Adam Colthorpe
Sep 16, 2018 · 8 min read

All women generalise about men. All of them. They are all the same; each and every one of them. They all ‘want it all’, they all think they are superhuman, they all smell nice, and they all like pink. They all think all men are useless.

What complete and utter nonsense.

Photo: Alex Smith

Of course all women are not the same. And yes, the ironic title is intentional.

In Jessica Velenti’s article “kids don’t damage women’s careers, men do”, Jessica talks about how having children can cause irreparable damage to a woman’s career-path due to the binary choice between a family and work.

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.”

I agree with the first part. In fact, I think it’s worse than that.

It’s not that the myth is pernicious, it’s that the myth is malignant. The myth is far more infectious and contagious. And like any contagion, once it’s spread far enough away from its roots, from where the original knowledge stemmed from — the myth loses its hold on fact and reality.

Having kids will not damage your career. Being out of the office for a year¹ and then only working part-time hours; giving you 8 years worth of experience over the next 16 years absolutely will. And that failure in our employment system is the abhorrent truth that needs addressing by industry and society at large.

But it’s not men’s fault. We didn’t gang up on all you homogenous women. We didn’t all take a vote at the annual Brotherhood of Man conference (no not that one).

Jessica continues:

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.

I don’t think I can stress this enough to you and the 14k people who have applauded Jessica’s opinion-piece thus far. Not all men are like this.

If your man refuses to do his fair share? Change your man. If your man is derailing your career and personal ambitions? Change your man. If your man is creating problems for you? Change your man. And I’ll leave it to you whether you think I mean self-improvement or upgrade.

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.

I think that the problem is not one of domestic negligence so much as a broad range of reasons that each need tackling intelligently and maturely, and not by tarring 3.7 billion people with one impossibly giant brush.

Some potential options for consideration: Culturally, some men feel it’s not their place, and some women think it’s not men’s place. Practically, men are not able to breastfeed, and realistically, this means that women inevitably start the childcare process, and take time out of work. Psychologically, there is also an issue for some women around trusting their partner, or anyone, to look after this child that they have carried for 9 months. Unfortunately there is often a failure in communication between couples around the transfer of knowledge from the person who has learned how to look after the child to the person who would like to contribute more but gets told that they “are not doing it right”. Most likely? Our workplace practices prevent us from effectively sharing parental care through forcing a binary decision between full-time or half-time work.

It’s by no means a definitive list. Yes, there is an awful lot of work to be done.

mothers are still spending almost twice the amount of time that men do, 14 hours a week, on child care

Is this true? Or can we change the narrative here away from gender and stop perpetuating the myth that Jessica says that she wants to change?

Primary carers are spending twice the amount of time that non-primary carers spend a week on childcare? Now that I can believe.

The reason that non-primary carers can’t spend more time looking after their children is that we have trapped them in the workplace.

Jessica talks about ‘who packs a school lunch?’, who ‘dresses a child in the morning?’, who ‘keeps track of those days?’ and ‘how many dads do you know who could tell you their child’s correct shoe size?’.

Well, I would venture A) whoever is available in the morning and has time to do so; B) whoever is available in the morning and has time to do so; C) get a shared calendar set up on your phones/computers, or go old-school and buy a paper family-calendar with different columns and put it on the wall; D) her shoe size is a 6, yes that is an impressive size for an 11 year old — she’s on the 91st percentile for height (I would still measure her feet/shoe-fit each time as children’s feet have an annoying habit of growing), and in case there are any more Parent-Points I need to accrue in order to prove my worth then the last eye test I took her to returned results of 3.75 and 4.25.

For mothers, the freedom to just think is a privilege.

For parents, the free time to think is a luxury that few can afford. That’s what we need to address.

The men that I know would love to do more around childcare and domestic chores, but I think the major problem we need to tackle is that work is not flexible enough.

It seems you can either be full time or half-time and there’s no room for anything in between. That’s a workplace and societal issue that needs to be tackled.

The ideal solution could be that we allow workers to time-shift their day. So that parents who are cohabiting could structure their work so that one person gets the children ready in the morning and starts work later, while the other gets an early start on work and finishes in time to collect the children from daycare or school and sorts out dinner, homework, and evening chores.

We spend hours working on behaviour management for our children. We devise smart reward systems, sticker charts, and naughty-step punishments and we clearly set out chores for our children on chore planners stuck to the front of the fridge with a spare bit of Blu-tack we extracted from our child’s shoe. But we often fail to plan out the fair delivery of chores for adults too. That’s potentially a weakness in not creating a working relationship as part of an intimate relationship.

When you meet someone special in your life, you begin an intimate relationship. When you move in together and take on a home, you add a working relationship to your lives that includes chores, bills, and implicit understandings about where things go, or what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

When you have children, you develop your personal relationship further to include an additional human-being, and you also need to build your working relationship further to cover all the extra tasks, needs, and wants that these little people require. If you don’t do this, then you are condemning your relationship to fail as the weight of expectation will crush you (or them) and resentment will rightly build from the get-go.

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.

If it is really that difficult to find one American man who will pull their weight out of 151 million men who are available to do so, then I suggest you try a different nationality. I can’t condemn those men because I don’t believe that to be true. I think that this kind of generalising about sexes is perpetuating pernicious modern myths.

The balance is moving in right direction, and we need to support and drive this forwards, not regurgitate dated opinions and soundbites that only serve to create conflict and an adversarial parenting arena as opposed to a collaborative one.

If you really can’t find a father to your child who can co-parent successfully then how about trying a single dad instead? While the proportion has not increased dramatically over the last decade, the absolute number has so there are at least 180,000 men in the UK who are able to manage juggling the balancing act of being primary carer on their own.

I work with a charity improving the lives for the children of separated families through working with Dads and Mums² to co-parent successfully. This advice, support, and community is a vital part of what we do to focus on a child-centric approach and support our view that having both parents in a child’s life will further that child’s welfare unless there are substantiated welfare concerns or evidence to the contrary.

I’m also developing a Co-parenting Programme with a range of experts and consultants that will help parents transition from their previous intimate relationship to a new chapter in their lives and equip them with the knowledge and practical skills to be able to positively co-parent. Want to contribute? Drop me a line.

Maybe there should be a Co-parenting Programme for the population of happily resentful couples that I fear that Jessica belongs to?

I’m divorced. I would have liked a shared care agreement whereby the children could spend 50% of their time with each parent, where I could be involved in the mundane day to day parenting; packing those lunches, dressing those children, keeping track of those days, buying those clothes, and knowing their correct shoe size.

Instead, I get to see my children for under 30 hours per week, and that includes the time where I’ve volunteered to help with after-school clubs and activities so that I can spend just a little more time with them, and they can spend less time in childcare.

It’s not that women can’t have it all or that men are taking it all. It’s that regardless of marital status, parents are really bad at communication and division of labour.

No-one can have it all. We all can’t work full-time and parent full-time. Time is finite, and we need to work out a better way of sharing it.

I know I’d happily give more time to spend with my kids.

Photo: Juan Pablo Arenas

¹1 year’s parental leave: We are very fortunate in the UK to support parental leave through the provision of maternity/paternity paid leave. While this is not a perfect system and it is not the most generous parental welfare system in the world, it is improving and increasing in length and in its intention to increase paternal take-up.

²The number of Mothers we are helping is small in proportion partly due to selection bias because of the name of the charity but the Mothers we help, we help them equally because we believe that all parents need help and support and our mission is child-centric, not gender specific.

Adam Colthorpe

Written by

Publisher of Copse Magazine & Anywheres. Owner of Sailfin. Spends time making websites for other people, copy writing, & parenting two kids in South East UK

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