The Working Mum vs The Working Dad

No, I won’t be embarking on an “us against them” post, although I will be pointing out a few things that should remind us all that the battle for equal rights is not over just yet.

I am a working mum.  I don’t have the choice, unfortunately, so I’m not sure that if we were able to live on a single income I would be working.  I know the 4 days I do at the moment doesn’t feel right for my family, but it does work for my employer, so at least someone is winning.

I am lucky though (and unlucky) as my husband is an actor and he has a sporadic working life.  Generally he works around 2 days a week, but often we will have weeks on end where he is working more than that.  We have a few emergency options open to us and I just have to take leave from work occasionally.  However, he does do childcare 2 days a week most of the time.  I love those 2 days. I can come and go to work like a normal person.

I have blogged before about the stress of doing the nursery, school run and dash to work (and then all in reverse on the way home) on the 2 days I have to do it.  Just 2 days seems like it’s okay really, but I dread those 2 days so much I can’t tell you.  My stomach in knots that I won’t make drop offs or be late for work or the worse one, that I will get stuck in traffic and my two children who are in two different places will be stuck there with no one to pick them up.  I can’t park near work (although I do pay to use a car park that costs me £10 a day if I am feeling particularly pressurised) so I drive so far and then use a Brompton folding bike the rest of the way.  Occasionally, if I’m sneaky, I can work out when a few people who have car parking spaces at my office are off and I can nick their space.  This makes things so much easier and cheaper and lifts a level of stress from me.

Recently at work I realised that it was mostly the mothers amongst us that were in charge of pick ups and drop offs from school, breakfast clubs, after school clubs or nurseries.  Most of the men, particularly those in a more senior position, were not.  They  didn’t really “get” our situation at all.  I get blank looks when I mention my parking problems or the stress of my 2 days.  When pressed they say “Oh yeah, I understand, my wife has the same problem”.  Ahhh, no.  You don’t understand, because it’s not you.  You aren’t going through this, you have no bloody idea.parents at work

Before you say it, it really isn’t bloody MY CHOICE. Yes, I wanted children, yes all of those women wanted children, but so did their husbands.  Why is it that the husbands aren’t also being responsible for the childcare?  Well, it’s down to our working culture primarily and until that changes, we haven’t got much hope.

A male colleague of mine has recently started doing the nursery run in the morning before work.  He lives very close to work and the nursery is nearby, so it’s not quite the juggling act others have, but none the less, he has to do this because his wife is a lawyer who has got a new job since maternity leave which is quite a distance away.

He has regularly arrived in to work late in the morning, to be greeted by me cheerily saying “Good afternoon”.  Helpful I know!!   He has sat down at his desk with a massive hurumphh, looking exhausted before he’s even started work.  He looked at me the other day quite forlornly.  “It’s a nightmare”!

“What is?”

“Trying to get two small children out of a house and to nursery before work”.

“Yes, isn’t it”.

“Finally got shoes on both of them and then eldest pushed the youngest one off the front step just as we were going to the car”.

“Yes, they do that.”

“I had to comfort her, get the first aid kit out. She refused to get up.  I got angry. It was horrible”

“It usually is”.

“I’m counting the days until I don’t have to do this anymore,  when we move and get that au-pair.  I can’t stand it. I’ve not even started work and I need a lie down”.  Ahh an Au-pair.  Yes, that would be helpful.

And here in lies the problem.  I need ALL male employees at my work to do this for, say, a period of 6 months.  To step into their helpful wives shoes, whether they are Stay at home mums, part-time employees or full-time employees, I need all my bosses to experience the pain in the arse that is childcare.  And I’m not suggesting this because I want to punish them or I think we deserve a medal or because I want special treatment.  I want this because if they realised what a bloody malarkey it was we may see a bit more equality and help in the work place.  Until more dad’s start doing this (and I know there are lots that do, unfortunately just not where I work!) we are never going to change a thing.

So, what might change if this childcare situation was more evenly distributed?

  • More emphasis on parking facilities for working mums and dads who are in charge of childcare.
  • Senior meetings or away days that don’t start at 8am and finish at 6pm (or at least a bit more notice of them.  Better still, I’d like to see a senior male manager leave at 4.30pm to go and do pickup so the rest of use don’t look like we are uncommitted)
  • An end to working long hours in order to impress people.  Let’s finish off the report at home, hey?
  • More crèche/nurseries in workplaces or nearby
  • Being able to work from home (biggy for me and my employer is very against this).  If you’ve got children and have worked at the business for XX number of years, this should be offered.  I’d happily fill in forms, write a business case and jump through hoops to allow me to have this flexibility. Especially when both my children are at school and then at an after school club. I could drop off and be at my desk by 9am and work until 5pm.
  • Flexible working hours for ALL employees. Why does it only get offered to women after maternity leave?  Surely that’s wrong.

So, there you have it.  It’s not very eloquent or a very well written rant, but it’s a rant none the less.  I am tired of it all.

Let’s get more equality back in the work place for all parents.

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About freefallinginto40

I am 40 years old. I blog about how I'm coping with my "new" age at www.freefallinginto.com . I'm a married mother to two after years of infertility. I have a 6 year old called Pickle and a 3 year old called The Monster. I work 4 days a week. We are also planning a move to the country! I blog about that at www.ourmovetothecountry.wordpress.com
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26 Responses to The Working Mum vs The Working Dad

  1. Tracey says:

    Agree with you completely. Would love to write more, but must dash, the kids need picking up from school, will add more later. Oh no I forgot daughter needs taking to Rainbows will be much later – probably when hubby comes home from work (totally exhausted of course). Did I mention I do 20 hours of “paid” work and all school/activity runs. God knows how!

  2. Julie says:

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Just….yes.

  3. mummybarrow says:

    Amen

    Nobody refers to David Cameron as a working dad, do they? or my husband? Yet I am a working mum.

    Good rant. I nodded all the way through this one

  4. Sandy Calico says:

    Yep, totally agree. Those who don’t have to worry about childcare have no idea how difficult it is. Great rant.

  5. Oh, I hear you. I hear you.
    *raises fist in sisterly solidarity*

    They don’t have a sodding clue, do they?

  6. Sonya Cisco says:

    I am lucky enought I be at home at the moment, but will go back when Syd starts school, and I remember too well the joys of the school/work run. *starts to sweat at the mere thought* I like your parking idea, a simple, and cheap option that companies could adopt pretty painlessly, and would make a big difference by giving a few extra minutes to parents at either end of the day.

  7. Notmyyearoff says:

    God I wish I had an au pair, or even a dedicated taxi drier to pick him up an drop him off. It’s the whole mental juggling thing isn’t it? I only have to get mine to my mums most days and I already find all the balancing a struggle. Not sure how I’ll manage when he’s older or I have 2!

  8. Emma T says:

    I’m with you on this, although it should be all dads being forced to do everything a mum does in the day on top of the paid work. I’m lucky in that I now only have a 10 minute commute instead of an hour each way which means I can work full time and still do the same hours I used to do part time to be able to do nursery runs. Our nursery is 2 mins drive from home – more expensive but chosen because if and when I have to travel elsewhere for work, my OH (who works at home on the farm) can help with drop off/pick up which he wouldn’t do if he had to go into town. Our work is fairly flexible so anyone can request working from home (alot of people commute some distance) and flexible hours, not just parents.

    What winds me up is that my OH won’t take time off ever for family days out or holidays, moans when he has to do pick ups (approx once a month), so will not help with a day’s childcare if I have somewhere else to be – e.g. Britmums Live – one Saturday, and I have to find someone to to look after our child because he’ll be working and of course he couldn’t take a day off to spend with his son. I also do all the cooking, washing up, caring for N at home (although he will now put him in the bath with him), housework (when I can be bothered), despite him making more of the mess/untidiness. Men just don’t get it, and mine doesn’t actually appreciate the fact that I have in effect 2 jobs which are longer hours than his 5am-7pm 7 days a week.

    Sorry, got a bit carried away there…

    I do agree with more creche’s or childcare available on site, especially where several businesses could club together on a business park or the like. Emergency childcare would be brilliant and it would get more mums back to work.

  9. Kate says:

    Erm. You know that all parents have the legal right to ask for flexible working, don’t you? It isn’t just for women returning after maternity leave. They have to consider your case, meet with you to discuss it and give solid business reasons (with justification) for refusal. In other words, they can’t just say no. I have been there and through a longish difficult time with my employers over it. The stupid thing was it was obvious that I didn’t have enough to keep me occupied full time but they were insisting on it. I got them to agree to a jobshare, they started looking for someone to jobshare with, interviewed someone then my boss said “Do you think we actually need someone?” to which I said no and so I never did get a partner!

    I consider myself very lucky. My OH, because of his work patterns, is often around to do things like pick ups and drop offs. In our area, you see it quite a lot at school but maybe school kids are easier than nursery age ones. He’s always done it and never questions it. I’m lucky that my job is working from home and I agree I get more done that way but because of the nature of my work, it does mean I can get called at times outside the 9-5.

    • I know both parents can apply, but only women are “offered”. Most men at my work will probably be unaware, so their spouses wouldn’t even know it was an option open to them.

  10. I love this post. It is so easy to be dismissive of other people’s needs when you haven’t walked in their shoes. And it’s just plain maddening. BTW, my husband is an actor too! 🙂

  11. Michelle says:

    Hello.

    My issue is somewhat different is that I have no good childcare so can’t go back to work. Husband’s suggestion is to throw some money at the problem. Get an au pair, delegate responsibility to him/her. But he doesn’t get it. Why can’t we get to care for our children properly while doing a good job well. Why is it made so bloody difficult. Frustrates me.

    Anyway, I think you do a brill job juggling it all. You seem to manage to do your job well while caring for your children beautifully. Good work on both counts.

  12. Bet they wouldn’t be getting an au pair if she was doing it! Hear hear 🙂

  13. Yvonne Francis says:

    I so know what you mean. My 1&3 yr olds are at nursery at work. I start at 8 am so mon & tues we are out the house by 6.50 to get the 7.10 train. Wed & thurs the otherhalf has them at home ( daddy days) so I too have the luxery of being a ‘normal commuter’ and have precious book reading time! Fri is mummy day. Its not just guys at work but collgues wothout kids or those with nannys that also look at their watch as you either arrive late, leave dead on 5 , or God forbid have to leave work during day to go get a sick child!!!

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