I’m generally against men joining in the “What about me?” whining brigade. Particularly middle class white men, the least discriminated against groups in the history of time claiming that false allegations of rape are as the same problem as piss-poor prosecution of sexual offences (yes, they are immensely damaging, but the scale of the issue is so different as to be utterly and completely incomparable). Or positive discrimination somehow pushing men into a second class citizen at work: as if board quotas don’t mean that a woman has to work twice as hard to prove she got the job on merit rather than statistics. Or any other whining complaint; as though they can’t bear being left out of any club, even one which offers nothing but frustration and disadvantage.
I’ve written before though about how our language towards working parents needs to change. My husband works a 4.5 day week, and we are doing the sums to see if that can become 4. He wants to do this: it’s how he gets to know the little man better. He will never get this time back. It supports me in my career. We’d both like to handover the little man a little bit less to the wilds of nursery. The advice he gives to his friends who are about to become dads is to work out seriously think about positioning themselves so their career is such that they can take a break. Or downshift a little bit.
And the response from these dads, or dads-to-be, is a pretty consistent no. Not across the board; but close. A lot of it is financial. For various reasons, the men in our group tend to be the main breadwinners. But a lot of it is cultural. We expect mothers to need flexibility at work; more and more companies are doing their best to meet that expectation. The same doesn’t apply to fathers. At all. Nobody asked the bigger man whether he would be returning to work full time after his (brief) paternity leave. There aren’t part-time roles or workers around him, or job share fairs in his very male dominated industry.
This isn’t fair. It isn’t fair for mothers, who have to shoulder the majority of the childcare burden. But it also isn’t fair to fathers. Why shouldn’t they be able to flex work around their life? We cannot consistently break the glass ceiling for women unless we make it possible for our men to support us at home.