Breaking news! Men demand more opportunities to care for the elderly for no pay, make cakes for the school gala and clean floors.

Over at A Bee of A Certain Age, Deborah has posted a review of the reports looking into the absence of women in the top police jobs.  It's a good post and the issues are worth reading about and I really hope the culture changes in the police force.

It's just that I can feel a rant of my own coming on. 

Why is it that I never see articles about the under-participation of men in caring sectors?  Yes I know many of us mention it in private discourse and it can be found on feminist websites etc., but why doesn't it look like:

Grave concern over lack of men in kindergarten structure.

or

Report identifies that only 1% of cleaners in schools and hospitals are men.  X from the Advisory Board of Hygiene Careers is very concerned about the messages this sends to young boys.  "Boys, explained Mr X, are hugely shaped by the roles they see around them.  When they grow up surrounded by women cleaning at home and at school, they feel excluded from the skills which help make a home or workplace pleasant and welcoming.  Mr X has called on the government to introduce a programme in schools to show boys in cleaning roles."

or

Men disappointed that they get so few opportunities to participate in unpaid caring. 

I've never had a hankering for a career in the police force.  I'm bossy enough without a uniform to endorse it.  But when I read such perfectly reasonable articles as those which A Bee of A Certain Age quotes from, I still have that feeling of tired guilt.  I had the skills and the education to pursue a career and yet I went to live in the provinces and gave up full time work to raise my children.  I wonder who I expect to pursue these lead roles given my own choice to downsize my commitment to the profession I trained in while my children are young and middle-sized.  Some magical other person?  Kind of like the magical other person that raised the children and ran the household and cared for elderly relatives for many if not most successful career men? 

It's not that I lack support from the father of my children.  FH has indeed been supportive and as the children get older, the sharing of roles has become easier and more practised.  We have long talked about swapping the full-time/part-time roles and I expect that this will eventuate.  But it's bigger than just that.  Anne Marie Slaughter said something I recognised when she acknowledged that:
Still, the proposition that women can have high-powered careers as long as their husbands or partners are willing to share the parenting load equally (or disproportionately) assumes that most women will feel as comfortable as men do about being away from their children, as long as their partner is home with them. In my experience, that is simply not the case.
Here I step onto treacherous ground, mined with stereotypes. From years of conversations and observations, however, I’ve come to believe that men and women respond quite differently when problems at home force them to recognize that their absence is hurting a child, or at least that their presence would likely help. I do not believe fathers love their children any less than mothers do, but men do seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their job.
Many factors determine this choice, of course. Men are still socialized to believe that their primary family obligation is to be the breadwinner; women, to believe that their primary family obligation is to be the caregiver. But it may be more than that. When I described the choice between my children and my job to Senator Jeanne Shaheen, she said exactly what I felt: “There’s really no choice.” She wasn’t referring to social expectations, but to a maternal imperative felt so deeply that the “choice” is reflexive. 

Does it have to be that way for you? NO!  Crumbs, we'll never get female parents into the top of the police force if everyone feels that when there isn't enough parenting time going into a child or a family, then it is the mother who needs to change.  Frankly, and this is where my commitment to a capitalist career model is revealed to be direly low, I wouldn't want to partner someone who was always at work and I cannot imagine why someone else would want that arrangement with me.

Leave that girl in the provinces.  Somewhere where it rains a lot.  May as well.  All she does is witter.  Someone remind her to get moving with the gala baking too.

Comments

Deborah said…
Fantastic rant, Sandra. And a great point. Why on earth do we never worry about the incredibly low numbers of men in caring jobs?

Also, count me in as another woman who has put career aside, for the time being at least. It is getting easier now, and I am at long last starting to fly a little, or at least, start on that long run with wings flapping so that I can get aloft. But I'm closer to 50 than 40, and it's only now that my children are 13, 10 (very nearly 11) and 10 (also very nearly 11), that I can start to pay some attention to my own future.
Ditto the previous commenter - fantastic rant!

Despite being the main breadwinner I also find myself being the one who takes time off whenever the kids are sick and stays up late baking for the school gala... it gets tiring not just trying to have it all, but to have it all at once.

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