“You have to stop talking about your kids,”

I received an email today that wondered how women could claim to be equal to men when pregnancies and child birth made them dependent on other people.

Also, this morning, Latika and Scorpiogenius shared the link to, ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have It All’. The 6 page article talks about what’s preventing mothers from achieving the success they are capable of, even when they do have supportive husbands/partners.

Let me share from some of the points that made me think, because they brought to mind The Bride’s and Nandini’s posts.

The email writer too might find some answers in this post.

1.

Do working women feel guilty if they have or are going to have children?

 

“…many women … told me that they never admitted to taking time out for a child’s doctor appointment or school performance, but instead invented a much more neutral excuse.

Today, however, women in power can and should change that environment, … I decided that one of the advantages of being a woman in power was that I could help change the norms by deliberately talking about my children and my desire to have a balanced life.

Thus, I would end faculty meetings at 6 p.m. by saying that I had to go home for dinner; I would also make clear … that I would not come to dinner with them, because I needed to be home from six to eight, but that I would often be willing to come back after eight for a meeting. I also once told the Dean’s Advisory Committee that the associate dean would chair the next session so I could go to a parent-teacher conference.

After a few months of this, several female assistant professors showed up in my office quite agitated. “You have to stop talking about your kids,” one said. “You are not showing the gravitas that people expect from a dean, which is particularly damaging precisely because you are the first woman dean of the school.”

I told them that I was doing it deliberately and continued my practice, but it is interesting that gravitas and parenthood don’t seem to go together.”

2.

Are work places and jobs created only for non-parents or for those who have wives and/or mothers at home? What if those wives and mothers start working?

“If women are ever to achieve real equality as leaders, then we have to stop accepting male behavior and male choices as the default and the ideal. We must insist on changing social policies and bending career tracks to accommodate our choices, too. We have the power to do it if we decide to, and we have many men standing beside us.”

This would eventually mean, specially in the Indian context, that employers would not be allowed to assume that employees have wives at home to manage child and elder care.

3.

The article also points out,

“…among those who have made it to the top, a balanced life still is more elusive for women than it is for men. A simple measure is how many women in top positions have children compared with their male colleagues. Every male Supreme Court justice has a family. Two of the three female justices are single with no children. And the third, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, began her career as a judge only when her younger child was almost grown. The pattern is the same at the National Security Council: Condoleezza Rice, the first and only woman national-security adviser, is also the only national-security adviser since the 1950s not to have a family.”

4.

A new generation of dads.

“… we have a new generation of young men who have been raised by full-time working mothers. Let us presume, as I do with my sons, that they will understand “supporting their families” to mean more than earning money.

5.

Why do women need to fit into the mold of employees who have wives at home?

“…in Lisa Jackson’s words, “to be a strong woman, you don’t have to give up on the things that define you as a woman.” That means respecting, enabling, and indeed celebrating the full range of women’s choices. “Empowering yourself,” Jackson said in her speech at Princeton, “doesn’t have to mean rejecting motherhood, or eliminating the nurturing or feminine aspects of who you are.”

***

So mothers, unlike fathers, are having to choose between career and parenthood? And ofcourse it is assumed that the society does not need parents?

Here’s a comment (one of 460+)

“I think I am going to write an article about how I, as a father, cannot really ‘have it all’ either. But that seems to be less the issue here.

Bottom line: We all have make choices about what we prioritize. This notion that we can or should ‘re-arrange’ our society to accommodate all parents’ (not just women) desires to be successful professionals and wonderful parents is childish. Our efforts here almost always come at the expense of either our peers at work, our children, or the hapless grandparents or immigrant nannies who actually fill in for absent parents.”

And a response I agree with.

“…if each parent put his/her child first, then we are doing ALL of society a favor, by raising responsible ethical humans who will in turn treat our generation with respect as we get older.

So it’s worthwhile for a society to invest in it’s future by ensuring that those who are raising it’s future are not penalized – or forced to choose against parenthood.”

56 thoughts on ““You have to stop talking about your kids,”

  1. OMG there are NO WORDS for how much I love this post! Great work highlghting the best bits, IHM.

    Of course, the basic problem here is that our society sees reproductive and caregiving work as not really work but an innate inevitable no-effort biological function like heartbeats or digestion. In fact, reproductive and caregiving work is THE most productive work in the world: creating new human beings from scratch, and painstakingly, step-by-step, turning them from helpless babies into fully-functioning self-reliant adults – can you think of any endeavour that is more productive? And yet we punish the people who do it, and make them ashamed of doing it.

    Some relevant links:

    A letter written in 1876 that shows starkly and powerfully how the devaluation of reproductive and caregiving work impacts women.

    A truly insightful lecture titled “Women’s Work and the Limits of Capitalism”. Link contains both the video of the lecture and a text summary of the lecture. An excerpt:

    [C]apitalism, with its introduction of an ‘individual wage’ rather than the ‘family wage’ made a significant dent in the patriarchal wall – the ‘individual wage’ helped encourage women to seek self-ownership. …

    The only problem with all this revolution is that capitalism is dreadfully dependent upon the unpaid caring work of women. … [C]apitalism needs families but would prefer not to pay for them. … [Therefore], self-ownership hasn’t been enough to guarantee gender equality. … [W]omen continue to specialise in producing very worthwhile things (ie. human capital, or child-rearing as us mothers like to call it) that we cannot own. Capitalism does not provide payment for services and products that are not bought and sold in markets, and who, might we ask, does most of the work that happens outside of the marketplace? Women, of course.

    “The position of women improves but the position of mothers deteriorates – pauperization of motherhood or “motherization of poverty.” … Why is it that women have gained in status in comparison to men, but mothers have remained so vulnerable?

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    • So if you don’t want capitalism, then what exactly do you want? Communism? That’s already been proven to be a worthless ideology, more suited to ant colonies than to human beings with individual dreams and aspirations. Socialism? Just another watered down version of communism. What’s left? Do you want to invent your own mash-up of ideologies? Good luck trying to sell that! Capitalism is the only way forward for a modern society.

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      • A non-nuanced, unoriginal argument just to prove that one is right. Because it is clear that both extremes don’t work. Capitalism is not the only way forward because of many reasons, one of which is that gaps in India between the haves and have nots have increased since economic reform.

        Let us also not forget that this discussion of women not having it all is happening in the mothership of capitalism. ‘Mommy wars’ are not irrelevant in this day and age (as they deserve to be!) and that in itself tells us that capitalism is not the answer.

        As for what is, that is a common question to ponder and act on…not Nandini’s job to figure out while the rest of us sit on our butts. To be fair to all concerned, shall have to read the numerous ‘you’s up there as ‘us’!

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        • Nothing’s non-nuanced about my argument. I want to know that if someone perceives capitalism as harmful to a woman’s parental responsibilities, then what is the alternate system? I’m being practical about it, but if there is a utopian vision where women don’t have to sacrifice careers for family, then I’d like to know what it is, and if it can be implemented in practice.

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      • PGW
        Why does one have to choose between the -isms, communism, capitalism etc. BTW your argument that socialism has failed is not accurate. I believe women in the hell holes of socialism such as the Scandinavian countries are doing quite well. They have health care for all,16 months of paid parental leave. Scandinavian countries have social security for the aged and generous unemployment benefits. True there are hardly any multimillionaires and billionaires in these countries, not the obscene disparities in wealth. In the Chez republic and Slovakia they have 3 yrs of maternal leave and upto 6 yrs for the mother of a disabled child. The real problem is the unwillingness of countries to check the power and greed of large corporations, dishonesty and corruption on the part of politicians which prevents worker friendly laws being passed. After all which parent would object to paid parental leave? A peep out of the workers and the jobs are shifted to China where they can pay pennies, work their employees to death and the government is guaranteed to turn a blind eye. Capitalism at its finest! There is a struggle going on right now especially in the US where there is almost total corporate control of the government. It almost seems that there is a struggle to get back to the age of Dickens through gutting of environmental laws, worker’s rights, consumer protection etc. This is framed by the corporations as a struggle against excessive regulation (translated as “please let us be free to do what we want-do not get in the way of profit making). This is not a feminist issue and framing it as one pits men against women, whilst ignoring the real problem.

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      • Ideally? I want an anarchist society, i.e. no rulers, no government, no private property, no heirarchies, no money, no patriarchy, no colonialism, no form of authority whatsoever. I know it’s pretty pie in the sky, but there it is.

        If you insist on capitalism, then I want an unbiased, nonsexist capitalism – one that does not arbitrarily say that some special forms of work should be performed for free. Pay women to birth children and breastfeed, pay for parents’ child-rearing, pay for all caregiving work that currently goes unpaid.

        In reality, though, I want status quo reformed to include mandatory paid parental leave for both parents, mandatory subsidised childcare for all kids, mandatory anti-discrimination laws specifically protecting moms, mandatory family leave allowances for both parents for stuff like kids getting sick, etc. This may or may not be workable in India, but yeah, this is what I want.

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  2. I am a professional Engineer and expecting my second child. My family is my number one priority.
    If I dont make my kids a priority who will? A disgruntled mom = bad employee.
    A happy mom= happy employee. I leave work @ 5.00 (90%) of the time in order to be home to have dinner with them. Men @ work leave early to watch their kids play baseball or soccer.
    And that is fine, they should. Becuase the company accords me the flexibilty to attend my sons kindergarten play and roll in 10.30 sometime, I find I willingly go the extra mile when they need me to.
    One of my bosses, husband is a stay at home dad, and he does such a wonderful job. She loves her job but doesn;t have to worry about taking her kids to the dentist or doctors or picking them from school. Until women make themselves and thier children priorities, society will never let you. Yet, they will make you feel guilty for being a working mom. I find that the case with a lot of stay at home moms, they never forget to try to make you feel bad about leaving your child home.
    And when it boils down, most of these moms (not all) are either watchign TV or on the internet ro social networkign sites. On the weekend, I do not answer phone calls unless family calls. I dont sit in front of computer or walk around with my Ipad. I take my son to the Farmers market, I cook with him, we go swimming, we hike,we garden, we enjoy it. thats what most moms have to remember we dont have to be super moms just good moms.

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    • Prejudices run both ways. I’ve been a career woman, and now I am a homemaker – either ways, I’ve not escaped judgement! I don’t have kids – so when I had a career, The Husband and I were branded as self-centred DINK couple – we were apparently only making money and making out. Che! Meaningless, shallow life. Anything and everything we did would invite the remark ‘Oh just wait, just wait…once you have kids, all this will stop’.

      Then, I quit to do something different. ‘What!’ went the women who held jobs. It was incomprehensible – why I had thrown away my lucrative career and decided to ‘sit at home’ when I DON’T EVEN HAVE KIDS. Perhaps I was ‘let go’? Maybe I was lazy. Maybe I am not very outgoing and enterprising. Poor husband has to slog while I sit at home…doing WHAT? Ooh The Mystery of What I Did The WHOLE Day, Day after Day! On the rare occasion when I am asked ‘what’s happening’, and I politely mention some new achievement (insignificant, nonetheless), it’s brushed away with ‘Oh you are lucky! You have the time to do all this. I don’t even have time to breathe’. And of course it is followed by the dire warning of ‘all this will stop once you have kids’. Errr…lucky? It’s a choice I made, consciously…and why speak as if having kids is a punishment?

      Like I said – damned if you do, damned if you don’t😉

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      • I agree with you…I’m a SAHM with a 7 year old daughter…My working female friends make me feel guilty for not having a career…According to them, I should do something useful in life so that my daughter respects me…Excuse me? My mother stayed at home and I respect her…What’s one got to do with the other?

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      • Love the post and completely agree with you. A lot of my acquaintances think the work I do is time pass especially sine it’s a business. Why would I need to do anything with a husband who makes so much. They also think my accompanying him on business trips is for fun and I’m such a bad mom dumping my kids with the help while I am gallivanting with my spouse. The SAHM could never understand why I needed to work leaving my kids alone and the working ones thought it was time pass. Can never win🙂
        I can say we take great pride in providing our e players with child care facilities and a 8hr work day My husband always tells everyone who will listen ‘ if you can’t finish that day’s task in 8 hrs not days then it’s quite unlikely you’ll finish in 10″

        We( both men and women). Need work time, play time, family time, alone time etc., for a healthy body and a healthier mind

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      • I agree too Sumana. I am a SAHM and I get judged by many for my decision to quit my corporate line of work to stay at home. Oh I get this,’ muft ki roti tod rahi hai’… ‘so how did you splurge your husband’s hard-earned money today?’!! It really gets to me when I come across this notion that a person’s work can be justified and respected only if he/she slogs it out behind an office desk from 9-7 and earns ‘money’ as against someone who stays at home, slogs as much( sometimes far more) to maintain a harmonious running of the home. Why, doesnt a non-earning member of a family have anything to do with the functioning of a home? And I constantly get remarked for ‘wasting my education’ by choosing to not work. Just by not working in an office, how can it be assumed that I am not using by education in a worthwhile manner? For one, thanks to my education I understand how important it is for my daughter to be educated and aware in life. And then there are avenues where one can put one’s education and knowledge to good use other than just working for a company!

        More importantly its a decision consciously taken by me and my family, why should anyone else have a problem with that?
        “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” yeah I’m learning to adopt the policy!

        I seem to have clearly strayed from the topic of the blog-post!

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        • Agree Deeps.

          //And I constantly get remarked for ‘wasting my education’ by choosing to not work//

          I too get this all the time and that is what makes me doubt myself half the time.. These comments are hard to ignore..

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      • you’re right – damned whatever you (any woman) does. My husband works crazy hours while my job offers me flexible work hours – even work from home fairly regularly. Since the hubs is out of the house 90% of the time most of the housework – mundane ‘nothings’ like groceries, repairs, odd jobs, even making sure there are clothes to wear to work the next day fall on me. While that’s a whole other story, everyone – friends, relatives around me smirk and says’ “oh but you work from home – what do you do.” Errm, I too hold a full time job you know? It irks me.

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      • This is exactly my story, Sumana!
        A lot of such stupid comments were thrown my way when I was working. “you are too career-oriented”, “Family (read: cooking/cleaning/making babies) should be your first priority” etc. When I quit my job, to pursue an alternate career, again I had to listen to these commenters. Esp the “you are lucky” type of comments.
        Then it struck me that you can never please everybody. So now I just believe in myself and do what I think is best for me and my husband.
        No kids yet, but when they come, I would want to choose a flexi-career. Hopefully, I will be able to find such an option.

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      • Totally and completely agree, Sumana. The crux of the matter is the freedom to be able to make a choice and have the support structure for it, instead of catering to expectations of what it is to be a working woman/ stay-at-home mother/ working mom/ stay at home because I simply want to take a break and I have the right to since I’m not impinging on anyone financially.

        A vociferous argument I got into a 40-something working couple recently- the guy said that women who get degrees and then just stay at home to look after babies are wasting a seat and they shouldn’t go for professional degrees if all they want to do is look after children. In support of his argument, he also said that (in the case of women who can afford it)- these days there are plenty of nannies available who can look after the kid- in any case “Indian kids” are way too mollycoddled, and need less parental attention than would be showered if the woman chose to put her career on hold. His argument was based on an outdated mode of feminism which saw child-rearing, housework, the lack of a career as being anti feminist.

        Other than the many, many points I totally disagree with- the basic problem with this argument is that the woman is still not being given a choice! Or the freedom to live her life as she wants.

        IHM has highligted the part of the article that sums up what I am trying to say beautifully- ““…if each parent put his/her child first, then we are doing ALL of society a favor, by raising responsible ethical humans who will in turn treat our generation with respect as we get older. So it’s worthwhile for a society to invest in it’s future by ensuring that those who are raising it’s future are not penalized – or forced to choose against parenthood.”

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      • @ Sumana,
        Having or not having a child is such a personal decision. I agree with you.
        I have lots of friends who are married and decided to be DINK’s and I respect them for, it is worse to bring a child into the world because someone’a aunt is pestering you or thats whats Good women do and then resent the poor child.
        Good for you on staying home and following your passion, even if it is to grow an herb, rememeber you are happier doing what you love than most people sitting @ their desks are. I stayed @ home for a year with my older boy and was constantly reminded how I was throwing away a good career. For me that time with him is precious and there is no price tag anybody could put on it.
        And @ Sraboney you should remind your :”working” friends. A average compensation for a SAHM is $ 200,000 or more.
        I think its human nature to always feel the other person feel bad for their decisions.
        Live and Let live

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  3. I can only speak about IT and IT-enabled services, with Bangalore as a back-drop. I am assuming the situation is mirrored everywhere in India. In the Indian context, it is important to look at the demographics. Majority of the working women who are first time/second time mums are on an average 27-32 years; we can extend the age group to 35 for the husbands. We can safely say the young parents are at mid-management level or below (team lead, project manager etc.) At this level, they have little authority but massive responsibility. This means, they are rarely in a position to assert themselves. Also, given the fact that they work across timezones, and the hideous traffic, there is no ‘hard-stop’ for the end of the business day.

    Such parents have to rely extensively on family support, or professional support to take care of young ones in their absence. I have seen my friends face the battle day in and day out. It is not about NOT having support – you can have a very loving extended family taking care of the young one – but it is NOT YOU, the mother or the father; and it makes a hell lot of difference. Leaving a sick, crying child behind and coming to work can be killing for both parents. Usually, at that level, the parents won’t be in roles where they can work out of home – their presence at office premises is imperative. Even if they do manage to leave at the regular office EOD time; the commute is another time-killer. Most reach home to find the little ones asleep; and they are still asleep when the parents leave for work the next day. There is just no scope for quality time.

    I remember an incident where my friend had a 2-year old at home. She has AMAZING family support, and a wonderful husband. On one particular day, there was a high priority issue and she had to remain at work late into the night – till 2:00 AM. When she finally got home at about three in the morning; her little boy, who had been asleep, woke up, stared at her and extended his little arms. When she hugged him, he just held on to her neck and would’nt let go; he just sobbed and sobbed, without making a sound mind you – not bawling like a 2-year old but literally weeping like an adult suffering a bereavement. What terrible fear did he have in his tiny heart when mommy did not come back at dinner time? He’s never shown that level of separation anxiety when papa goes away for a few days on trips. My friend went about with a haunted look for the next couple of days. Incidents like this shake your core – and this is the reason why many women quit their jobs early in their career – the balance between work and home is unachievable. At that moment – all else loses priority, and the wellbeing of the child becomes the only focus, as it should be.

    India Inc. does not support and implement good parenting policies; period. Its almost like a vice-grip – a young family with young ones and fresh mortgages – aah fresh meat for the corporate vulture! On top of that, we idolise CxOs for working 18-20 hours a day. It irritates me no end when I hear such ‘legends’ – ‘so and so gets up at 3:00 AM and starts the day’. Rubbish and rot!

    Here’s a quote from my blog ‘The Joy of being a nobody’ – “The casualty of the existing work culture is not tangible, not quantifiable – you cannot say you suffered X% loss, and therefore, it does not receive the attention it should. It remains a nagging problem that never goes away. And as we all know – all problems start small; they grow into unmanageable debacles over time, because no one took corrective action. That means our children could be at the receiving end of this mounting stress.”

    and its official people – I can never write concisely.

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    • Sumana – I loved your comment. Your friend’s story brought tears to my eyes. I have a son who will turn 2 in couple of months and probably that’s why. I have a more flexible job and make sure that I leave work by 4:50 pm, but I can understand how it works in Bangalore – because I worked there for couple of years and have a handful of friends who are presently there. No mom would want to be in a place your friend was – the little one crying silently is truly unbearable.

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    • Holy Mackerel, I felt so bad for your friend, it broke my heart reading that.
      If my boy did that I would be a basket case and quit the very next day!!
      No money in the world can compensate that. I wish women in India had more felxible schedules especially the IT industry.

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  4. This post so relates to something I encountered just a couple of days back. A couple of colleagues went out for lunch and the discussion turned to working for startups and the hours involved. One male colleague quipped that since I have a small child, no start up would hire me. I quickly put him in place by disclosing that I have had offers from startups and it is nobody’s business but mine to decide whether I can or cannot spend a certain amount of time.

    My team is very liberal and open. Male team members regularly take days off because their child is sick or leave early so that they can go pick up their kids / chauffeur them to some activity. When we had a release, all of us, including me worked 15 hour work days to pull it off. And yet, this person still has a notion that because I have a child a) I must be ambitionless or b) I am unwilling to put in the effort.

    The person who made this comment does not have any hiring power – yet. And to think of all the opportunities I missed out on because someone somewhere has this mindset!

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    • It’s called the Motherhood Penalty and it’s very much quantifiable. The researchers sent out 600 fake resumes for a childless woman and a mom, both identical except that the parent-resumes listed “Parent-Teacher Association coordinator” under the heading “other relevant activities,” as a way to flag that the candidates were moms. The women with no kids received more than twice as many interview requests than moms. What’s more, mothers were offered $11,000 a year less in compensation, on average, than a childless job candidate. Fathers and childless men, meanwhile, received the same amount of callbacks and pay.

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  5. Kid or no kid, married or not married, the general thought process of the typical male boss is that if you are female, then you are not serious about your career.

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  6. Love the post especially the lines that say…….“to be a strong woman, you don’t have to give up on the things that define you as a woman.”
    Completely agree with this and I hope every women in this world respect this statement and we all will be living in such a wonderful world!
    Good post IHM…

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  7. Yet another lovely post IHM.
    You can have the most supportive husband but there are two things that a husband can NEVER do – pop the baby out and breastfeed the baby ( yeah ..yeah one can pump. But people who have pumped at work will be able to share the stories of the roadblocks in that. Plus at least 3-4 months a new mom has to stay home.)
    I have a 21 month old, and even though I took only a 6 week maternity break, I compromised on my career by working from home for few months, saying no to many travel oppurtunities, taking a 3 month break after he turned one to compensate for the time I had to travel and stay away from him. I don’t want another baby for sometime and we are taking all possible care to avoid that situation. But accidents do happen ( I have heard at least half a dozen contraception failure stories) and I am s*hit scared every month a few days before my period until I get my period. I can of course abort and that’s what I think I want to do, but when I actually think of doing it – probably I won’t. In fact I and my girl friends were discussing this in another context the other day and it is difficult when actually one has to make that decision.
    I have the most supportive husband I could have asked for ( he moved continents for me) but he never will go through the stress on hearing about accidental pregnancies, the thought of “what if I am pregnant”, “I don’t want another break in my career for another couple of years ” etc etc etc

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    • And the unsaid/less said thing about parenthood is that it only gets harder as children grow up. If it was only about breastfeeding and pumping at work, the solutions would be much easier to handle. Slaughter had children 10 and 12 when she started and made the call to not ‘run the world’ when they were 12 and 14.

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  8. While I agree that women need to be given flexible options, here’s one thing that has put me off. What of the men who work long hours. Well, some of us may not be married or have children, but that does not mean we do not have lives of our own. What about the things men give up — exercise, a visit to the library etc etc. (It’s true, trust me). This is why feminism will never be supported wholeheartedly by men. The reason being the concerns of men do not matter to feminists. Well I too would like a better work life balance for reasons of my own. Men can be at the beck and call for work, work insanely long hours, but never has a woman told her husband that you need to take it slow, we could do with a bit less, or take up a less stressful job, I too am taking up a job. It seems like men are beasts of burden. Has any feminist raised the question of work-life balance for men? And not merely where children are involved, just men — individual, married, staying with family etc etc — Apparently for feminists, work life balance is only suitable where children are involved and only for woman. Since men cannot bear children, they can be beasts of burden!!!!!! What if I am a single person and what a better work life balance for my own hobbies or activities??? Will feminists support such a demand? Should men work more than eight hours a day? If they should, then how long?
    Regards,
    KC.
    PS– There are various economic reasons too. I am not highlighting those because I want to raise the issue of simple work-life balance for men as men and the reason why feminists do not raise it. May the ladies help us men, all of us men, achieve a better work-life balance.

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      • Read it IHM. I still make the same case. Work-Life balance for all men rpt men is also necessary. Women can’t have it both ways — want to work, want the same salary, but not the the same hours. PGW has written about men earning more. I would have been happy if she had also written that men do the more dangerous jobs, more men die in workplace accidents, to balance it out. And there are studies that contradict her claim about men being paid more for the same work. As far as the SAHM excuses are concerned, they cut no ice with me because increasingly men like me have worked, cleaned, cooked, washed, managed a home at the same time. I have done it all for nearly a decade. Women’s claim that we men don’t know how to manage a home is hogwash. Been there, done that. I would have loved to comment on modern SAHMs, but i desist as many here might be put off by my bluntness. i would simply say that i do not like lazy women, whether at home or in office or in the factory. Regards, KC. PS – Feminists would do us men a favour if they could at least ask companies to ensure a work-life balance. Unfortunately, with the economy changing rapidly, the earlier ladder model has been rendered obsolete. We will have busier lives as compared to our fathers and in some cases mothers. This sounds harsh, but I would ask women to get used to it.

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        • KC, the concerns that you raise about men’s work-life balance are valid contemporary concerns. I do not know your experience level or the industry you are in, but having been in the IT industry for close to 15 years, I get where you are coming from. However, in spite of all that, IMHO, your comments seem misplaced, not to mention highly biased.

          Men do need work-life balance just as much as women do. However I do not understand why you are laying the blame for this on the feminists. As far as I know, no feminist has ever asked for men to be denied work-life balance. Your point seems to be that since feminists have not explicitly asked for work life balance for men, they should be held culpable for it. Does that make sense? If feminists do not explicitly ask for children to be educated, would you hold them culpable for child labor? If feminists do not explicitly ask for wealth to be distributed/created, would you hold them culpable for poverty? Please correct me if I’ve misunderstood your point.

          Your argument about lazy women is simply a straw man fallacy. Yes, I have encountered lazy women in the workplace, but I have encountered lot of hard-working women too. The same goes for men as well. Your bias shows in the fact that you do not seem to have any problem tarring all women with the same brush. Going by your argument, I agree lazy women do not deserve the same pay as hard working men. How about hard working women? Do you think they deserve the same pay as hard working men? How about lazy men? Do you think they deserve to get paid more than hard working women? Feminists are not asking for lazy women to be paid the same as hardworking men. What feminists are asking for here is a pay structure that is not influenced by gender and is based simply on merit and performance. Is this in line with what you want?

          I’m curious to know about the studies that contradict the claim that women are being paid less for the same work as men. Please post a link or reference to any of those studies.
          —————————————————–
          This is a link about the wage gap between men and women by the United States Department of Labor.
          http://social.dol.gov/blog/myth-busting-the-pay-gap/.

          Here is another study about the wage gap in US. http://www.catalyst.org/publication/217/womens-earnings-and-income

          I’m not sure if similar studies have been done in India. I haven’t come across any.
          —————————————————–
          I’m glad to hear that you’ve both worked and managed your household for the last decade. Our country needs more people like you. However, I’m curious. Did you wake up at around 4AM – 5AM everyday to do your house work, cook for your spouse, children and in-laws, start for office @ 8 AM, come back at 9 PM continue with house work, go to sleep at 11:30 and repeat the whole thing every single day (unless of course, there are night-outs or weekend work). If so, I tip my hat to you. The reason I bring this up is because this is pretty much the daily routine of the women working in my team. Maybe this is an extreme example. Then again, maybe not.

          My comments here are not simply to castigate you or to try and point flaws in your argument. Being a guy myself, I fully appreciate the problems that you have raised. However, by blaming feminists or lazy women, you are simply indulging in a witch-hunting exercise to make yourself feel better. You are not actually addressing the root cause – gender-defined roles assigned to both men and women by a patriarchal society. As long as this mindset is not changed, both men and women will keep facing these problems again and again.

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        • I really don’t know what to say to this because in the US South Asians are notorious for working long hours for less money and thus taking the jobs away from ‘others’ who want a life and ‘ask’ for what they deserve!!
          Over the years we have known several bachelors who were single when they came to the US and lived together in a small apartment (sharing the cost and ‘saving money’ which seems like the ultimate goal for most Indians btw, they wear ill-fitting, faded clothes, torn shoes, socks with holes in them and not spend a penny of what they earn on themselves). They worked looooong hours, even on weekends, unimaginable by the standards of their US counterparts and changed the whole scenario of expectations from employers. I am teased at work because my colleague lives close to the Intel workcenter and knows several Intel employees who are Indians and live close by. I am told how incredibly immune Indians are to stress…!! They can take long hours, work weekends after weekends, take bad attitude from their bosses, compromise on less salary and still be made to work more.
          One more thing I am teased about (nothing to do with this topic though)…when older Indians (the visiting parents of our NRI’s) are out on their morning or evening walks…why does the woman walk 10 feet behind the man who is her husband (walking with chest elated and looking proud with his wife walking behind him tethered like a goat), her head down looking like she would prefer to be anywhere else but where she is…? This colleague makes note of every elderly lady who walks the street with her husband and comes tells me the next day. It is such a biting truth that you can’t deny. I witness this most days myself.

          I feel for KC…it is wrong to categorize all Indian men into any one category. There are those who have no idea what it is to have a life and are used to the idea of slogging to the point of feeling comfortable with it…quite like women who are used to being abused and take it as a part of life.
          But then there are those who feel and realize there is something wrong and want to break away.

          So, let’s not blame anyone for wanting work-life balance…I think people regardless of their gender should help each other in the cause. And please, let us not ask anyone to get used to it.

          Hope that people (men and women) in management facilitate such changes that creates a flexible work environment for all. One of the reasons I love our management is ‘cuz every single employee (whether new or old, man or woman) is allowed flexibility to begin with. The motto is – as long as you deliver the job to the best of your capabilities, as long as you do what you’re hired for, it doesn’t matter if your butt is stuck to your chair for 8 hours straight. Also, we are NOT allowed to work from home on vacations or weekends unless of course there is an emergency that needs immediate attention. We have to explain why we came on a weekend or stayed late. It is NOT cool. And you are not considered any special or given any more importance than a person who comes and leaves on time, and does what he is hired to do. I think it is a simple and effective call.

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        • //As far as the SAHM excuses are concerned, they cut no ice with me because increasingly men like me have worked, cleaned, cooked, washed, managed a home at the same time.//

          Doing this for oneself and doing this for a family of 4-5 people is different.

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    • You might consider yourself a ‘beast of burden’ but throughout the world, men earn more than women with the same experience, so why not just enjoy that instead of fretting that feminists don’t care about your work-life balance? (When in fact many do!)

      Like

    • More reason for systems to change and look beyond a person as an employee/cog in the wheel, appreciate that people don’t need to be in the office to be productive and use technology when it exists! You seem to forget that supporting feminism and better working conditions benefit all. Because men are also disadvantaged by patriarchy. How about always being a ‘beast of burden’ just because you’re a man? Isn’t that the state of affairs today?

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    • Yes, please read the article carefully, KC. She clearly says that the problem is not only women who have trouble balancing work-family, but also men. Men make enormous sacrifices (not coming to children’s shows or games, lack of free time, performance pressure). That is wrong but the difference is that men are conditioned to see themselves as the breadwinner and cannot easily cast off their work obligations. The same conditioning works in the opposite direction for women: If it comes to a decision between their family or work, they are subtly pressured to choose family. If we could throw out both of those unfair expectations of the sexes, men could go home more and women could go to work more. It’d be a more gender equal society. I think it was Gloria Steinem who said “Every time you free a woman, you also free a man.”

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    • If all of us had work life balance, we won’t have this post here. Most people have a life outside of work, it could be just reading a book or hanging out with friends or some kind of social service or raising a kid or whatever else they choose to do. Why should that matter? Everyone should be able to have a balance without being judged. When 50% of the population gives in to unrealistic expectations, only because their drive to maintain a work life balance is not as intense (yes, I am being prejudistic here), that puts the rest of the 50% in a place where they have to fight for what is their right.

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    • If you want a worklife balance, then ask for it. That’s what the article is about. Its about CEO’s and CXO’s recognising that employees, men and women, have a life beyond the cubicle walls – not just babies, but friends, lovers, hobbies whatever. The overarching issue of worklife balance across the globe is that the corporate world and all its rules and rituals were built by men in another time altogether. You’re a man – let the change start with you.

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    • K C you write “Men can be at the beck and call for work, work insanely long hours, but never has a woman told her husband that you need to take it slow, we could do with a bit less, or take up a less stressful job, I too am taking up a job.” Never have you known women to say that??? Wow, you need to meet some nicer women. But jokes aside, I understand your point of view, in that we seem to be living in times where workers are being asked to put in more and more hours and with less and less compensation. I have a friend (male) who has been working for 20 odd yrs for the same company, and his work load has increased so much as his company lays of more and more people in his group and he takes over their work load. His benefits also have been cut significantly. So he works like a dog and the company profits increase. I do not know if Indians are facing or will eventually face a similar situation. But my point is that, it is not feminism you should direct your ire at. They are not the problem. Feminists demand parental leave (not just maternal leave). Better conditions for working women benefit society as a whole. Feminists will not demand better work life for single men, because that is not their agenda. It is for unions (which are being slowly gutted) which have to demand better working conditions for all workers. If you are tired, exhausted and overworked, then tired exhausted overworked mothers are not to be blamed. It’s your employer which is ruining your work balance.

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  9. Nice story! But a never ending one! Communism has actually done a lot of good to women, I have couple of friends from east block (eastern Europe or Russia) and I find them extremely strong and empowered in terms of doing both, a job and parenting. They don’t compromise on any. They don’t feel guilt for first thing. Their upbringing have given them this internal confidence that it is fine to have a child while you are a working woman. They have got a society where Government had brought up child care facilities, food facilities to let women work, they have grown in a sphere where their and their friend’s mothers used to work too. So for them it is nothing but normal too balance between the too and find out all the means and use them for the purpose of balancing. They take a break when needed, they move forward when they can, they don’t fall into guilt grip – the most important I have learnt. Once we women are fine with this- we will see our less trained men will start understand us too. They have never seen mass working of women before. They have grown up seeing mother as a nurturer. Industrial revolution is happening now in India. Men and women need to tackle this situation smartly. Women can go on an on about their families, I agree, people at office are not always eager to listen all about your family, specially under hovering deadlines. We need to find a balance, and need to compartmentalise our thoughts. When we have too many emotions going on home front, it is better to take some days off, settle them down and then come to work with fresh mind. We also need to follow certain rule as it fits us and give a straight message to the office that at this point I am not a worker anymore I am a family person, like not attending regular calls in the evening or keeping weekends free. Positive reinforcement will make the vibes clearer. If we are proactive and enthusiastic and good at our work, I have noticed office do respect personal sphere of a man and of a woman.

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    • Communism has nothing to do with women empowering themselves. A ‘couple of friends’ are really not representative of what women have to go through in countries which used to follow the communist ideology. Think the Ukraine, or China. Ukraine has the highest number of female prostitutes among the European countries, most of them forced into it, and with few opportunities to make a dignified living. China with its male-child-favoring culture is no better off.

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      • Yes, I agree communism is a failure for many other aspects, but I would like to say that communism has brought some sense of equality in the society. In India also if we see deeply, women from communist states are more vocal about their rights. Even a one child and male child favouring china has opened large numbers of 24/7 day cares for the working parents. Working mothers get lots of support from that. Here the discussion is not about economy and its failing in a communist society but the situation of working women and what state have done for them and how generations of women coming out of their homes in masses have helped a woman in general.

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  10. I am a SAHM. My career has never been steady because of marriage, then relocation, then visa restrictions and then the baby! Right now my career seems to be on hold because of my child. Not that I am complaining. But I feel terribly guilty for not working.
    Ideally it would have been better if I had established myself in career first and then had a baby. But that was not my case.
    To be frank, now I don’t want to be in a job which keeps me away from home more than necessary. I mean, even when my kid starts a full time school, I only want to be away for the time she is away. I might never get into a job which does not provide me with that kind of flexibility. I am thinking of a different career plan altogether to suit my “new” needs. I hope that at least I find a career that would make use of my talents and be fulfilling.

    When I notice my friends who are working moms, I see exhaustion on their face. They are all exhausted doing the balancing act. I often hear them complain how they are not able to give their best at work. Hence they themselves feel guilty to ask for a raise or a promotion. Some feel guilty for leaving their kids that they put extra effort to spend time with them, ignoring their exhaustion.

    The article pinpoints why this is happening. I mean, I don’t want to give up my motherhood just to be in a career. That is a tough choice! My motherly instincts cannot bear to see myself leaving my baby, while the “independent” me cannot bear to see myself not working. It is tough for mothers!

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  11. Pingback: The economic systems argument | Life and Times in Bangalore

  12. I left my job to care for my daughter, but i intend to join back the workforce. So, how successful women executives manage the work life balance is the question that has always intrigued me. This topic is very fascinating to me.
    I have 8 years of work experience, and my experience of these years says that to climb the ladder at the work, you have to put in extra hours, never say no to any work that comes your way & be pro-active. My last job demanded 10-12 hours work from me.
    My husband encouraged me to work and leave my daughter with grand-parents. I know they love their grand daughter, and will do their best for her. but i wanted to be around to see her milestones, breast feed her and to raise her the way i thought was right. i also could not think of working again for 10-12 hours every day and see my daughter for 1-2 hours a day or sometimes only on weekends. So, in my case i had to choose between work and my daughter (it may not be true for everybody).
    I know many women (from my office) who continued to work in the same way after having the babies. They either left their kids with grand parents (in different city) or left them at day care. While I respect their choice, i realize that i am not up for these choices. Leaving the baby with grand parents ensures that she is in safe hands, it also ensures that the mother doesn’t have many chores to do. But it means that you see your baby only on weekends, which is something i don’t want to do.
    The option of leaving the baby in day care posed 2 problems for me. I am not sure how safe my baby will be in a day care, with many child abuse cases we hear. Also, leaving a baby in day care means a hell lot of work for a mother. The lady i know has a hubby with a touring kind of job. so she ends up cooking food for the whole day for her baby, dropping the baby to day-care and picking him up after work, managing deadlines at work, again cooking food in the night, taking the baby to doctor and all other chores in the house is done by her. I am really awed by the way she does all the work, but i can’t do this. I can’t take so much stress.
    Though, i would like to add here that my brother and i have been raised by a working mother. we used to go to day-care, and we liked going there. we were well cared for and have turned out be alright🙂. but what i realize is that while my dad took promotions at work, my mom refused them, so that she can spend limited amount of time at work and give extra time to my brother and me. When i asked her why she was not getting promoted, she told me that either of the parent has to be around for children and she would like to be around and hence was not taking promotions.
    But still i was made to believe that i can do whatever my brother could do and vice versa, which was actually pretty much true till i didn’t have my daughter. But when i had her i realized that if i want to breast feed her, i’ll have to stay back with her. and once i left the job, it became a little difficult to leave her and go back. I thought of using this time to learn things that i always wanted to learn but didn’t because i didn’t have time due to my hectic work schedule🙂. But go back, i must and i will. As my daughter will start her school and won’t need me around so much, i would want to go back to work, as i don’t want my life to be limited to my daughter, husband and home. But what i realize is that probably, i’ll have to start slow and opt for career options that will give me more time with my daughter.

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  13. Pingback: The labor of love « techie2mom

  14. This is what goes well for our Indian societal norms

    Oh.! I am sorry, I didn’t realize that you’re an expert on my life and how I should live it.! Please continue while I take notes.!

    (Taken from a fb share.!)

    Advise.! Advise.! Advise.! And for a woman, this thing never runs short.! Always in ample supply.! Whether she is living her life as a typical Indian woman must, or whether she is not living her life that way.! Huh.! D owe suffer from some kinda sickness in our genes that had made us so backward.!?

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  15. i have something to add on,
    one of my colleagues, his wife works in a place which is quite far of from the city, and he stays near the office. he is the one who goes during the lunch to feed her, and takes permission from boss to leave early when daughter is sick etc etc.. so here it was nothing to do with men/women.. it was joint parenting and moreover because of the job location and feasibility
    now a days govt has given this child care leave to ensure that kids are taken care of in need.. .its 600 days of leave which can be taken anytime till the child attains 15 years.. is this not a great thing?? when such things are coming up, women can bring up the child with their professional work. ..

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  16. Why are male CEOs and government officials not writing agnised articles about parenting and work? Why is it that men NEVER write about work-life conflicts with so much agonised soul-searching?

    The answer to that question may answer why “women can’t have it all”. Men are, so women can’t.

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  17. I wish to elaborate a little about men “having it all”. By this I mean that not enough men wish to push the envelope as much as do women.

    This is a struggle that will only be won if men join hands with women. For every female executive who is passed over for promotion because of “family issues” is a male executive who has never attended a PTA meeting.

    As long as men put up with unfair workplace expectations silently, women are going to fight with their hands tied behind their backs.

    It amazes me how few men ever speak up about work-family issues. I can only conclude that for the vast majority of men, being the breadwinner and the achiever is way more important than being a partner and an equal parent. Don Draper lives on.😦

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  18. Thankfully, I have a supportive boss. He allows mothers in the team to take time off to tend to children or other personal issues. As a team lead, I encourage my team to have work-life balance and offer flexibility to new mothers. However, we are aware that the time off taken should be compensated and work should not be hampered. Colleagues from other teams would remark “we also have children, but we would go home late or carry work home. We did not take time off for kids so often. If people leave office on time, it means they do not have enough work”. I replied “That is an old school of thought. If people are smart enough they can wrap up their day’s work within the stipulated time and go back home to be with the family. Family surely comes first. I do not worry much if my team members or I take time off to be with children, as long we deliver results.” I have never hestitated to take time off to be with my daughter, whenever needed.

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  19. Pingback: ‘The work that should be shared by all members of the family becomes a sole person’s duty.’ | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  20. Pingback: Labor of Love - Payment for Delivering the baby or a Vacation? | Indian Moms Connect

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