Monday, 8 March 2010

not just women's work

i was having a conversation a couple of months ago regarding the amount of work involved in getting a child into university, especially if they are studying away from home. there are the varies universities to be checked out, application forms to be filled out, student loan forms, checking out hostels, hostel applications. then there's all the work leading up to the day - getting all the shopping done, ensuring your child is connected with friends who live there, organising bank accounts, taking them up & settling them in.

the group of women i was talking were unanimous in their agreement that all of these things were a mother's job. their main reason was that there was no way that men would be capable of doing all these tasks correctly, of taking care of all the details.

needless to say, i was gobsmacked. i said: these males can hold jobs, run their own business and take care of any number of things. why wouldn't they be able to do any or all of the tasks listed above. but the women were adamant that this was all women's work that men just couldn't do. only one gave an alternative explanation - that her husband worked such long hours that if she left this sort of thing to him as well, she'd hardly get to see him at all. therefore, she felt it to be her responsibility.

just in case you're wondering, these were all women born and brought up in new zealand, caucasion and all 40 or over. i dont' know if that means anything. but there i was, the only ethnic woman, being the odd one out again and fighting another losing battle! i found it funny the way normal stereotypes were turned on their head.

the more pertinent question, though, was why these women had such low expectations of their menfolk? and why such little faith in their abilities? is this a common thing? are there hordes of women out there who think men incapable of doing things like this? and if there are, then what makes them think this way?

could it be the way so much of male behaviour is infantilised these days? or traditional values around what is women's work and what is men's work? i'd be interested to hear any other explanations.


stef said...

Not to be bitchy but surely it should be the Student-to-be's job to be filling out applications for student loans, hostels, opening bank accounts rather than their mothers'. Esp making friends bit. Yes parents should help but this all seems a bit ridiculous to be micro-managing an 18 year old's life.

It seems to me that these women have fallen into the trap of being a 'mummy martyr.' Feeling that they and they alone can meet all their child's needs.

Which not only infantlizes men's contribution to the child-rearing but their children's own autonomy as well.

Azlemed said...

I am with Stef on this one, I filled in all my own student loan forms etc, Mum helped but it was my responsibilty to make sure i was enrolled etc....

If you are old enough to study, to vote, to buy alcohol and cigaretes, then you are definitely old enough to sort your own paperwork out....

stargazer said...

Mum helped

gotcha!! where was dad? hopefully helping too?

agree that it is primarily the student's responsibility, but they also do need support. and it depends on how they've been brought up as to how autonomous they are - for many, it's after they get to uni that they learn to be independent. some of these kids are only 17 after all. also, i didn't mean making friends so much as having emergency contacts outside of uni.

in any case, it was the thought that men had no ability/responsiblity in this area that left me gobsmacked.

Azlemed said...

Dad was working 12 hour shifts, but he did fill in the bits that were relevant to his income etc... Mum propbaly helped more because she was a student at the same university as me at the same time.

My hubsband can help the kids do their forms when they are old enough, its not just a womans job, nor are many of those other things involved with bringing up children

katy said...

Just to keep on the tangent, I gotta say that I also managed everything related to getting myself to university.

I guess if it has been the mother who has had the primary relationship with the child's school up until that time then it is understandable they would continue to do so at this level. An argument for making sure fathers are involved in sorting this stuff out from the very first I guess!

ms p said...

As my job involves dealing with students' enrolments, I have to say its students' responsibility to do these things. We get a lot of parents who get irate that we won't check their child's enrolment for them/tell them their child's grades etc etc. They talk about their children as if they are children, not young adults who need to take responsibility for sorting out their own enrolment.

I was 18 when I first went to uni and I know I asked for parental advice regarding things I was unsure about but I still did it all myself. I certainly understand supporting children to do these things, and am sympathetic when we get a parent that starts the interaction but then lets the teen take over when necessary (particularly teens with aspergers etc).

And yes, both parents should be providing this support where possible (work hours etc).

A Nonny Moose said...

I was another one who did it all myself. Any help neccessary came from both parents.

I've enrolled twice in major tertiary education in my life. While the paperwork was all my own responsibility, the first time mum helped me move, the second time my dad helped me move.

I think they would have been perplexed, and maybe a little pissed if I'd asked them to do everything. They didn't raise me like, and made that quite clear. When I left high school my path was my own, with them for advice only. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way either - I would have been quite insulted if my parents had tried to helicopter me.

Flynn said...

Again I was expected to do it myself. But when a parent did step in it was just as likely to be my dad - moreso in some cases... especially for things like bank accounts and kiwisaver :D

Julie said...

I did my own forms and stuff (but then I've always been a geek about forms, I think I am the only person I know who looks forward to the census) and I was lucky to have two parents who both engaged in different parts of supporting me to be independent. Dad taught me to drive a manual, helped me buy my first three cars, sussed out houses for me and my partner when we were looking to buy; all areas of his expertise. Mum helped with homework when I was younger, but I think that part of the reason Dad didn't help with things like spelling lists was because he thought he wasn't book smart and couldn't help. Certainly he couldn't spell! But he came through the education system at a time when you were streamed early on into academic, commercial or trade. He was in the third category (Mum was in the second, as a woman the third wasn't an option). That negative labelling experienced at school cast a long shadow. I wonder how many other men of Dad's generation appeared to opt out of supporting their children with homework and the like not because they didn't care but because they were intimidated, had negative school experiences themselves, or didn't think they could help. Doesn't help that teenagers always think their parents are stupid!

Lucy said...

I certainly remember doing all those things myself the first time round, and this time - when the university is in another country - I definitely am (albeit with help from my partner, which is another kettle of fish entirely, since he's involved in the move as well.) I'd have been extremely upset if either parent had tried to manage the process in more than a hands-off way.

If I needed advice, I'd be far more likely to go to my father than my mother for most things, too - certainly at eighteen, I felt like he was more likely to give actual advice, rather tell me what I should be doing. If that makes sense.