It's not motherhood that holds back women's careers. It's not our children. It's that there is no chance of equal treatment at work while there is inequality at home. Let's stop suggesting it's motherhood that holds them back at work. It is possible that women's careers could flourish in ways we haven't yet imagined if fathers did the same kind of work at home that mothers have always done. For this to happen, men's domestic neglect needs to be publicly exposed as one of the main reasons women struggle to succeed in the workplace.
Motherhood is also viewed as a threat to your career in modern society. Women are told that their jobs are at risk or that they will need to perform a "balancing act" or "juggling act" during their most productive years at work.
We know that men are putting in more time on child care than they did in the past: Fathers report spending three times as much time on child care than they did in 1965. Keep in mind that this information is self-reported, and men tend to overestimate what they do for domestic duties and child care.) Men doing more does not necessarily equate to men doing enough.
In contrast, men doing more does not necessarily mean that they are doing enough. Women still spend almost twice as long caring for their children as men, 14 hours a week. It isn't all honest, quantifiable work — it is often the mental labor of having children that is the most taxing. For example, it's easy to split up the responsibility for packing the child's lunch or getting him dressed.
Additionally, someone must remember to pack lunch for field trips or to buy new pants or shoes. How many dads do you know who can tell you what size their child's shoes are? We rarely discuss the effects of this kind of invisible work on women's careers.
For mothers like myself, the ability to think is a privilege. Imagine not having to worry about grocery lists and dentist appointments and instead having the mental space for creative thinking around our work and passions. Additionally, studies show fathers continue to have significantly more leisure time than mothers. They use their free time to pursue hobbies and relax rather than doing chores or caring for their children.
Similarly, having more leisure time and time for creative pursuits is associated with providing better job performance.
We hear again and again, for example, that women "care" more than men. However, the solutions for workplace discrimination are straightforward, and, more importantly, they are finally being recognized as necessary. Men provide less child care than women is a known fact but not widely condemned. You can be assured that there is no pleasure in remembering that your daughter needs hair ties or that her sandals are getting worn out. There is no pleasure in changing diapers or trimming toenails.
Women do not perform the majority of care work because they want to. It is because we're expected to, because we're judged if we don't, and more importantly, because finding male partners willing to do equal work is difficult.
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