Monday, 29 March 2010

Double standards

Took a bit of time off work last week to look after Wriggly while my partner did other stuff (mainly the local Plunket appeal). It was nice to spend extra time with him, although quite exhausting! I suppose if I had a three hour nap every day and slept 11 hours a night I might be that energetic too. Hmm, maybe not.

I'm not posting today to share that observation with you, but to fume a little about an encounter I had with two strangers on Wednesday afternoon when out with Wriggly.

We were having some lunch at a cafe in a major shopping centre (cannelloni for me, muffin for Wriggly) and my son was being his usual charming self and smiling engagingly at the two women eating at the next table. As usually happens when Wriggly ingratiates himself with strangers through his irrestible cuteness, I ended up talking to them a bit. I kind of wished I hadn't.

Somehow I told them I am employed full time and that I'd taken some time off that afternoon. They assumed Wriggly was in an early childhood centre, or rather in "daycare" stated with a rather negative tone. No, no, I said, my partner was primary caregiver, but I was keen to get Wriggly into a local centre part time soon for the education and social skills.

I was told firmly that mothers who do paid work full time "miss so much". Also: that it was unhealthy to put children in "daycare". Judgy much?

I don't want to go into the early childhood crap, because that's too close to my job, but I do want to write a bit about the missing stuff bit.

I've written a little about how I'm happily guilt-free, and I still am. People who say stuff like that to me, enforcing the guilt I'm supposed to have I guess, just piss me off. And incite me to write ranty blog posts about their judgyness.

No one ever says to my male colleagues who have young children and are in full time employment that they "miss so much", in that "you should really be at home" way. No one tells them their children must be upset when they leave in the morning, and wishing Daddy would stay home. No one expects them to take their child's birthday off (although one of the men I work with is taking a day this week to celebrate his daughter's 3rd natal anniversary). No one implies that spending the time they spend with their kids on the weekends, in the mornings, in the evenings and on public holidays is not enough.

I'm not advocating that fathers who do paid work full time should be under this pressure. There are plenty of men expected to work ridiculous hours as the breadwinner which severely undermine their ability to be active fathers, and that's not good either.

I'm just asking that women who happen to be mothers and happen to have young children and happen to be in paid employment that requires them to be away from their children for forty hours plus travel a week are held to the same standard as fathers who tick those boxes. A standard that isn't judgy, doesn't spout crap about how they are scarring their children, and actually supports people both as parents and as human beings with their own lives.



Azlemed said...

I have come across this standard in another way too, because I am "educated" there was an expectation that after no1 I would go back to work, when she turned 1 I was asked when I would go back to paid employment, I didnt go back fulltime, I finished my training and decided when pregnant with number 3 that paid work wasnt worth it for me, and with 4 kids now it definitely isnt but I still get askend when i will go back to work, it seems that what ever we choose to do is wrong according to someone, I hate the judgemental nature of this beast that is parenting,

I have avoided so many parents groups because of the competition to be something that I arent....

Anyway I think you guys have a great set up and it works for you all so what is not to like about it

spikybombshell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
spikybombshell said...

Doesn't seem to matter what women do in society, they are continued to be made to feel guilty about their choices as the above comment by Alzemed illustrates.

It is good that sites like this and people in society continue to question the validity of these judgements in order for wider society to realise how rude, riduculous and outrageous their statements and judgements actually are.

Kia kaha ladies, hold your ground and keep questioning these outrageous assumptions and judgements forced upon you on a regular basis. It is your life, and yours and your family's decision to chose what is right for you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie, we just found out we are expecting our first and so went to tell the mother-in-law. She was super excited and then handed me an article she'd just read in a free publication, delivered to houses, called 'Grapevine'. The article flat out attacked putting your kids in any kind of care until they are at least three and weighed into mothers who want to work. My baby is only 8 cm long and already I feel my choices will be judged...and I haven't even made any yet!!! I just think it is so awesome that Wriggly has his lovely dad at home all the time and a happy, competent mum for lots of the time. whatever suits your family unit is right for you.

Sandra - too heavy to stand on a soapbox, but undeterred said...

Go Julie. Your rant is bang on. The issue at stake here is the way that strangers (or not strangers for that matter) judge openly, quickly, publicly, another person's parenting choices.The problem isn't what other people think, but that they actually think they should share their comments publicly. This needs to become something seriously discouraged, seen as rude in the way that asking someone their religion and telling them it is wrong is.

I think it is like being a politician (under constant scrutiny and judgement at all times) only without the big ticket pay packet.

Keely said...

I used to work part-time and copped both attitudes in one afternoon at school. 2 women felt they had the right to judge me for NOT being in full-time work then about 5 minutes later, second group of women told me that they felt sorry for me because I worked and missed out on my children.
I came away that day feeling like there was no way to win. Good thing I only worried about pleasing my family.
I also found it interesting that these women only felt comfortable to offer these opinions in groups.

lenore said...

I think the sanity key for me has been to continually work on being accepting of others parenting styles and not falling into the same judgemental trap.

At the end of the day it is their problem and Maybe some people make comments because they are or have been unhappy with their own life situation. Maybe they are a bit jealous of your life and are reflecting that or deflecting it by making comments that justify their own lives.

Maybe we could start a list of funny responses to say back.

My most satisfying one was when I finally told someone to 'shut the f*** up" after hearing these inane comments about her concerns for one of my kids who was a 'bum shuffler' and my lack of parenting because I wasn't trying to teach her to crawl or if she was going to keep on bum shuffling, I could at least teach her to use alternative hands. The mind boggled at how anyway apart from tying her one of her hands behind her back.

Chris Trotter said...

"Judgyness" - hmmm - that's almost as cute as "truthiness".

You and George Bush should form a support group for the grammatically-challenged ;-)

Random Lurker said...

Off topic, but.. apan mayor sets paternity leave 'example' [BBC]