Boys don’t cry. – Starry Eyed
Guest Post by wordssetmefreee
If you are a mother who works in a conventional office setting, the scenario in the following article by Katharine Zaleski may sound familiar to you:
Two telling excerpts from the article:
“I secretly rolled my eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last minute drinks with me and my team. I questioned her “commitment” even though she arrived two hours earlier to work than me and my hung over colleagues the next day.”
“I sat in a job interview where a male boss grilled a mother of three and asked her, “How in the world are you going to be able to commit to this job and all your kids at the same time?” I didn’t give her any visual encouragement when the mother – who was a top cable news producer at the time – looked at him and said, “Believe it or not, I like being away from my kids during the workday… just like you.””
Zaleski’s article makes some great points on
- the attitude of younger women/male and female non-parents/male employees with kids(fathers) toward employees who are mothers
- the very little empathy and support that mothers receive at the workplace
- the condescension with which they are viewed when they have to cancel a meeting or need to take an unexpected day off
However, this successful, professional woman ignores the role of fathers in parenting: What I find disappointing about this article is
- The author reserved her condescension (in the past) only for mothers, and did not extend it to fathers as well. Many men in senior management tend to be married with kids. Yet no one questions them if they have to cancel a meeting because it is assumed that the cancellation has nothing to do with parenting responsibilities or family time. This is representative of many people I’ve known here, both men and women.
- Why is the role of fathers never discussed when we talk about over-burdened mothers?
- When we say workplaces are “male-oriented”, what do we mean? Do we mean that they revolve around the needs of men, with little understanding of the needs of women?
- Does this imply that taking care of kids should not be a male concern and only women workers must worry about childcare and parenting?
- Why can’t we start using the term “parent-friendly” instead of “mother-friendly” to refer to workplaces that provide flexible schedules, work-from-home options, and more autonomy to their employees?
The change in perspective that Katharine Zaleski experienced is commendable. She started a company, PowerToFly that matches women with technical skills to remote jobs that they can perform from home. I’m glad she is doing something to make it possible to tap into the talents of countless women who lack sufficient supports at home.
However, we need to start having discussions on the role of fathers in parenting. Even in the US, men and women still play very traditional roles when it comes to parenting.
Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In is in the same vein – it talks about how women need to be more assertive in the workplace but doesn’t discuss how fathers need to do their fair share at home.
We seem to be fighting for equality in the workplace but remain content with inequality at home by turning mothers into supermoms.
How can we expect people at work to treat women (and mothers) as equals if we don’t change our gender based attitudes toward housework and parenting?
Some experiences I’ve had in this regard:
Everywhere I go, I’m seen as being solely responsible for all tasks related to children and home.
My children’s pediatrician, a woman, always concludes the visit with a list of instructions meant for me alone, even if my husband is present.
“Make sure he takes this 3 times a day with meals, “ she says, looking at me, then turns to my son and says, “Mommy’s gonna get you all better buddy!”
I encounter this at my kids’ school on the days I volunteer in the classroom.
The teacher says to some kids, “Oh look what mommy packed you for lunch today! You are one lucky kid!”
All emails from the teacher to the volunteering parents are addressed, “Dear Ladies”, and unfortunately, most of them ARE ladies.
I encounter this at my workplace too. Even the compliments are suffocating.
“I don’t know how you do it all!” (I DON’T do it all. I do my fair share of the work, my husband does his fair share and we let go the things we can’t do.)
A recent conversation with my friend, a full time working mom:
She works full time at a very aggressive company with an extremely stressful work environment. The other day, she was complaining about taking home work again over the weekend.
She said, “My boss is such a slave driver. Lucky for him, he has a stay at home wife to take care of his kids.”
So, she puts another woman down for her legitimate choice but doesn’t hold her own husband accountable.
I said to her, “They must’ve made a joint decision on that. When one parent chooses to stay home, the family takes a huge cut in income. The advantage is more work life balance, with one parent taking care of earning, while the other takes care of home duties. When both parents work, they must share cooking, cleaning, and parenting duties. Either way, people should do whatever works for them. In both cases, both parents should share the overall work fairly. “
To this, she said, “The problem is, my husband can come home and relax, but I can’t. He doesn’t feel guilty about not spending time with my daughter or if there’s no food at home. I do.”
This then is the crux of the problem. Women are finally getting more choices and opportunities work wise. But we come home and nothing much has changed. Women still need to make those meals and care for their children. And if the working mother fails at achieving this impossible state, then she punishes herself with guilt. It’s still her job and her job alone to cook, clean, do dishes, laundry, and parent the kids.
Another seemingly small incident that brings to light the casual guilt inducing culture mothers are surrounded by:
I was in line at the grocery store. A woman in front of me with a child in tow placed 3 frozen food type of lunches, 2 cans of soup, and a carton of milk on the counter.
The cashier, who was probably just making small talk with her, said breezily, “I guess you’re not cooking today!!:)))”
The woman looked slightly stricken, and then went on to painfully explain why she was picking up those frozen food lunches and soup cans. “Well tomorrow, I’m expecting guests so I have to clean my entire house and prep for the elaborate meal I’m going to make. So, you know …. (smiles apologetically) …. I’m trying to simplify at least today’s meals.”
The cashier and the customer are probably unaware of this exchange as being guilt inducing. But it’s all around us. I’m sure he wouldn’t have made that comment to a man buying those frozen items.
Or worse, he might’ve said, “Guess, your wife’s out of town!!:))”
For this mindset to change, we should start changing workplaces not only to support mothers but to also change our expectations for fathers. We need to start building a workplace culture that encourages work life balance – a place where a father can proudly say he needs to leave early to attend his daughter’s soccer game.
To a smaller extent, I do see this happening. One of my colleagues, a marketing manager goes for a run with his daughter on Wednesday afternoons (which is a short school day) to help her train for marathons. Another colleague, a graphic designer, alternates short and long working days with her husband, so they take turns picking up the kids and cooking. My husband and I do the same thing. I know one dad in the autism support group that I run who does business consulting work (for startups) from home and takes care of the home and kids, while his wife has a full time in-office type of job.
Sheryl Sandberg’s next book, “Lean In Together” talks about how men need to do their fair share at home.
“About time we discussed that!” was my first thought, when I heard about the book’s release – although a little voice in my head said, with the kind of money Sandberg and her husband make, did they ever have to worry about household chores when they can hire fantastic help?:-) What do they even know about the struggles of everyday kind of families? But let’s ignore that for a moment and look at the advice.
Although she gives suggestions that make sense (share the house work 50/50, be equally involved with your kids, etc.), the overall pitch of the book seems a bit salesy. The “perks” of gender equality at home include “better sex for spouses and better profits for companies (due to more satisfied, productive employees), more promotions to go around and 5% growth in our GDP”. This to me seems like a desperate sell to get men to do their fair share of work. Or a bid to get privileged, white boys club type managers to look down kindly on their male subordinates going home earlier to do “a bit more” at home.
Gender equality at home may not bring higher profits and higher profits and productivity and benefits to men should not be the driving force behind gender equality.
The REAL positive outcome for men from gender equality at home? Dads get to give their children hugs and wipe their tears. Dads get to cheer their kids at sports. Dads get to really know their kids and earn their trust and respect and love. Moms get to be human because the work is shared fairly. When moms feel good, they can bond better with their husbands. Husbands “benefit” too from this emotional bonding and warmth. This is not exactly in the category of “profitable” but it’s an awesome feeling and you can’t put a price on it.
But all of the above benefits to men – better bonding with their spouses and children – are things that flow from doing the right thing. We must do the right thing simply because it’s right, not for a benefit. And I think it’s not just important to bring about change, but to do so for the right reasons, so that the change is genuine and long lasting.
Gender equality begins at home. And it matters because it’s fair. Because women deserve equality. Like everyone else. It’s that simple.
Please share your thoughts and experiences on the sharing of housework, parenting, and workplace attitudes.
I talked about my experiences in the US. If you live elsewhere, in what respects are your experiences different/same in Europe and other countries in Asia (Singapore, China, Japan, India, etc.)?
I am always amazed – Where do ‘the authorities’ get so much confidence? What makes them so sure that they always know better than the students? (specially in matters that are not related to their fields of expertise)
Make up should be sober and unobtrusive. Translucent dresses are forbidden…
Lady students should wear tops with sleeves which should be minimum 4 inches and the top should be at least 7 inches below the waist.
(Ladies may please insure (sic) that the shoes/sandals cover the foot completely). Please note that flipons (sic)/slippers/floaters are strictly prohibited.”
And the aim?
Asked about the new dress code, Singhal immediately said that the rules were all on paper. “The rules were introduced to bring about discipline in the college. This is a professional course and all colleges have dress codes for their students as to bring about uniformity in the college,” he said. [link]
This raises some questions.
1. What does the college aim to achieve by creating ‘rules on paper’? To use them when convenient perhaps?
2. The 4 inches, 7 inches and translucent dresses – How is all this related to the reason given – “discipline”? How do sleeveless tops affect discipline?
Do we sense concerns like these here: Girls in AMU library will ‘attract’ boys: VC ?
What happens when the students step out of the college? Does the college suggest imposing of 4″ sleeves on any woman who steps out into the street?
3. Educational institutions are service providers – do they believe that they have the right to control the personal lives of the consumers they provide services to?
4. If the idea is to prepare the students for the real world – then why don’t our institutions teach young adults (and little children) about deciding/thinking/choosing for themselves? About their right to their bodies,minds, dreams and futures? And about freedom and human rights and gender equality?
How does this kind of infantilising influence the confidence of those it controls?
Who do you think is the best judge, when it comes to taking personal decisions, for each one of us?
I read and loved these lines, shared by Women’s Web on facebook.
There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide What’s right for you – just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.
Maybe such colleges have the parents’ support when they make such rules. They are aware that many Indian parents are made uncomfortable by any attempts by the youth (or anybody else we can control) to think for themselves.
Many of us don’t agree with the idea of letting ‘children’ (of all ages) think for themselves.
Why do men NOT have to choose between being a CEO and a father, but women have to make this choice.
Guest Post by SK
I found Indra Nooyi’s recent interview disappointing,to say the least. Here’s the link – Why PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi Can’t Have It All
Nooyi’s conversation with her mother:
“I had great news for you. I’ve just been told that I’m going to be president on the Board of Directors. And all that you want me to do is go out and get the milk, what kind of a mom are you?” And she said to me, “let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother. You’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don’t bring it into the house. You know I’ve never seen that crown.”
My comment: Agreed. But shouldn’t Nooyi’s husband too held to the same standard. He may be a CEO or have some other successful career, but when he comes home, shouldn’t he be a husband, father, son, son-in-law first? This is so so sad. Her daughter accomplished a great deal against great odds. The mother does not acknowledge this. She responds by insisting her daughter adhere strictly to gender stereotypes. She demands her to be a “mother and daughter first” while Nooyi’s husband doesn’t have to be a “father and son first”.
Nooyi on raising her daughters:
“And every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions. And you have to co-opt a lot of people to help you. We co-opted our families to help us. We plan our lives meticulously so we can be decent parents. But if you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom. I’m not sure.”
My comment: Agreed, when we have children, it is our duty to be good parents,involved parents. And when we haven’t been as involved as we like, then the blame and guilt rests with both parents. Again why is the guilt only hers? He attends an important meeting and misses the kids’ performance, that’s understandable, but not when she does it? Actually if her husband shared in the parenting duties, they both would have nothing to feel guilty about. When something urgent comes up at work and one of us can’t keep up an appointment at school, my husband and I covered for each other numerous times. We always made sure one of us is there for the kids at a performance, and preferably both. It is possible for both parents to work and be involved with their kids – but only if both parents pitch in for parenting.
Nooyi on Parent Teacher Coffee meetings:
“Every Wednesday morning they had class coffee with the mothers. Class coffee for a working woman—how is it going to work? How am I going to take off 9 o’clock on Wednesday mornings? So I missed most class coffees. My daughter would come home and she would list off all the mothers that were there and say, “You were not there, mom.”
My comment: This is so outdated! They call these Parent Teacher coffee mornings. Either father or mother or another caregiver (grandma/grandpa) can go. My husband and I have taken turns attending these since my son was in pre-K. Now my
older one is 15, that’s 12 years of meetings, at least 4 per year, times 2 for both kids.
There are lots of dads at these meetings. Whichever parent is available will make it. We also had some families with gay parents. What are you going to say to them?
Sorry this is for moms only. You are a guy so you can’t attend? What planet is Nooyi living on? She’s the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in 2014 but living in the middle ages?
Nooyi calls herself “bad mother” to her daughter:
“The first few times I would die with guilt. But I developed coping mechanisms.
I called the school and I said, “give me a list of mothers that are not there.” So when she came home in the evening she said, “You were not there, you were not there.”And I said, “ah ha, Mrs. Redd wasn’t there, Mrs. So and So wasn’t there. So I’m not the only bad mother.”
My comment: Again, where’s dad? Is he even in the picture? Oh wait! He’s busy attending an important meeting, so yes we fully understand why he can’t make the coffee morning. So Nooyi is a ‘bad mother’ but he’s not a ‘bad father’? So this
is what a woman who could be a fantastic role model to young girls teaches her daughter? That not being able to make a Coffee morning makes her a ‘bad mother’?
I’ve always admired Indra Nooyi for her business skills and her leadership and how she got there despite the odds against her. Perhaps, this is why I found her responses so disheartening. If educated, highly successful women uphold such regressive ideas, what hope is there for those less privileged?
What does Patriarchy see as the biggest threat to it’s rigid hierarchical gender stereotypes?
Dads who behave like sensitive, loving, responsible, caring parents – who don’t believe their worth as parents begins and ends at providing, controlling, disciplining and ‘protecting’.
Dads like these – who redefine ‘family’ 🙂
IT WAS the phone call that changed Peter Mercurio’s life forever, although he didn’t know it at the time.
[Link shared by M]
…Danny, was on the other end, more frantic than he had ever heard him, explaining that he had just found a baby in a New York City Subway station.
“I found a baby!” Pete recalls Danny shouting, in a piece he wrote for The New York Times. “I called 911, but I don’t think they believed me. No one’s coming. I don’t want to leave the baby alone. Get down here and flag down a police car or something.”
Falling in love with my son
“I decided to join him on the visit but I didn’t want to become attached to the baby — which meant I didn’t want to hold him. I also didn’t want to feel like we had to rescue him from a ‘bad’ home. At the home, Danny held the baby, then held him out for me to take. Reflexively, I put my arms out. The baby was in my arms. I was scared to death and trembling, but it melted my resistance. There was an instant bond.”
On the Subway ride home, Pete told Danny that he was in it with him — they were going to be parents. They named their baby Kevin.
Sharing an email.
I was a girl who had to fight tooth and nail for my choice. The way I dress, the way I remain non-religious in a conservative ****** family, the way I chose my stream, the way I chose how to have fun…
It was because I think my mum believed that you shouldn’t agree to everything your child says for she will go out of hands. May be that is why I had to start asking my mum atleast a week ago even if it’s permission to watch a movie with friends.
Things changed after going to Chennai and then to Delhi for highers. I started doing things without asking until an incident taught me that I’d better inform even if I didnt get permission. And surprise surprise. Permissions, Oks and YES cam easily from my parents.
Movies, road trips, dine outs, parties… Ok mole (Beta). The hours I spent trying to put together point for arguing with my mumm wasn’t needed at all.
It was disconcerting rather than liberating. Suspicious even. My parents accepting that their daughter is actually grown up? Last week we made a sudden plan to go to Goa. “Mumm, I am going to Goa.” “Ok Mole… Enjoy”. Huh!!???
Am I so tuned to her disapproval, fights with parents but uncomfortable with this liberation? Or do I need time to get used to it. Is this what you are calling ‘seeking validation’?
Of course when I come home, she makes comments on how I dress, about behaving like a good Indian ****** girl etc etc. It’s back to the same ‘trying to control’ when I come home on occasional weekends.
Do Indian girls find it hard to accept liberation even when they have it? Arghh I need a reality check!!!
* * *
This October we initiated a much planned and discussed remodelling of our kitchen. Plumbing, woodwork, tiling – the works.
On one of the days, there was rubble on the living room floor and the gas stove and the microwave had been placed on the dining table, but the awesome Delhi winters had just begun and we decided to make pao bhaaji together, in the little free space available on the dining table. Brat Three eagerly peeled three garlic cloves and washed six tomatoes, and offered endless suggestions.
As we finally sat down to demolish hot, butter soaked paos Brat Three declared she was very happy and this was the kind of meals she loved 😀
“You like meals with all this mess around?” Did it take a sackful of broken tiles to make Brat Three happy?
Ofcourse, what she was loving was more than just the cooking together and the eating together.
What does make Brat Three happy?
She had been practising for a dance for the Annual Function in her school. The daily rehearsals at home, typically included what everybody else was doing, what they were saying and forgetting to say. One such time I started recording, she noticed the mobile and started acting silly. I warned her I was going to continue recording. Making faces at the camera, she danced on one foot, danced on the sofa, danced with her back to the camera (on one foot), and then sang and danced to Bum Bum Bole from ‘Tare zameen par’ – with her back to the camera. 🙄 Then finally she turned to face the camera, coming closer, crossing her eyes, blinking and winking (etc etc). All recorded.
Brat Three: “You recorded all of it?”
IHM: “Come and watch.”
And it was funny. Maybe not as funny to everybody else, but it had me in splits. We watched and laughed a lot and then she wanted to watch it again. Brat Three seemed to be looking at my face all the time she was laughing.
Brat Three: “Play it again!”
IHM: “Again?? Okay.”
Some more laughter.
Brat Three: “One more time.” So I patiently played it again, but Brat Three was watching my face instead of the video.
IHM: “What happened?”
Brat Three:”Laugh. Laugh again!”
IHM: “I have already seen it, so it is not as funny as the first time… you want to watch it again? We should watch it sometime later, then it will be more fun.”
Brat Three:”No. Play it again and laugh. Let’s watch it again and then you laugh again.”
IHM:”I am not laughing aloud, but I am still enjoying it. You want to watch it…?”
But she didn’t want to just watch the video again, she wanted the laughter. Just the laughter. And she sensed that she was the reason for that laughter.
I told her I was very happy we were a family. And immediately she wanted to hear, once again, the story of how she brought back music and laughter in our lives, with her spirited, determined, vivacious presence. And what makes Brat Three happy is, I think, (amongst a million other things) happy faces around her – specially when she is at the source of all that joy. Maybe that is what acceptance is all about?
Brat Three came back from the park looking angry and determined. She asked for my phone to call a friend who lives in the next building. I attempted to find what happened.
“Maybe I can help you?”
“No. I just want to talk to S.”
Well, it was just another nine year old she wanted to speak to. So I dialled the number on my mobile and gave her the phone, she took the phone, still looking upset, and walked into her own room and pushed the door shut. What would you do? I was puzzled by her reluctance to share what was bothering her but I also felt she had a right to a conversation with a friend who is the same age (and who I knew reasonably well).
And I could hear the conversation anyway.
“S. why did you tell me not to talk to F? Why should I stop talking to F? I am both’s friend. You can’t tell me not to talk to F or J or D, okay? I will talk to whoever I want to talk. Why did you say you will not call me to your birthday if I talk to F?”
There was some response, I couldn’t hear clearly although the phone was on speaker.
“If you will not call me for your birthday then I will also not call you for MY birthday party. Okay? I am not getting angry, I am explaining to you nicely. I am your friend and F is also my friend, I am both’s friend.”
There was some response, which she seemed to find satisfactory, because the tone changed, “Then I will also call you for my birthday and I will call F also and J and D.”
The same points were further stressed in the next few sentences and then a bye.
Brat Three came out and gave the phone to me, looking visibly relieved. “S is going to call me for his birthday and I will also call him for my birthday. I told him. I didn’t get angry, I explained to him nicely. I will not stop talking to F. I am both’s friend.”
When we flew home with Brat Three the first time in July 2012, she stood looking outside the window, asking an odd question and looking outside, very calm, very well mannered and very quiet. Quite unlike her real self.
Then, this June we flew to Baghdogra and I realised how much more comfortable and ‘herself’ she had become. She laughed aloud at the take-off and then had endless questions about everything she saw. And then she asked,
“Tejaswee kahan hai? Main itnee der se clouds mein dekh rahee hoon, mujhe to kaheen naheen dikh rahee. Maybe she is behind that cloud, in that hole.”
(Where is Tejaswee? I am looking for her in these clouds but I can’t see her anywhere.”) This June, while searching online for a school project, we found dolls’ furniture, and hoping it would keep her occupied during the long, long days of the summer vacations, we decided to try making some. Didn’t realise how much she would love this bed… or maybe what she loved was the process of the making of the doll’s bed.
(When you die, you will go up, up in the clouds. Then you must come back as my friend, then I will become happy again.)
“Why have you hung Tejaswee’s big pictures on the wall here?”
“Because I miss her… she is not here with us.”
“Don’t you miss me? Put my pictures, big pictures.”
“You are here. We are all here… we can hug and hold each other…”
“When she comes back then you remove her photos and put my pictures.”
We have talked about death and attempted to talk about cells, heart (with a You Tube video) and breathing and ‘not feeling anything anymore’, about ‘going up’ and about ‘never coming back’, but how do we explain what we don’t want to or can’t understand?
I gave her a hug. “She will never come back Brat Three.”
“Sometimes it can happen, sometimes she can come back.” (She says the same thing about the Delhi Metro, “Sometimes there can be 5 coaches in the metro.” Or, “Sometimes Sunday can come again after Monday.”)
“If she comes back, she will herself remove her photographs and put your photographs up here.”
What do you think of this mother? How do you think would the ‘social order’ be impacted with this kind of parenting? Have you ever met mothers or parents or families like this?
Link shared by Gk from tears&dreams, with the message: “Felt like sharing the article with you. Its funny and sweet and talks about family in a way that would be hard to imagine for most Indians. I can’t think of anyone else who’d understand why I loved it.”
Can you think of two people who would love this story?
The day my daughter arrived home from her first year in college, her boyfriend moved in. They didn’t consult me.
One day I was happily living alone in my two-bedroom Seattle apartment, and the next I had two teenage roommates, one of whom I hardly knew. The boyfriend, who was still a high school senior, had been my daughter’s summer fling before she left for college last September.
With my last child gone, I thought I’d be terribly sad and lonely. And I was — for about 10 minutes. After I had spent a brief stint lying on her bed mourning her childhood, I did what my own mother had done: I gathered the stuff she had left behind and moved it to the basement storage unit.
Then I took over the office nook she had claimed (but hardly ever used) and made it my own.
I installed shelves and filled them with my reference books. I stocked the refrigerator and cupboards with gluten-free, low-fat food. I bought soap in scents that pleased me and shampoo that suited my hair type. I rearranged the furniture and cleaned the house from top to bottom.
With each pass of the vacuum, I found myself becoming cheerier. My husband had moved to our farm on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington with our two dogs to pursue his dream of being a homesteader, changing our marriage into a long-distance arrangement with occasional weekend visits. I found myself, for the first time in 35 years, living alone in a perfectly tidy apartment. I loved it.
When I asked if the boyfriend might help out a little by doing dishes or taking out the compost, my daughter said, “He’s phobic about getting his hands dirty.”
“I’m sure that works well for him,” I replied.
Weeks passed as the lovebirds languished in my apartment. I’d leave for work at 10:30 a.m. and return at 7 p.m. to find them exactly where I had left them: sprawled on the couch watching reruns of “Monk.” The only way I could tell they had even moved was that the food I had bought for dinner was gone and the kitchen was a mess.
The boyfriend’s mother, upset that her 18-year-old son hardly came home anymore…
Please do read the entire story at –