Taking risks seems to be in my blood. In fact, if I’m not doing something fairly risky, I find myself seeking it out. Not the climbing Kilimanjaro, or base jumping off the Empire State Building kind of risk, but the swimming upstream when everyone else is swimming down kind. The questioning of the status quo, and decisively doing things differently. I have an indifference for the embedded belief system society has so successfully adopted. At the moment, it’s the ‘women are the carers, men are the breadwinners’ belief.
I think there are fundamental flaws with this attitude. Don’t get me wrong, progress has been made, there’s a general wave of concern for how can we help women balance work and family. Flexible work arrangements, job-sharing, childcare anyone? However, the devil is in the detail. The focus firmly on women contains it tightly in the jar of ‘mummy issues’.
In fact, ‘women are the carers, men are the breadwinners’ was questioned so heavily in our household last year, it was the topic of large sheets of paper with unending lists of pros and cons. Why do we think this? What would it be like if we swapped? What would people say? How would the kids respond? How would we respond? Then one day, off the cliff we jumped. In a flurry of resignation negotiations and number crunching we simply swapped, with a ‘tag you’re it’. I went to work each day with the responsibility of meeting the mortgage repayments and putting food on the table, and my husband took over full responsibility of running the household.
I say ‘full’ for a reason. Most of the reactions from other women has been disbelief that he actually does all the washing and cooking, among all the other responsibilities of running a house that contains three little humans ranging from two to nine, a dog and two chickens. Eyebrows raise in surprise, ‘he cooks every night? When you say the washing, he hangs it out, brings it in, and puts it away?’ Yes all of it, otherwise it wouldn’t have been much of a swap would it? The questions are generally followed by a firm, ‘my husband could never do that’.
Fact – men are not idiots.
Whilst there were a few teething issues… hats left at school, presents for parties not purchased… the children are very much still alive, as is the dog and chickens. I even have to admit some things are done better. Time to clean the oven? A job I would have spent way too long on, or to be completely honest would have outsourced. Husband expertly disassembled it, blasted it with a high-pressure hose in the back yard, bringing it back to new in about three and a half minutes.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, who penned the article ‘Why women still can’t have it all’ said, “You can’t have a halfway revolution. You once had women as caregivers and men as breadwinners then you said, ‘Okay women can be breadwinners too.’ So women get to do both but for men we still completely expect that their primary role is bread winning.”
“The only way to get to equality is to value care when men do it just as much as when women do it. We need to expect them to do it. We raise our daughters and we assume they will have caregiving obligations at some point. What women like me have done forever in talking to younger women is to say, ‘Have you thought about how you’re going to fit together work and family?’ Why aren’t we asking our sons exactly the same question? Why aren’t we saying to our sons and all the young men we mentor, ‘Well, if you are planning to have a family, have you thought about how you’re going to fit together whatever you’re doing professionally and the care of your children or your parents or anybody else?’”
So here’s to changing the narrative, and giving our magnificent men some credit, as it’s really the only way we’ll start to be equal players in this game of life.
Can you relate to the above? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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