I recently listened to the Freakonomics podcast that featured Anne-Marie Slaughter (of the infamous “Women really CAN”T have it all” article upon her departing from the State Department); in that podcast she mentioned that a big piece of fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace is what we teach the next generation. Specifically, she referenced her intentional responsibility to teach her sons that it’s not enough to believe women are equal colleagues, they must also internalize the concept that if that is true, then as husbands that means the assumed right they have to aggressively take that next promotion or next job is actually not a right at all. That we have to raise our sons to believe that their worth comes from areas not related to success in business, and only if they believe it (and if we as society believe it), will we begin to have a structure the supports true equal parenting and as a result true equality in the workplace.
My husband paused his career to stay home with our baby so that I could ramp up my career. He’s about as resentful of that act as I would be if I had done the same, which is to say: usually not at all, but occasionally there’s a little “Hey, wait, what about me?” And we weather that as a family in a way that works for us, because it does work for us, but hooo boy the societal perception of how THANKFUL I should be that he did this “for me”, how LUCKY I am that he would subvert his natural role at work so enable my vanity project of a career. And you know, I *am* thankful, and I *am* lucky, but damn, the otherness of this act — being the full time worker while my male spouse is the primary care giver — is absolutely shocking. How do you think my daughter feels when other parents tell her “Aren’t you a lucky girl, that your dad wants to stay home with you!” Does that imply … other dads don’t want to stay home with their kids? That her mom, specifically, doesn’t want to stay with her? Not exactly the ingrained lessons I want her taking away from this, not if we actually do want to change this dynamic for her generation.