When I was in my 20s, all my girlfriends with male partners had better jobs than the men. They were smarter, better educated, and earned more than the men in their lives or at the very least, their incomes were on par.
Then they had kids and took time off to care for them. The guys kept working full time. Some of the women wanted to go back to full time work and found the juggle impossible and so took a lesser paid part time gig. Some of the women went back to work full time and paid someone else to look after their kids and felt sad and guilty at missing so much of their children’s lives. Some women tried to hold onto a decent career and care for their kids and sacrificed almost everything else to make it work (health, friendships, marriages). Every woman struggled to find a path that worked for them and for their families.
The men who stuck around were definitely involved in that struggle but they weren’t CARRYING the struggle. They kept on working as they had always done and tweaked the edges of their lives to accommodate the requirements of their new role as father. Yes, the way they spent their evenings and weekends changed. Yes, the way they spent their discretionary income changed. Some even squashed their working lives into 4 days so they could take a day off to be with their kids.
What the men didn’t do was find themselves in an impossible bind, faced with losing everything they’d worked so hard for, and needing to completely reconstruct themselves and their sense of self in order to accommodate the children.
Now we’re in our 40s, the vast majority of those women are no longer financially on par with their male partners. They earn substantially less. They do not have careers that reflect their education and intelligence. They have careers that fit around their role as mothers. They have jobs that offer them only a smidgen of the purpose and fulfilment that their careers provided them before they had kids.
For each woman it has been a juggle and she’s always being asked to choose; you or the kids.
Men are never asked the same question. Society doesn’t demand that of them. Society expects a man to want a career after he has children. It EXPECTS him to continue to pursue his career after he has children.
Society expects a woman to care far less about her career once she has children. It deems her unnatural if she still has the same career ambitions she had before she had children. It deems her ungrateful if she doesn’t relish the role of mother in every moment.
Society decided to let women into the workforce and then by not properly taking into account the responsibilities of motherhood, it limited our ability to thrive. By not adequately supporting working mothers, it treats us like our careers were mere hobbies. Things that kept us entertained until we had children. They’re not. We love our children with the ferociousness of a lioness AND we care deeply about our careers. We don’t want to have to give them up either.
Working mothers are carrying too heavy a burden. We’re being asked to sacrifice too much. It’s beyond time that we addressed this inequity.
We have to stop squandering our best talent once they choose to have children. We have to stop demanding that it’s them or the children. Because when a woman constantly chooses the children over herself, nobody wins, not even the children.