Time for Gender Equality in the Workplace – For Men

Many women (including myself) are faced with the family-or-career tension to varying degrees. We’ve read about these stories in The Atlantic, New York Times, and most recently on Slate.com. Many of us know this issue personally. Maybe we aren’t literally choosing a career over a family (or vice versa) but perhaps we’ve pushed back when to start “trying,” switched to a less rigorous career path, taken a small hiatus from the rat race, or immersed ourselves in work resulting in little time to meet a potential partner in the first place.

While these articles provide valid points about uphill battles women face entering the academic sphere (or other traditionally male-dominated fields) they speak to a specific subset of women – privileged, high-powered, highly ambitious, often married (or with a partner), etc. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but examples and stories from executives, academics, or other powerful women suggest that this issue is most fraught among women at the top.

Not all women (and I’d venture to say most) are trying to be the next CEO or tenure track professor but many are still faced with varying degrees of “choosing.” The onus is usually on the woman to arrange a career situation that will accommodate a family. For women who have a choice to take on “second tier” jobs (such as adjunct professor) still find themselves in much better positions than the vast majority of women. For single parents (like my late mother) choices become a precarious word.

These rallying cries for better job opportunities among extremely privileged women of reproductive age just aren’t getting me revved up even though I am one of them (doctoral student). It takes focus away from addressing cultural expectations about who should be responsible for raising children. Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg said in the TED video above, “we’ve made more progress in the workforce than we have at home.” This is true but we’re measuring career progress against male-established standards such as job position and type, pay, and advancement opportunities.

Again, nothing inherently wrong with this but there are other ways to measure progress in the work place.

What’s missing is the imperative to change cultural expectations for working fathers. When it comes to making gender progress in the child/home front, we can’t expect change without addressing the work front as well. Why is it that few jobs offer family leave for men? Why do men face greater stigma for leaving work to assist with childcare? Why are men expected to return to work almost immediately after their child is born? These are only a few concerning questions I’ve started to discuss with my husband recently.

I believe an increasing number of men, such as my husband, want to be more involved in raising children and worry about how to navigate a hostile and intimidating work culture toward family-oriented fathers. If we want our husbands and partners to take on more domestic or “traditionally female” roles (so we can focus on our careers), shouldn’t we (men and women) also advocate for structural changes in the workplace for men?

When Expectations about Being a Parent Lead to Unhappiness

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

I want to tread (write) gently in today’s post about parenting expectations and happiness because I’m not a parent.  But my fiancé and I have been talking about having children lately.  A few friends have told me to “just worry about the wedding first” but I humbly disagree that talking about children is premature.

Not to trivialize the wedding, but it is just one day.  Our marriage and parenthood are permanent commitments and I want to be on the same page with my soon-to-be-husband about how we will function as a family and agree that our partnership is suited for children.

I tend to be a worst-case scenario type person due to my less than fairy-tale like upbringing, so I’m incredibly sensitive to what challenges couples today.

Along with money, children are right up there and naturally, I want to talk about it before we make that irreversible decision to have kids.

So far we’ve talked about our views on spanking, private versus public schools, financial burden, discipline techniques, sleepless nights, level of commitment to maintain a sexual and social life, and sharing parenting responsibilities.

We’re not trying to take the romance or experience out of parenthood, we just know that if we can’t work together on common challenges, there will be a lot of disappointment in our future.

So it’s no surprise that we gravitated towards the segment above, about parents loving their kids but being unhappy, that aired on the Today Show this morning.  What resonated was the kind of expectations couples place on parenthood to automatically bring happiness.

Watching this segment reminded me of weddings and young marriages.  So much of the focus and expectation is on love and romance.  Well there’s nothing romantic about fighting over dishes, arguing about changing the kitty litter, or stressing over balancing work, marriage, and a social life.  But these are the things couples negotiate throughout a partnership and romance doesn’t make it better.  It just confuses you into thinking there might be something wrong.

This parenting segment reminded me of a similar trend in our society to over-romanticize the awesomeness of marriage and now parenting.  It makes people feel guilty for saying less than amazing things about their experiences as husband/wife/dad/mom.  Just look at Charlotte from the Sex and the City movie.  She had to be drunk to admit her kids were driving her insane and that she cries alone in a closet.  I just made a SATC reference, which I know may reduce my credibility but there was an honest moment in that scene.

I don’t want to sound like an anti-romantic.  There’s so much value in the overwhelming love we have for our partners and children (for those who have kids.)  It supports us through those difficult moments.  It just shouldn’t be expected to do all the work and we should be careful about expecting it to make us happy.

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