Why Men Don’t Try to Have it All

Each time I read how highly performing women are “emasculated” by questions about managing career and family (because men are rarely asked those), it makes me start boiling.

People who claim so might not realize that most of the mothers out there are also the primary care providers for kids, even if they work professionally. Which means they basically run two full-time jobs with little (perhaps beyond financial) support from their partners. And while the debate whether “women can have it all” might sound ridiculously framed, it’s worth seeing that many men simply refuse to even try to “have it all”.

A little bit of explanation of the term “primary care provider”. It’s not just feeding and changing diapers, as some might imagine. It’s being solely responsible for your child’s life at all time. There is no sick leave and no maternity leave for primary care providing parents. When you want to do something that does not involve parenting activities (eg. take a nap or go to a gym), you have to find and pay for your replacement.

There is plenty of fathers who participate in child rearing to the same extent most mothers do, and I wish more men looked up to them. There is also plenty of single parents who juggle it all without anybody’s help and don’t complain. They are superheroes.

But now, why is talking about combining career and family such a huge undermining of women’s professional capabilities?

Women who are able to be both successful executives and have kids, are not only super smart professionals, they are also fantastic negotiators who manage to convince their partners to get involved.

On average fathers spent 2.65 hours with their kids on a typical workday. That means that a huge portion of fathers take care of their kids for much less.

Everybody has the same amount of time in their life but it is men who decide to divide it between work and home in a way that is much more favorable for their careers. That’s not always their conscious choice, but please don’t drop the notion of economic necessity here. If both parents spend the same amount of time on their careers and self development, then they are both able to equally contribute to the household budget, thus reducing the economic pressure on a breadwinning father.

The longer lasts the gap between marketable skills of a mother and a father, the more of that pressure on the guy.

I personally believe in the “love it, leave it or change it” mantra. I’m very far from loving the fact that my husband spends with his kid just 40 minutes on a workday, but it’s also not a reason to leave him. That’s why I’m grateful for any occasion that lets me learn how to change the mindset of men who choose time at work over time with kid (to be honest, that’s also the purpose of the piece you’re reading).

I’m sure Margaret Gould Stewart who wrote a fantastic piece on a neighboring topic (see link under the article) knows plenty of secrets to get help and support that let her stay sane and perform at her best.

Making parenting a topic for women leaders does not minimize their contribution to their industries. It is not depriving of any professional value. But it is highly inspiring for mothers who aspire to be leaders as well.

And it should be also a public topic for male leaders who combine parenthood with successful careers. The more men hear about how their choices influence their families, the more aware they get of what there is to win from being more involved as parents.