“The world is used to dads being ‘away for work’ and so, so much of the guilt that mothers feel when they’re away is rooted in societal discomfort, not justifiable guilt.”
OH MY YES!
I’m a musician and have regularly traveled for years pursuing my calling/career. On top of that, I am a member of the Baha’i Faith — a religion where one of the clearly expressed tenets is the equality of women and men- and about 85% of my travel has been Baha’i-related. I have heard tons of such comments, after people realize I am not only married but mother to 3 children. Many times, folks (both Baha’i and non-Baha’i) have had a hard time believing that I really am a mother and married. I often get asked what my husband thinks of “all your traveling”, and some variety of the comment “oh, he must be a great husband for allowing you to go” is made about 80% of the time. Or used to be made, our youngest is 18 and away at school so I guess everyone’s now cool with my being away…….!
My husband (not a Baha’i and his work isn’t faith-related) also has traveled for years about 1 week a month for his work, and he has only been asked 1 time about what I thought of his traveling, and that was when he decided to go work for the US government in Kuwait and Iraq for 5 months in 2003.
Frankly, I find it insulting to men, this assumption that they are babysitting and not parenting, this idea that they aren’t capable of caring for or even interested in parenting their own children. As a couple, we have been pretty dedicated to equal parenting, especially when the kids were under 10 (the teenage years needed a different approach….), and whatever our drawbacks and faults as parents (oh so so many), we do not believe traveling (neither mine nor his) has been a drawback for our children — rather more of a good example.
Sorry to write you such a book (guess you touched a nerve!). I believe this societal discomfort that encourages & perpetuates so much maternal guilt-tripping (both internal and external) is another sneaky kind of patriarchal social control over women and the sooner it is vanquished, the better!