tangible, quantifiable work — it’s the mental labor of having kids that’s often the most taxing. It’s easy to split, for example, who packs a school lunch or dresses a child in the morning. But someone also needs to keep track of those days when lunch needs to be bagged for a field trip, or when it’s time to buy new underwear or sneakers. How many dads do you know who could tell you their child’s correct shoe size?

This kind of invisible work almost always falls on women, and we rarely talk about the impact it has on our professional lives. Imagine if instead of our mind being filled with to-do lists about grocery shopping and dentist appointments, we had available head space for creative thinking around our work and passions. For mothers, the freedom to just think is a privilege.

Studies also show that fathers continue to have significantly more leisure time than mothers and that mothers use their off time to do chores and child care while fathers use time off for hobbies and relaxing. This, too, is about careers: We know that people who have more leisure time and time for creative activities tend to perform better at work.

To be sure, there are also “motherhood penalties” in workplaces that have nothing to do with men. (At least, not the ones we share beds with.) Mothers are much less likely to be hired than non-mothers, and when they have children, their wages fall off a cliff. Studies from 2017 led some analysts to come to the conclusion that the wage gap was almost entirely attributable to motherhood. Men, on the other hand, tend to see more money once they have children. Individual and structural discrimination against mothers remains, and that takes a tremendous toll on women’s abilities to achieve in the public sphere.

But the answers to workplace discrimination are straightforward, and more importantly, they’re finally being recognized as necessary. That men do less child care is widely known, but it’s not widely condemned. We hear again and again, for example, that women just “care” more.

I promise you, there is nothing fulfilling about remembering that your daughter needs hair ties, or that she’s about to grow out of that pair of sandals. There’s no joy in changing a diaper or clipping tiny toenails. If women in relationships with men seem to be more concerned with these tasks, perhaps it’s because we know it’s not our husbands who will be looked at askance if our kid goes to school sporting inch-long fingernails or ill-fitting shoes.

Americans need to stop believing that women do the majority of care work because we want to. It’s because we’re expected to, because we’re judged if we don’t, and most of all, because it’s incredibly difficult to find male partners willing to do an equal share of the work.

So let’s stop saying that it’s motherhood that holds up women’s careers; it’s not the institution of parenthood that makes advancing at work difficult. It’s not our kids. It’s that there’s no chance of equality at work while there’s inequality at home. It’s not that women can’t “have it all,” it’s that men won’t stop taking it.

Here are my views on this this if you care to read.

My gut feel is of course she’s right. She’s 100% right. And most people, hundreds of people agree with her since she has 1000’s followers and she’s a New York Times bestseller so HER VIEWS MUST COUNT.

Here’s an alternate view.

On a bad day, when I’m feeling resentful or frustrated about the fate of women in the world and gender inequality and ponder the state of my flagging career (I even forget now what it started out as sometimes) and my involuntary/voluntary decision to derail my dreams for the sake of my children, I think she’s right. Goddammit she’s right. I wish to hell that my husband would remember what time our daughter needs to get to the orthodontist today or that the shampoo has run out or the washing machine’s not working: that our other daughter is writing an exam tomorrow and still thinks I understand maths but also needs new underwear ‘cos she leaves for camp the next day and her bum sticking out may be a source of embarrassment: that the older two need to be taught how to drive and have their license dates booked, university forms to submit whatever whatever whatever. You know what I mean ? Whole people things like shelter and food and education. Or that he would clean out the cupboard of clothes that are too small and take the recycling to the dump.

There is no doubt it. I do the lion’s share at home and it drives me insane. And on a bad day, I get mad as hell with him and many, many of the friction factors at home are around the division of household labour.

Valenti is 39 years old with 1 child aged 7.

Our stats are all different. I am 50 (okay , 52) with 4 children. Can you even imagine the invisible work?

But the dynamic is the same and the issues around the world with regard to men and women doing family and work are the same, namely, who does more and who earns more?

Boring, boring, tedious unresolvable issues.

But on a good day, I try to imagine how a man must feel about being blamed for the woes of women in the world. Blame it on the men. Blame it all on the men: the violence, the inequality, the corruption, the patriarchy, the fact that we have less pay and more house work. The fact that we are up all night breastfeeding and then still need to get to work.

Gee what a mess. My aunt was a staunch feminist and believed strongly that women should rule the world. I never got to grips with that sentiment of hers but on bad days I agree and on good days I wonder, BUT WHO WILL LOOK AFTER THE KIDS?

It seems so futile to blame anymore. No-one’s to blame. It’s just the way the world works. Maybe we can change things a little but let’s stop the blame game. It achieves nothing.

It’s not always fair and it’s not always right but somehow these fierce feminists haven’t grasped the real value of mothers.

It’s US who are to blame. We educated ourselves. We are intelligent beings. And we can and must change the movement of thinking that someone else is to blame. We, THE WOMEN BECOME MOTHERS. What a beautiful thing. And what a hellava job. And maybe we just cannot have it all. Daft as that may sound. But we have lots of other things to be grateful for. Number one? Our precious children. Isn’t that enough? I don’t know. I keep asking myself. It doesn’t seem to be but it’s a hellava lot.

Now we just need to stop blaming and start mothering.

With love,

A feminist mother who wants it all but knows it’s kind of also a little impossible anymore.

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