Today we have a guest post from the lovely Molly Forbes. She takes a look at a subject close to my heart; whether being a working mum is different to being a working dad. In our house, it most definitely is. We are very similar to the Weaver household it would appear…
Molly Forbes is a broadcaster, writer and mum. She lives with her feisty toddler and husband in a village in Berkshire. Molly blogs at Mother’s Always Right, where she mostly shares her failed attempts at crafting and her constant lack of sleep.
“You’ll have to take the day off work, I’ve got a big important meeting tomorrow,”
Stated my husband at 3.30am this morning, as it became clear our toddler was not in a fit shape for nursery.
“I can’t – you know I can’t just take a day off. They need me on the show!”
I replied, already resigned to the fact I would probably be the one not going in.
The thing is, when your child is poorly, you put them first. Of course you do. When you’re a working parent you accept that kids DO get ill and that means parents WILL – at some point – have to take time off to look after them. In the last 18 months I’ve been lucky enough to only have two days off due to a poorly little girl. And on both those days I knew it would be ME taking the time off and not my husband. Why? Because she needed her mum. End of.
It’s not that my husband’s job is any less important than mine. It’s not that it’s easier for me to take time off. It’s that there are times when my toddler just wants her mum. No matter how many cuddles her dad has for her, if she’s vomiting and has a temperature she will only lie in the arms of her mother
And, for that reason, being a working mum in my world anyway) is very different to being a working dad.
When I ask around my friends, the same is true. If there’s ever a poorly child in the house, nine times out of ten it falls on the mum to make the “I can’t come in today” call. Looking back on my own childhood, that was also the case. Both my parents were teachers, but it was my mum who would look after me or my sister if we were poorly, so it was my mum who would have to take a day off work.
If I try to explain to friends without kids what it’s like juggling a career with being a parent, they look at me blankly.
“But don’t you just drop her at the nursery and then go to work?”
Well, no as it happens. My husband is the one who does drop-offs, as I’m in work by 5am. I do pick-ups at lunchtime and am at home during the afternoons before doing more work in the evenings when my daughter’s in bed.
When everything is going well, this routine runs like clockwork. We are all happy, we all get to spend time together and we all feel fulfilled (me doing a job I love, my husband doing a job he loves and my daughter going to a nursery she loves, as well as our dedicated chunks of family time). But if ONE thing goes wrong – a nursery snow closure, a problem with the childcare, a poorly child – the whole plan is out of the window.
Like many families, we live miles away from both sets of grandparents. We don’t have any parents nearby to help out in an emergency. My husband and I are the only players in our team, there is no one on the bench waiting to join us. And for that reason, childcare emergencies or toddler sickness always lead to one of those discussions in the middle of the night, while we tussle with the decision of who will take the day off work.
“It’s impossible for BOTH parents with young children to have a career,”
Stated my husband matter-of-factly earlier today.
“That’s just the way it is.”
My jaw hit the ground at that statement – but (and don’t tell him this) I can sort of see where he’s coming from. If only one of us worked, or we earned enough to justify a full time nanny, the likelihood of these conversations would be minimal. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up though.
All families do things differently and all working parents have to juggle. But articles about the struggles of the working dad aren’t as common as those about the working mum. We try to share all our domestic responsibilities at home, but I’m pretty sure my husband’s daily inner monologue wouldn’t be one mixing work deadlines with reminders to pay the nursery invoice, or pick up that card for the toddler birthday party at the weekend. Is this what we mean when we talk about juggling a career with motherhood?
I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that being a working mum IS different to being a working dad. Maybe it’s not always harder, maybe the juggle is not always worse, but I’m pretty sure the division is there.
Or maybe that’s just the case in my house. What’s it like in yours?