The myth of men sharing childcare
Men sharing childcare – really?
I own a small and growing business. Since the arrival of our daughter 4 years ago, my husband and I have been sharing childcare and domestic responsibilities equally, both inside and outside working hours. At that time I had no idea that other couples didn’t do the same. I thought that when the women were valued revenue generators, their partners would participate equally. I have 6 employees, 5 of them women. All 5 have asked about special concessions during the school holidays. “What role do your partners play in your childcare arrangements?” I asked genuinely bemused. Are these men sharing childcare? Without exception they looked sheepish.
Flexible but only to a point
I have a very results based work culture. All my employees have significant flexibility to manage their workload with flex and remote working available to all. But never has it been more apparent that the notion of men sharing childcare is a myth. I now find myself torn between being a woman and a business woman. I understand what my employees are going through, but I have a business to run. And no, I couldn’t give extra school holiday concessions to all 5 at the same time.They needed to figure it out with their partners.
Is equal parenting a myth?
Research into equal parenting reveals that men sharing childcare on a routine basis is a both a myth and a pipedream. Men are not sharing childcare in the way we have been led to believe. Headlines telling us that the number of stay at home fathers has doubled in the U.K. between 1993 and 2014. The number is 229,000, which in real terms that is not huge. At the same time an increasing number of women have stopped being stay-at-home mothers which has fallen by 45000. The reality is that the childcare gap is being filled by grandparents, not dads.
Grandparents are twice as likely to look after them during the day than their fathers.
The number of full-time working women has remained constant for a decade, while the shift in men working part-time has been slight, although it is expected to increase over the next 10 years by as much as 20% as men take advantage of parenting leave options. Most men say that they don’t want to make the same mistakes as their Boomer fathers and play an active role in their childrens’ lives.
Yet there is still a disconnect.
Barriers to men sharing childcare
- Traditional and stereotyping of male and female roles is a significant factor. Men are afraid of negative comments from their peers and women don’t negotiate with their partners and accept a traditional split of domestic and childcare roles.
- Men are discouraged in the workplace, being told that the childcare path will damage their careers.
- Women don’t want to relinquish their childcare roles to their partners.
The ultimate irony is that women face the glass ceiling because they take career gaps to raise their children. If men didn’t refuse to participate in childcare, then the lives and careers of their partners would be so much easier.
The other irony is that as men step forward to find that illusive work life balance, applying for benefits fought long and hard for by women, they are still not supporting the progression of women in the workplace to the same degree. We really need to look into that and ask some tough questions of our spouses.
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