When you think about it, this might not be the worst question in the world after all! How do you do it? Can you really balance family life and your career? People are generally curious about soothing their pain of underachievement and commiserating with their co- superhuman parents who manage to do it all. It’s like once we have examples in flesh, it becomes easier to keep hoping that well-adjustment and balance are possible.
So why is this question mostly interpreted as a roll-your-eyes-pain-in-the-ass one? The problem is that not both gendered parents are being asked. And not all people who are asking this question seem to have good intentions hidden behind it. There is some sort of doubt and shade in that question that is devastating career women. It’s thrown out there as a rhetorical statement, like ‘I know you can’t, but I am still asking you just for the sake of it all.’ If women are out there delivering a public speech on their achievements, along with their male co-worker who shares all the same marital attributes, is also a father of 3 kids, she will be the only one asked from journalists on how she finds the time to provide decent child care and be work efficient.
This story is going on for ages, as apparently there is a need to signify and highlight the status of working mothers. You don’t ever encounter the term working-father somewhere in the headlines, for instance. Rarely do you find pages that have part-time jobs for dads as their top-search category, as that is simply not a sacrifice necessarily expected from fathers, although it is one they often do. Fathers are becoming more and more present in their children’s lives because they feel like their need for a present father figure is just as necessary as the need for a mother figure.
So why is society only talking and victimizing women who work?
Is it because mothers who work tend to talk more about their struggles out of frustration on the stigmatization they suffer from society? Or simply because of general (miss) perceptions? Folks out there share a general impression that the burden of child-care should fall only upon women’s shoulders. I know there are men with whom I work with, that manage to follow up with their children’s soccer games while working short hours and compensating with work from home after dinner.
They strive to reach out to any sort of event that matters to their child because they know now that shaping up kiddos with sane healthy mindsets is basically their responsibility too. Quite frankly, they probably want to talk about their concern of missing out on family time too, but it’s difficult because the media almost always frames this preoccupation as a women’s issue.
The guy can be waking up at 5, catching up with work on early hours at dawn only to be able to prepare breakfast for his children. He will help them get ready because his wife leaves for work earlier than him, he will run through a marathon of bizarre questions, take them to school and still, he will not talk about it because nobody will figure he does all these things.
Whereas there are other men who choose to remain silent regarding this kind of fatherhood because they assume that the only notion of masculinity that exists is one that doesn’t involve hanging out with 4-year-olds in the middle of the day. They don’t talk about the sacrifices they make towards equalizing house chores or feeding their children’s need for both attention and affection. That’s because no one asks them to in the first place and because they fear being looked down upon.
Browsing through the history of genders
This tradition of silence when it comes down to equal parenthood goes way back. It all starts with how girls were educated from their young age, deriving from what they were preached about. The only version of a ‘ little Mrs.have it all’ of an ideal woman that they know of is a mum who is super successful at her career and provides quality time for her four children back home. Heaven knows how they do it, but hey, that’s what they were taught to think of their future.
They were told they can have it all, but they were never told how to have it all? People simply dismissed the part where your body literally aches from trying to be physically and psychologically present at work and making sure that the chaos back home doesn’t escalate. Nope, the only thing women were taught to visualize is their smiley image, a nice businessy outfit that signifies they’re also ambitious to some extent and some toddlers around her feet.
However, no one ever raised men with constant pep-talk that they can have it all as well. At least they were not told that this ‘all’ package involves child-care as well. This was never seen as something that an Alpha male would spend a good amount of time doing. God forbid, no! Men were taught to seek for success, to follow their ambition, to provide and be professional because while they’re at it, a woman will be having it all back at home.
So why no one ever uses working dad, as a term? That’s because this sort of added attribution sounds very unnecessary as people think that fathers in the office is a duhhh situation. I mean it’s obvious, that’s what they do! Whereas working mothers sounds like a badge of honor we should give to women, because society expects them to be at home, and if they’re not at home then we must somehow point out where they are, whether working or what because if not the public will remain dazzled and confused. What other things is a mum supposed to do except for taking care of her little ones, no? Well hell, no!
The thing is, everything should be talked about!
Sharing should be talked about. Caring should be talked about, and the way fathers shape their time according to work and family, should definitely be talked about. The importance of this kind of talk is very, very underestimated. This image of perfection and balance should be dropped once and for all and both gendered parents should empower one another on improving while struggling with an equilibrium. I am saying improve because one can never reach a top-notch parenthood example. We learn through generations, setting aside mistakes that our parents made on us, filtering only the warmth and affection we’ve been provided with.
It’s a utopian thing to say that social immersion and gender comprehension will happen in a breeze, as it will not. However, the masses have to understand that gender stereotypes are diminishing and expectations are finally re-shaping.
When Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, was delivering her acceptance speech for the James Madison Medal in front of Princeton students, during the Q&A session, an audience member asked her how she managed her career and her family. Because of course, they would! I mean are you even successful if you haven’t been asked at least once to answer this question?
Anyways, she laughed and pointed to her husband in the front row, saying: “There’s my work-life balance.” I could never have had the career I have had without my husband, Andrew Moravcsik, who is a tenured professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton. Andy has spent more time with our sons than I have, not only on homework, but also on baseball, music lessons, photography, card games, and more. When each of them had to bring in a foreign dish for his fourth-grade class dinner, Andy made his grandmother’s Hungarian palacsinta; when our older son needed to memorize his lines for a lead role in a school play, he turned to Andy for help.
Which should not be a surprise to anyone! Child-Care should not be looked upon as compromise, or as help that men offer to their wives for some time. It’s called parenthood-ing in the right way. Simple as that! And we praise our feminist men who stand by our side while we smash these gender roles that have been curved through years and years of miss-conception, providing the upcoming generations with living proof that we can indeed have it all, but we must work together on creating circumstances that allow us to.