It has not happened once or twice. It has happened many times. Working women ask for time off because they need to take care of a sick child or to take a child to an event. Where is the husband? Why is he not staying at home to do it?
Oh, he must go to work.
There is a problem here.
It appears as if the primary obligation of men is to their work and the primary obligation of women is to the home and family. Men must go to work, and women must go home for the children.
But if that is true, women are caught in a double bind: family or work. Or family and work, which can be very stressful and sometimes impossible to maneuver successfully.
This conflict has its price. Women are not treated the same in regards to promotions and salary? They can not be as committed to the job as men are expected to be. Men do not dare to disrupt their work. It is not strange that men are preferred for many jobs where attendance is of primary importance.
What is the solution?
I believe that someone should have the main responsibility for the family. Children are the first priority. I don’t care if it is a man or a woman who takes this responsibility, but I believe that whoever does should be very clear about what their priorities are. They should be willing to accept the potential career consequences. Let’s stop asking to have our cake and eat it, too.
Scandinavian men share family responsibilities. There you can expect a man to say: “I have to stay home for the children.” In America we are not there yet.
In some developing countries they fire women when they get pregnant because it is expected that they will take care of the baby above all else. I do not support that. But who does take care of our babies if not the mother? If mothers take a long maternity leave, what happens to the important job they have out there? Perhaps the father should stay home to take care of newborn babies. Then men should pay the price and sacrifice the career. Someone should stay home at least for a while for the new born. We can not dance well in two weddings simultaneously. Ah, may be we should bring our babies to work. But then the babies pay the price, no? or let us bite the bullet and legislate post birth giving paid time off. Paid by the state or employers will think twice hiring women in the productive stages of their life.
Oh yes the solution could be to work from home. May be that will work fine because the technology is there already to work with distance communication applications. But this does not work well for leadership positions that require physical interaction. So there you have it, those that stay home to work do not necessarily get promoted.
We are going through a major change in family roles, both men and women taking care of children. That is impacting economic performance and maybe it is okay—maybe economic performance should not be the first priority anymore. If this is the case, let us say so. But it appears to me that we preach one thing and practice another.
In my opinion, division of labor is the answer. Who stays at home should be a choice that families make. It does not work when there is confusion about roles and neither parent is able to honor responsibilities at work or both try and the children suffer.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes